Lot 201
  • 201

An Italian pietre dure table top inlaid with the arms and symbols of the Grimani Family, probably to a design by Bernardino Poccetti (1548-1612) Grand Ducal Workshops, Florence, circa 1600 - 1620

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
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  • pine, stone, marble
  • The top: 6cm. high, 150cm. long, 111.5cm. wide; 2½in., 4ft. 11in., 3ft. 7¾in. The base: 70.5cm. high, 142cm. long, 103cm. wide; 2ft. 4in., 4ft. 8in., 3ft. 4½in.
On an English Elizabethan style gilt wood base with a fluted frieze on four gadrooned and tapering legs incorporating strap work, the top incorporating various types of  very fine hard stones including agates, jaspers, chalcedonies, lapis lazuli, amethyst, cornelians  and more precisely: Diaspro di Sicilia, Agata di Siena, Diaspro di Boemia, Quarzo ametistino, Calcedonio orientale , Lapislazzuli, Agata di Germania, Diaspro di Barga, Diaspro sanguigno, Diaspro di Candia, Calcedonio di Volterra, Corniola.


Commissioned by or given to Doge Marino Grimani (1532-1605), or Patriarch Antonio Grimani (d. circa 1625), by a member of the Medici family in the first quarter of the 17th century;
By descent in the Grimani family in the Palazzo Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa, Venice, to Michele Grimani (1806 - 1885);
Acquired in 1829 from the above through the agency of William Taylor Money (1765 - 1834), British Consul to the Lombard States 1826-34, by Henry Greville, 3rd Earl of Warwick (1779 - 1853) for Warwick Castle, Warwickshire;
From whom acquired in situ;
Thence to the present owner.


C. W. Spicer, Vitruvius Britannicus, History of Warwick Castle, London, 1844, in the State Bedroom;
Henry T Cooke, An Historical and Descriptive Guide to Warwick Castle, Kenilworth Castle, Guy's Cliff, Stoneleigh Abbey, The Beauchamp Chapel and other places of interest, Warwick, 1847, listed in the Gilt Drawing Room, pp. 58 'In this room on a richly carved and gilt stand, is the superb Florentine table bought out of the Grimani Palace, at Venice, by the British Consul, Mr. Money, for the present Earl of Warwick. It was well known as 'the Grimani Table' being made expressly for that noble Venetian family, eminent in the history of that state, having supplied the commonwealth with several Dukes, and the church with two cardinals. The family arms are worked in the four corners, with the precious and valuable stones with which the whole surface is inlaid; and the honours attained by its distinguished members are denoted by the heraldic badges;-viz., the Pope's triple crown, the Doge's cap, the Cardinal's hat, St. Peter's Keys, the Lion of St. Mark &c. The table is entirely of Pietre Dure, and was universally considered one of the very finest in Italy';W. Kendal, Inventory of Warwick Castle, Ms., 1853, listed in the Gilt Drawing Room, In the Centre of Room in a Carved gilt Stand a Florentine Table Pietra Dura, Warwickshire Record Office CR1886/783/16;
F. E. Warwick, ‘Warwick Castle’, in The Pall Mall Magazine, vol. XI, January – April 1897, pp. 37 in the Cedar Drawing Room.
Country Homes, Gardens Old & New, Warwick Castle - II Warwickshire The Seat of The Earl of Warwick, Country Life, 6 June 1914, pp. 842 - 851;

Comparative Literature:
Annamaria Giusti, La Fabbrica delle Meraviglie: La manifattura di pietre dure a Firenze, Florence, 2015, pp. 20;
Anna Maria Giusti, La Marqueterie de Pierres Dures, Paris, 2005, pp. 35;
Umberto Baldini, Anna Maria Giusti, Annapaula Pampaloni Martelli, La Cappella dei Principi e le Pietre Dure a Firenze, Milano, 1979;
Anna Maria Giusti, Paolo Mazzoni, Pampaloni Martelli, ll Museo dell’Opificio delle Pietre Dure a Firenze, Milano, 1978;
Alvar Gonzalez-Palacios, Le Collezioni Reali Spagnole di Mosaici e Pietre Dure, Museo Nazionale del Prado, 2001, pp. 85, 97;
Wolfram Koeppe & Anna Maria Giusti, Art of the Royal Court, Treasures in Pietre Dure from the Palaces of Europe, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2008, pp. 30;
C Wieland, Structures on the Move: Technologies of Governance in transcultural Encounter, Berlin, 2012, pp. 280-285;
M Perry, 'A Renaissance Showplace of Art: The Palazzo Grimani at Santa Maria Formosa, Venice' Apollo, April 1981, pp. 215-221


The coloured top is exceptionally preserved and in excellent original condition, which is extremely rare. The black marble border has undergone some minor restoration and has one large chipped loss to the underside beneath the corner of the crossed keys of St. Peter. The colours of the hardstones are more vibrant and translucent than in the catalogue images and contrast with great effect. There are three very minor losses to the jewels in the Doge's corno which can be replaced according to taste. The giltwood base with some minor losses to the gilded decoration and notably to the gadrooned collars on the legs, with some old marks and scratches.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

The re-emergence of the, here presented, two magnificent inlaid hardstone and antique marble table tops from Warwick Castle has to be one of the most exciting artistic discoveries in this field in recent years. Long rumoured to have a connection with the famous palaces commissioned by the Grimani family in Venice, during the mid-15th and 16th century, this provenance has now been substantiated through archival sources. Both palaces were, and remain famous for, their stylistic innovations, their homage to a classical past and in particular their lavish use of marbles in the decoration of their sumptuous rooms. These outstanding table tops indeed reflect the sheer splendour of the Grimani's taste, in keeping with that of the greatest Italian and European families, whom all coveted these types of inlaid works of art.

The Grimani tables exemplify the differences of Rome and Florence's approach to design and technique. The use of these precious stones can be judged here in its most sublime form, illustrating the extraordinary level of skill present in the two cities. The fact that each table comes from their  respective cities give a very rare opportunity to compare and contrast the different styles present within them at the turn of the 16th century. They also give credence to the connoisseurship and sophistication of one of Venice's greatest families.

Detailed description of the hard stones used
The top is entirely inlaid with pietre dure while there is just small space left to Belgio nero marble that constitutes the background. The support is made of a white marble slab described as Carrarese in the archives (see post). A wide range of various types of pietre dure which Ferdinand I (1549 – 1609) demanded from different sites from the moment he became Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1587. Diaspro di Sicilia is most widely used in all its different typologies which correspond to each vein of origin. In the large central section of jasper shows shades varying from yellow to red and green, these also occur in the four narrow polygonal frames surmounted by Agata di Siena which adorn the empty cartouche made of Diaspro di Boemia. Diaspro di Boemia is also employed for the two vases centring the short side and resting on pillars of Diaspro di Sicilia. The outer frame is a mannerist tour-de-force made up of a continuous and inventive strap work of Diaspro reticolare di Sicilia and ten cartouches; eight of lapis lazuli and two of Quarzo ametistino. A further variation of Diaspro di Sicilia, with starkly contrasting white and yellow pattern, is draped around three of the four coats of arms.

Made with the same Diaspro di Sicilia is the lion of St Marks atop one of the Grimani emblems. The halo of the lion is also made of this type of jasper, whilst the wings are of Diaspro di Boemia and the book of Calcedonio orientale. Taking advantage of the transparency of this Indian precious stone, a canonical text 'PAX TIBI MARCE EVANGELISTA MEUS' was traced under the two plates of the book and is still visible.

The lapis lazuli, which stand out prominently among the decorations of the top is of the finest quality with an intense colour, hails from Persia (now Afghanistan). Another stone which can be noticed strongly in several sections of the top, and in varying typologies, is the agate. The four central sections are made of Agata di Siena and are placed to reflect each other. Agata di Germania is employed in the four circles at the very centre of the table and for the frames of the two opposing cartouches (which are above the cartouches of Quarzo ametistino). The external borders of these framed cartouches are made of red and white Diaspro di Barga. This material was used exclusively by the Medici and was extracted from the cave of Garfagnana inTuscany at the time of Francesco I, whilst the internal ovate is made of Diaspro sanguigno, a variety of Eliotropio from Sicily.

The uniform and vivid yellow stone that occurs in the four corner sections and the leaves is Diaspro di Sicilia; the nearby red stone, this one uniform and vivid as well, is Diaspro di Candia. The light and uneven strips of the Grimani emblems are made of Calcedonio di Volterra. The Corrniola constitutes the buttons and the claws which constellate the outside and interior borders, while the 'corno' of the Dogal headgear is made of Calcedonio orientale under which a coloured and metallic foil is placed. A comparable technique is employed to create the 'pearls' that adorn the head gear. They are sem-spheres made of Calcedonio orientale, mounted in the top and underlined by a silver foil. This is a specific technique of the Grand Ducal workshops, where it was still in use for several centuries.

The abstract designs of this magnificent top coupled with the armorial crests found in this table are demonstrative of a highly unique piece of art. The sumptuous choice of hard stones arrests the viewer eyes, whilst the intricate details surrounding the crests draws one in, highlighting the exceptional skill and imagination of the artisans in the Florentine Grand Ducal workshops at the turn of the sixteenth century. Clearly a work which was meant to stupefy and impress the viewer.The lavish use of inset pietre dure combines to form one of the grandest and most visually striking table tops known to have been made. Commissioned to glorify the dynastic power of the Grimani family this is surely one of the greatest demonstrations of wealth, taste and patronage.

Florentine armorial hardstones table tops

The familial crests found in this table relate to a small number of Florentine armorial hard stones table tops (either commissioned or given as presents) created in the Grand Ducal workshops at beginning of the 17th century, including the top completed in 1623 for Maximilian I, with the arms of the Elector of Bavaria, Munich Residenz, the table top commissioned by Emperor Rudolph II in 1597( lost in a fire during the 18th century), a table completed in 1603 for a foreign duke (a duca straniero), possibly the Duke of Lerma, the table with the arms of and commissioned by the Duke of Osuna, circa 1615 and the table with the arms of the Almirante de Castilla, circa 1625 (both in Prado Museum, Madrid). The Grimani table forms part of this select group, but is uniquely placed with in it. The entirely abstract decorative motifs surrounding the crests is a departure from the more common figurative ones (including trophies, flowers, and birds) favoured by the Grand Ducal workshops. Whilst the ostentatious use of four crests, here so prominently displayed, cannot be found in any other Florentine work. As the Medici family practically had the monopoly of the manufactory it could be suggested that this top was in fact a gift from the Medicis to the Grimanis although the possibility of a private commission from the Venetian family could not be discarded.

The Medicis and the Grimanis

The Medici family rose to prominence as bankers in the 14th and 15th centuries coming to own the largest bank in Europe from the mid-15th century. By the late 16th early 17th century the family had been elevated to the Grand Dukes of Tuscany and were one of the most powerful families in Europe, counting four Popes and two Regent Queens of France amongst their ranks. It was the passion of the Medici for importing precious stones which led to Ferdinando I de' Medici's founding of the court workshops in 1588 (the Grand Ducal Workshops),which still survive as the Opificio delle Pietre Dure. Royal patronage encouraged craftsmen to migrate to Florence, and their practices gradually spread to such centres as Augsburg, Paris, Naples, Madrid, and St. Petersburg. The primary objective of the workshop which comprised artists, architects, painters, stone carvers and metal-smiths was to manufacture opulent furnishings and works of art for the Grand Duke's residences and to distribute to foreign nobility as ambassadorial gifts. The court workshop had been set up in the Casino di San Marco moving to the Uffizi in 1586 where it continued to develop for the next three hundred years. The present table, whilst on one hand possibly an extraordinarily generous gift from one noble family to another, was also a demonstration of extreme wealth, and a tool used by the Medici to express their power at whichever court the inlaid works of art resided, throughout Europe. As will be seen the connection between Grimani and Medici was a powerful one. Doge Marino Grimani visited Florence before his coronation in 1595 at the request of his cousin by marriage the Grand Duchess Bianca Cappello, wife of the Grand Duke Francesco de Medici. Like Marino, Bianca Cappello, daughter of Bartolomeo Cappello and Pellegrina Morosini, was from a great Venetian family and would have felt a familial bond to Marino. Another Grimani, Antonio (d. circa 1625), Bishop of Torcello and Patriarch of Aquileia was stationed in Florence. According to a report, of the Ambassador of the Serenissima Francesco Morosini, in 1608 Antonio was the Papal Nuncio in Florence. Although little is written about him it is clear that he was tied to the Medici family and acted as their ally in both the Vatican and Venice. Indeed historians have noted that Pope Paul V was deeply suspicious of his Florentine Nuncio, believing that he was omitting reports regarding the Grand Duke's military movements giving the Medici's an advantage over their Borghese counterparts. Stylistically it is plausible that this table would have been commissioned during the reign of both Ferdinando I d'Medici and Doge Marino Grimani. However, given that the execution of such a complex work of art would have taken several years and the fact the Antonio Grimani's role as Papal Nuncio is celebrated in the crossed keys, It seems that Antonio Could have been the ultimate recipient of such a magnificent work of art.

The design

Chronologically the top comes at the beginning of a new form of manufacture. At this period in Florence, the taste for antique marbles imported from Rome, which for long time had been favoured by Ferdinando de Medici, was replaced by the preciousness of the pietre dure, spearheaded by, amongst others, the mannerist Florentine artist Bernardo Poccetti (1548 – 1612). Initially trained as a decorator and designer of facades and ceilings he enrolled in the Florentine the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno (Academy of the Arts of Drawing) in 1570.

Among the early examples of this "new style" one can list the table with View of Porto di Livorno from 1604, and another work with panels of landscapes and religious scenes made for the Cappella dei Principi, San Lorenzo, Florence whose columns of abstract form and palate of hard stone colours strongly directly relate to this table. The figurative themes, specific to the Grimani table, are limited to the angular emblems, made with exceptional fineness, but what is also comparable is the marvellous appearance of the sumptuous substance and magnitude of the pietre dure, designed together in a chromatic correspondence relating to the frame of the Caduta della Manna, San Lorenzo, Florence (fig.1) accomplished by 1620 to a design by Poccetti. One can see further reference to Poccetti, who was frequently engaged in the first decades of the seventeenth century as creator of designs for commissions, in an invoice from 1605 for the supply of "various drawings for small tables". The use of the expanded stone sections to the centre and of the coloured foil underlined with transparent calcedonio relates to those inlaid works that were in production during the first decade of the seventeenth century. An example also based on drawings by Poccetti and relating to our table top is the Cappella Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, Florence, specifically the small pillars on the altar. (fig.2).

The Gimani Dynasty

The Grimani family, one of the most illustrious Venetian dynasties, rose to the heights of political and clerical power in Venice during its golden age in the late 15th and 16th centuries. By 1600 the then head of the family Marino Grimani (1532 - 1605) was the Doge and the family was established in not one but two of the city's greatest palaces, The Palazzo Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa and the Palazzo Grimani di San Luca on the Grand Canal. It was in these two buildings that they displayed their great collections which included the foremost group of antiquities ever to have been assembled in the Lagoon, together with cameos and gems, Venetian and non-Venetian paintings and outstanding works of art including the famous Grimani Breviary (now in the Biblioteca Marciana, Venice). In political terms nothing underlines better Marino Grimani's aspirations for the city than his prolonged battle with the Papacy as he attempted to severely limit its power in the Republic. Equally nothing underlines better the lavishness of his lifestyle and sophistication as his coronation as Doge in 1595 accompanied by the outstanding music of Giovanni and Antonio Gabrielli and that of his wife Morosina Morsini-Grimani as Dogaressa two years later in 1597, revealed in the woodcut by Giacomo Franco (BM. 187. 1209. 473) (fig.4)

The patriarch of the family Antonio Grimani (1434 – 1523) whose legendary business acumen built a vast fortune off the back of the Venetian spice and textile routes, was made Capitano da Mar (1494) and later Doge (1521- 23).

The next generations assumed high positions in the Venetian republic and in Papal Rome, taking active roles in contemporary politics and maintaining control of the rich patriarchate of Aquileia for more than a century. The first major collector of the family was Antonio's son Cardinal Domenico Grimani (1461 – 1523) an elected senator of Venice and Cardinal of San Marco under Pope Julius II; he was an erudite scholar and aesthete. Following his death Domenico passed it to his protégé and nephew Cardinal Marino Grimani (1489 – 1546) on the condition that it would be gifted along with the vast majority of his extensive collection to the Republic of Venice in his will.

One of Marino's (1489-1546) two younger brothers, Giovanni, born in 1506 also entered the church and was appointed Bishop of Ceneda in 1520 aged 14. His ecclesiastical and political activities were in the main devoted to the city of his birth and through accumulated wealth he was able to clear his brother's debts in 1546. In doing so he saved for the family and then for Venice itself the celebrated collection of antiquities that had been seized by his bankers. These antiquities with Giovanni's own collection, formed during a long life - he died when he was 87- were housed in his palace the Palazzo Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa. The Roman table top in particular is a reflection of this prevalent antiquarian taste which dominated the aesthetics of the Grimani collection.

The third of these brothers Girolamo (1496-1570) had a secular career as a Venetian politician serving consistently on The Council becoming a wealthy merchant. His success led him in the latter part of his life to build the second Grimani palace, the Palazzo Grimani di San Luca which abutted the Grand Canal. It was his aforementioned son Marino (1532-1605) who further cemented the families pre-eminent position in the city, becoming through extensive bribery, the families second Doge in 1595. He was in a fortunate position of not only being heir to his father but also to his uncles.

Marino Grimani (1532-1605) was perhaps the most celebrated member of his family and its second Doge. His election in 1595 to this office was greeted with enormous celebrations. His wealth and his popularity amongst the people of Venice turned the occasion into one more reminiscent of such ceremonies in the city's opulent past. Marino's tenure as Doge saw the reduction of Papal power in Venice and the widening of its foreign policy with envoys being sent both to the court of Mahommet lll in Constantinople and to James Vl in Edinburgh.

In 1560 Marino and his brother married sisters: Morosina and Angela, the joint heiresses to the great Morosini fortune. This was to swell the Grimani coffers significantly in 1575 on the death of their father. Trained as a lawyer Marino took up important Government positions both in Brescia and Padua before returning to Venice and serving on The Council of Ten. In 1585 he was one of the city's ambassadors to the Holy See attending the coronation of Sixtus V in Rome where, interestingly he took in his entourage the architect Scamozzi. After this Roman visit he travelled on to Florence at the aforementioned invitation of the Venetian Grand Duchess, Bianca Cappello, wife of the Grand Duke Francesco de Medici. There after returning to Venice he took up appointments including the Governorship of Padua and the second most important position in the city The Procuratorship of St Marks. He was again in Rome in 1592 attending the coronation of Clement Vlll. Three years later he was elected Doge. As has been noted his period of office was characterised by independence for the Republic and a strong foreign policy. Marino died in 1605 leaving his palaces and collections to his family and these survived largely intact until the overthrow of the Republic by Napoleon and the subsequent absorption of the city by Austria in the early 19th century.

The Coats of Arms of the Grimanis

The four corners of the Florentine table top contain the Grimani arms, each with a different crest. This is not mere decoration. It is almost a brazen assertion of the expanding power of the family during the 16th century which culminated in Marino Grimani as Doge.

The arms surmounted by a red domed hat decorated with gemmed cloth of gold over a fine white linen cap - The Doge's Corno Ducale. This is a reference to the patriarch of the family Antonio Grimani (1424 - 1523) who accumulated a vast fortune trading in spices and textiles and laid the foundation on which the family built its political power. He rose to become Capitano da Mar (1494) but more importantly he was elected as Doge in (1521) the first of three member of his family to reach the highest of Venetian offices. It is also a reference to the likely recipient of the table Doge Marino Grimani (Doge 1595 – 1605) who, as will be seen, was perhaps the most prominent member of the family.

The arms surmounted by a lion holding a book, the symbol of Venice's patron saint St. Mark and therefore of the great basilica San Marco itself, refer to Antonio's eldest son Domenico Grimani (1460- 1523). Domenico's humanist studies, commenced in Venice, were also to take him to Florence in the late 1480s where, in the circle of Lorenzo de Medici, he studied alongside Pico della Mirandola and Poliziano. In 1493 he was made a Cardinal and in 1505 a Cardinal Priest of San Marco. The crest also refers to Domenico's nephew, Vettore, who held the same position as his uncle, possibly 'inheriting' it as was the family tradition.

The crossed keys of St Peter refer to both Domenico and Antonio Grimani. Domenico was a huge supporter of Pope Julius II, being rewarded for his support by becoming Cardinal Bishop of Albano in 1508 which, as Albano was a papal Bishopric, would account for this crest. During his lifetime Cardinal Grimani was made the apostolic administrator of Nicaea (Cyprus), Patriarch of Aquileia, administrator of the diocese of Albano, and Bishop of Ceneda (now Vittorio Veneto). He was also the family's first serious collector of works of art and these now form part of Museo d'Antichitá in the Biblioteca Marciana. He assembled works including paintings by Leonardo, Giorgione, Titian and Raphael and it was he who acquired the famous Grimani Breviary which had formerly belonged to Pope Sixtus IV now in Biblioteca Marciana, Venice. Antonio was also in the Pope's employment being made Papal Nuncio to Florence in 1608.

The crest surmounted by a double cross and Patriarchs cap refers to Cardinal Grimani's heir, his nephew Marino Grimani (1489-1546). It is both his uncle's and his position as Cardinal Patriarch of Aquileia which is celebrated in this coat of arms. Under his uncle's patriarchy the former state of Friuli was added to the Patriarchate and thus its enormous revenues, which in turn helped to swell the Grimani coffers. No wonder that when Domenico relinquished that office he arranged for his nephew to 'inherit' it. Indeed the family was to maintain its tight hold of this important See throughout the 16th century in the person of Marino, Marco, and Giovanni and yet another Giovanni Grimani.


It is highly likely that these tables were originally displayed in the Palazzo Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa, (now The Museo di Palazzo Grimani) from where they were certainly displayed at the time of their purchase in 1829. The palace had become the property of Marino Grimani in the early 16th century. It had been originally been acquired in the late 15th century by Doge Antonio Grimani. For over forty years, commencing in 1532, it was transformed into one of the greatest Venetian palaces, first by Vittore and then by Giovanni Grimani. The most notable of Venetian architects, Sansovino, Serlio, Palladio, Sanmicheli and Ruscone were all employed there. Its size was doubled and in its final form it was both a demonstration of the family's power and wealth, paid homage to the family's forebear in the Sala Doge Antonio, and was so arranged to specifically display the family's collection of antique marbles.

Each of the rooms of the palaces speak to the family's passion for antique marbles and hard stones which are mirrored in the two tables. The visitor would enter through a doorway sculpted by Alessandro Vittorio and then would emerge into a large internal courtyard, in the style of a Roman palazzo, with marble colonnaded loggias. A large vaulted staircase led up to the piano nobile, it's ceiling frescoed by Frederico Zuccaro with religious allegories surrounded by grotesque work. On gaining the first floor a large open corridor led to the first of the parade rooms, Il Cameron D'Oro (The Large Gold Room) entered through a vast marble portal. From this room could be glimpsed on axis the famous Tribuna. Passing under another great portal of coloured marbles the visitor would enter the most extravagant room of all, The Tribuna. Here architecture, normally reserved for the externals of a building, is deployed in the most extreme way, reflecting such Mannerist exuberances as the rooms of the Palazzo del Te and the Capella Medici. The floor was inlaid with coloured marbles, deep pink and cream, a radiating pattern set within a square: the walls with niches and brackets for displaying antiquities were constructed in a variety of marbles and stones. It is no exaggeration to say it one of the greatest 16th century rooms in the city, even though now it no longer contains the staggering 130 pieces of antique sculpture that it was arranged to display.

Beyond in the next corner of the palazzo was the room reserved for honouring Doge Antonio Grimani. Here coloured marbles were used to great effect: sheets of the material, with fine graining, was surrounded by stucco frames. Although no evidence has come to light as to where the tables stood in the palazzo, as will be seen later in this note they were clearly placed in positions of honour as when they came to be sold in the 1820's their bases were retained and copies made of their tops so that their disappearance would not be noticed. What can be seen today when visiting the palazzo (or viewing the video of it on www.palazzogrimani.org/video) is that these marble tables are consistent with the lavish use of marble to be found in the palace and that the appearance of the ancestral crest on the table top accord with the ancestor "worship" that is a hallmark of the building.

Whilst it is tempting to associate these tables with the palazzo Grimani Santa Maria Formosa there is an alternative location. A palace built by Marino Grimani's father Girolamo, the Palazzo Grimani di San Luca on the Grand Canal, which over the next two hundred and fifty years, was to divide the family between two lines differentiated according to their respective palazzos. The Palazzo was initially commissioned from the architect Michele Sanmicheli. Following Sanmicheli's death in the 1550's the responsibility fell to Giangiacomo de' Grigi. Its great and, for Venice, highly unusual classical façade with three tiers of Corinthian columns, rears up above the Grand Canal near the Rialto. The initial building was completed by the 1570's but Marino employed Rusconi and Scamozzi to finish and decorate the palace thereafter. Although its original interiors were destroyed in the 19th century they must have been magnificent providing as they did accommodation for both the Duke of Mantua and Ladislao Vll of Poland in the 16th century. The Grimanis of palazzo San Luca suffered an enormous economic decline following The Treaty of Campo Formio in 1797 selling the vast majority of their collection, possibly to their relatives in Santa Maria Formosa, although research into this is still being undertaken. A further palace on the Grand Canal in San Polo, Venice called Palazzo Marcello was also owned by the Grimani family however it was inherited by Piero Grimani's wife in 1732 and so unlikely to have ever held the tables. What is certain is that by the 1820's the tables were both in the Palazzo Grimani Santa Maria Formosa as the Palazzo Grimani di San Luca was sold by the family to the new Austrian Government between 1816 -18 after which it was converted into the General Post Office (and subsequently into the Venetian Court of Appeal).

The sale of the tables: Venice 1829

Given the paucity of the Grimani archives it has not been able to accurately ascribe a date at which time the tables entered their collection - although research is in the process of being carried out. However, as the Florentine table is so clearly linked to the Grimani family and fits stylistically with the Grand Ducal workshops output of the early 17th century, it is unquestionable that it entered the Grimani collection at this time. Less can be inferred for the Roman. However, that they would sit comfortably amongst the works of art commissioned or bought by Marino and his family can be inferred from those elements that remain in situ from this period in Palazzo Santa Maria Formosa. It is of course of note that Marino's ambassadorial duties, taking him to both Rome and Florence meant that he would have encountered the new ambitious design schemes which were being practiced in both cities at the same time. It is very plausible to suppose that it was during Marino's two visits to Rome in 1585 and again in 1592 he would have seen and bought the Roman table top as his trips tie in with the dates of manufacture of the table. Marino's re-decoration of the Doge's palace, his and his wife's patronage of both contemporary and antique art and his inordinate wealth all add to this theory.

The tables remained in the Grimani family standing in one of their palaces, the Florentine top certainly for over two hundred years. During the 17th and 18th century, the family took a less active role in the administration of the city. Focusing their attention primarily on the development of theatres and Opera houses which still fill the city today (for example Teatro Malabran). By 1806 the palazzi and their contents had descended to Michele Grimani (c. 1780 – 1865). To cope with the financial crisis, visited on most of the Venetian noble families following Napoleon's invasion and the subsequent end of the Republic, he made sales from the collections, not only these tables but for instance Antico's Bust of the Young Marcus Aurelius now in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum (fig.5) (see Leonard N. Amico, "Antico's Bust of the Young Marcus Aurelius", The J. Paul Getty Museum, Journal, vol.16, 1988, pp. 95-104). He disposed of the Palazzo Grimani di San Luca to the new Austrian Government in 1816 and retrenched to the Palazzo Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa.

Whilst researching the tables a most revealing discovery was made in the uncatalogued Warwick Papers now housed at the Warwickshire County Record Office. Not only did full details of their purchase emerge but also confirmation that both tables were bought from the Grimani palace in Santa Maria Formosa. The correspondence includes letters and bills between Lord Warwick, his agent Richard Bingham, his bankers, Hoare's, the British Consul in Venice, William Money, and a Venetian agent, Angelo Mongaldo.

The third Earl and the Countess of Warwick visited the continent in 1828. From their surviving foreign account book covering 1828 -9 (CR 1886 Box 788/23) it can be inferred that they arrived in Venice, travelling from Vienna, by the 25th October 1828. They subsequently travelled on and were in Florence by the 22nd November. During that short Venetian period Lord Warwick had clearly made contact with the British Consul William Taylor Money and acquainted him with his wish to buy marble to floor the newly restored Great Hall at Warwick Castle which was in the process of being rebuilt by Ambrose Poynter. The Warwicks do not seem to have returned to Venice, spending the winter in Florence and the spring in Naples and Rome before slowly returning to England via Geneva and Paris. This helps to explain the extensive correspondence concerning the marble floor and the purchase of our tables which extends to 1830 when Lord and Lady Warwick were back in England.

The first surviving letter related to these purchases was written in French by Angelo Mongaldo to the Earl on 15th June 1829. He offers His Lordship treasures from the Grimani Palace accompanied with drawings and descriptions including the pietre dure and marble inlaid tables. On the 7th July Lord Warwick's agent Richard Bingham wrote from London confirming the arrival of the five coloured drawings and descriptions of inlaid tables. It does not specify from where each top came, however, the bundle of correspondence within the Warwick Record Office suggests that they were all offered from Palazzo Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa. The number of tables purchased by the 3rd Earl is also unclear however in Kendal's 1853 inventory he describes that 'between the Windows a Table of Pietra Commessa worked into Flowers in which the Lapis Lazuli is introduced' this could account for the table to the bottom right of the page, although it has since passed out of the collection of the Earl's of Warwick and its whereabouts is unknown. Also unknown is the whereabouts of the other two tables, no. 1 and no. 2 in the bill of sale, the watercolour of one remains and is reproduced below. Within the Warwick archive four of the watercolour drawings remain (reproduced here), two of which, as stated, are of the tables offered, both inscribed: From the Palazzo Grimani (CR1886 Box 393/3). There are also corresponding descriptions of the tables written in Italian (CR1886 Box 818/26) and a list of prices (reproduced fig. 6) in which the Florentine top is described as one of the richest and most splendid works of this kind of the 16th century. The two most expensive offered were:

no.4 Florentine Table 210 Louis

no.5 Roman Table 120 Louis

A further letter arrived from Mongaldo dated 23rd July 1829 encouraging Lord Warwick to make the purchase. Mongaldo writes that the tables " are now the principal ornamentation of the Grimani Palace and Mr Money thinks they would add to the estate of Warwick Castle and ........ charge you to make the purchase". The negotiations over the tables were conducted alongside the purchase and shipping  arrangements for the marble floor. Money himself had written on 17th July giving the cost of crates that would be needed and this is followed by further letters in August and October concerned with the shipping of the marbles. By the end of the year the shipments had been made and in January Money was having to write to the Earl reminding him that payment was outstanding. It wasn't however until August 1830 when the money was forthcoming. There is a letter from Hoare's Bank confirming the release of £220.15s. from Lord Warwick's account on 14th to pay for his Venetian purchases.

At some point Lord Warwick or his agent must have written to Money asking why the bases had not accompanied the table tops. On 30th November Money replied "I (am pleased) that the whole of the paving Marble and the Slabs are now at Warwick Castle and that which ( I am ) gratified to learn they offer perfect satisfaction". He goes on "with respect to Legs and Stands of the tables, the facts are these – wounded pride would not allow the Grimani family to sell them thus they are standing in their palaces, supporting false tables – the same thing occurred when I bought a table from the Zenobi family, under the circumstances I propose that I should endeavour to get exact drawings of the exact legs & stands, according to which your Lordship may have others made in England"(CR1886 393/3) In the event Lord Warwick decided to obtain his own stands and by 1847 when the table tops were on display in the Gilt Drawing Room and The State Bedroom at Warwick Castle they were on their current stands.

The letters reproduced on the next pages describe in incredible detail the offered table tops at the time of their purchase in 1829 from the Palazzo Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa. They not only lyricise the phenomenal quality of the tops but also make reference to the types of marble and hard stone used in their production. Reproduced with their corresponding watercolours they offer an unprecedented first hand insight into the artistic taste and correspondence of the Grand Tourists.

"It is difficult to say what is the most admirable: if it is the abstraction of the design or its perfect execution. If it is the prodigious number of precious pietre dure or their clever arrangement. One cannot imagine something to be executed so magnificently. Furthermore it presents an historical memorial to the conspicuous Grimani family for whom the commission would have been made. A truly princely work.

The magical effect created by this admirable design cannot be appreciated without seeing this distinguished work. Any description cannot fully convey the reality. From perhaps the 2000 pieces that make up this immense work there is not one that that is not perfectly suitable be it in colour or in shape to the location in which it is placed nor can one spot the slightest interruption in the fitting together of these various tiny parts. It will be quite difficult to establish whether it would be the very rare materials or the masterly division of the sections, of which we seem to have lost all trace of, or whether it would be the perfect execution which one could not find more highly finished, that would be of greatest merit. Its state of conservation is such that it presents not only all the liveliness of innovation but also a solidity that defies the centuries"

"...and these were inlaid in the 16th century by the Florentine artist following an admirable design made of trophies, arabesques and large square, oval and round stones that form a sumptuous collection.' The number of pieces used in this immense work is immeasurable. The conservation, the joints of the mosaic of the pieces and the polish are perfect"

Extract from letter No. 5 describing the Roman table.


The 3rd Earl of Warwick was the only surviving son of George, 2nd Earl of Warwick (1746 – 1816) and his second wife Henrietta Vernon. Born in 1779 he grew up to witness his father's prodigious activities as a collector, which eventually led to his bankruptcy in 1806. The great castle at Warwick, architecturally transformed by his grandfather was filled by his father with an extraordinary range of treasures: paintings by Rubens and Van Dyck; works of art including classical antiquities such as the famous Warwick Vase (The Burrell Collection, Glasgow) purchased through Lord Warwick's uncle Sir William Hamilton; and magnificent furniture. Fortunately the onset of personal bankruptcy did not affect the collection as it was entailed in 1806. The inventory taken that year gives a mouth-watering account of the contents of the state rooms in the castle (CR1886 464). In the same year the Prince Regent made a visit: one very significant collector visiting another. Unfortunately Lord Warwick could not meet the Prince because of his parlous financial state so it was his son who had become the 3rd Earl who conducted him round. The Morning Chronicle reported on 9th September that "His Royal Highness went through all the apartments and viewed, en virtuoso, the valuable collection of pictures which had been from time to time placed in the noble residence. The whole arrangement of which is perfect in character with the sublime antiquity of the structure".

The 3rd Earl would certainly have been up to the task of conducting the Prince around. Not only would he have been familiar with his father's acquisitions but also through his education at Eton, Winchester and Edinburgh and subsequent Grand Tour would have gained a familiarity with such cultural treasures. Indeed his Grand Tour had been a more broadening experience than might have been the case owing to the Napoleonic wars. For not only did he manage to visit both France and Italy during the Peace of Amiens, he also toured to Russia and as far east as Constantinople, from where he returned to England in 1803. Thereafter he entered Parliament sitting for the town of Warwick until his father's death in 1816. In the Commons he was a supporter of William Pitt and gave his backing to the early moves to abolish slavery.

It was whilst in Venice in 1828 that Lord Warwick made, or renewed, the acquaintance of William Henry Money the youngest son of Captain William Money, a director of the East India Company. Money had entered Parliament in 1816 for the constituency of Wootton Bassett. He like Warwick supported measures to bring about the abolition of slavery. A decade later as a consequence of financial difficulties of his estates in Java, Money renounced his seat and took up paid diplomatic work as Consul to the Lombard States, based in Venice. It was here two years later that he encountered Warwick and assisted in the marble floor for the castle's Great Hall and these two tables.

Interestingly the Warwick's were not the only ones to be grateful to Money. Clearly he had considerable influence in a high level in the city of his adoption. In 1832 Sir Walter Scott visited Venice on his peregrination through Italy. His biographer John Macron recorded in his Life of Sir Walter Scott, 1833- 4, p.144 that "Mr Money, British General (in Venice), whose hospitality is extended to all his English & I might even add to every foreigner. Sir Walter expressed himself particularly happy there "...." Wherever he wanted to go to the British Generals gondola took him. He expressed a wish to see the Arsenal which was conveyed to the Admiral commanding by Consul Money and the Admiral received him as a Prince". This chapter of Anglo Venetian relation sadly came to an end with the death of Money in the following year.