Sotheby’s London, 26 May 2000, lot 41
D. Colli, A. Garutti, R. Pelloni, La Scagliola carpigiana e l'illusione barocca, Modena, 1990, pp. 87-88
G. Manni, I maestri della scagliola in Emilia Romagna e Marche, Modena, 1997, pp. 140-45
A.M. Massinelli, Scagliola: l'arte della pietra di luna, Rome, 1997, plates 66-66a
Monique Riccardi-Cubitt, The Art of the Cabinet, London, 1992, fig. 23
The cabinet, with its polychrome scagliola panels with birds on fruiting branches of 'Chaffinch' design, is extremely rare. The distinctive decoration reflects the one observed on pietra dura cabinets produced in the same period by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence, after designs introduced by the mosaicist Jacopo Ligozzi (1547-1626), such as seen on a cabinet sold Sotheby’s London, 7 July 2009, lot 7(fig. 1).
Only another pair of closely related scagliola cabinets, or monetieri, is known; originally from the Ducal Palace in Modena, this is now at Konopiste Castle, Czech Republic, and is signed ‘Gio Leone F; 1680-81’ for Giovanni Leoni (fig. 2) illustrated in Manni, op. cit., pp. 140-45, figs. 137-41. The stylistic resemblance between these panels and those on the present cabinet strongly suggest an attribution to Leoni, further substantiated by a comparison with a pair of table tops also featuring birds and attributed to this master at Rocca Fontanellato, illustrated in Manni, op. cit., pp. 150-51.
A pair of scagliola panels with birds, flowers and fruiting in the same spirit was sold Sotheby’s New York, 23 May 2003, lot 73, while a birds and floral scagliola cabinet on stand with similar ripple-moulded frames, unattributed, was sold Sotheby’s Paris, 15 December 2003, lot 255.
Finally, it is interesting to note the existence of at least another nearly identical cabinet, with only slight differences in the configuration of the panels, illustrated it Riccardi-Cubitt, op. cit., fig. 23.
Giovanni Leoni (1639-1711) was born in Carpi, in Emilia, one of the leading centres for scagliola production. He then moved to Lombardy, first to Modena, then to Milan, where he is also recorded as being a cabinet-maker, a fact which corroborates the attribution of this cabinet to him.
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