E. Colle, Il mobile rococò in Italia, Milan, 2003.
A. González-Palacios, Il tempio del gusto: Roma e il Regno delle Due Sicilie, vol. I, Rome, 1984.
A. González-Palacios, I mobili italiani: il patrimonio artistico del Quirinale, Rome, 1996.
A forceful example of Roman Rococo, this exceptional carved giltwood console table encapsulates the richness of this artistic movement in the Eternal City, underlying how relevant the decorative arts were for its full expression. The genre picturesque, as it was known at the time, developed in France in the 1730s, and had its greatest impact on interior decoration, including furniture. A concerted product of imaginative architects, skilled stucco workers, and carvers of great virtuosity, Rococo taste soon became a truly international movement, leading to multiple local renditions.
The taste for rocaille interiors also took Rome by storm, where, in spite of the still prevailing late-Baroque currents, it prompted a series of inventive decorative solutions in the noble palaces of the time. The 1740s therefore saw the Roman aristocracy adapting their private apartments to the new taste. The furniture that completed these ambiences was executed by a plethora of carvers that remain largely anonymous. Recent research, however, has unearthed a number of them, most notably Giuseppe Corsini, Nicola Carletti, Antonio Landucci and Antonio Mugetti.
The present table - one of a pair (the other sold with Semenzato Rome, 27 October 2004, lot 69) was certainly a product of this taste for renovation in the new fashion, and forms part of a distinctive group of tables by the same workshop, that share not only the same Roman 'alla franchesa' manner, but an overall identical design solution, quality of carving and clearly similar sculptural motifs, such as the scrolling feet with carved leaves, the fan-shaped stretcher, the central ornament, or the protruding floral carved knees.
This group is comprised of:
- the present lot, and its pair in a private collection;
- a console table at Palazzo Corsini;
- a second slightly smaller console table at Palazzo Corsini;
- a pair now at the Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna, reputedly from Palazzo Corsini.
There are small variations to measurements and motifs in this group, but the quality of the carving is consistently of the highest calibre, our table being particularly similar to one at Palazzo Corsini, as they both use carved garlands to the apron. Almost no area of its surface is left uncarved, in a fluid and harmonious composition that presents a surprisingly well-balanced result. Particularly successful is the bold fan-shaped leaf carved central element to the stretcher, as well as the carved knees; where traditionally masks were used, the carver opted for an organic arrangement of flowers on rocailles.
With two of these tables at Palazzo Corsini, and the other pair reputedly from there, it is tempting and possible to associate the table here on offer with the Corsini patronage, although no provenance documentation to prove it has been found so far. Nevertheless, it is clear that the above mentioned tables all left the same workshop, and it is also true that a relevant number of console tables in this style were commissioned by Prince Filippo Corsini, Prince of Sismano (1706-1767), for the family's Roman palace during the 1740s and 1750s.
This palace had been bought in 1736 by Cardinal Neri Maria Corsini (1685-1770), the favourite nephew of Pope Clemente XII (1652-1740), who, with the help of architect Ferdinando Fuga, transformed a relatively small suburban villa in Trastevere into one of the greatest residences of its age. The interior decoration of this model-palace followed the Rococo precepts of the age, and is well-documented by inventories conserved in the family archives. Filippo, Neri’s nephew, who had married Princess Ottavia Strozzi in 1728, seems to have been particularly active in organizing the redecoration of the palace, including some of the state rooms for which he commissioned a large quantity of furnishing from the foremost carvers of the day.
Of the several carvers known to have worked for this palace, the most likely candidate for the attribution of this distinctive suite of console tables seems to be the workshop of the aptly named Giuseppe Corsini. He was active in Rome at least from 1747, when he bills the Corsini family for several pieces of furniture, including tables with four legs, in the French manner, with cartouches and shells, leafs and flowers: 'Per havere Intagliato un tavolino a quatro piedi... Intagliato alla franchese... le crociata intagliata con Cocchiglie, e Festoni...' (Archivio Corsini, Florence, G.44, c.100, 1747 apud Colle, p. 477). For this princely family he also supplied decorations or restoration work for coaches, requesting in 1749 to be paid for '... havere Intagliato quattro tavolini alla franchesa 'a quattro piedi...fatti legnio Bianco tutto à mio costo si di ammanitura, e legniame conforme di Intaglio con cartelle e cocchiglie, e rabeschi, e Palme... Siegue per Altri due tavolini di maggiore fattura mà di misura più corti, mà di consimile altezza, e consimile larghezza come di sopra Intagliati alla franchese, con cocchiglie e rabeschi à foglie, e Fiori, che alla ragione di scudi 35, l'uno Importano insieme 70' (Archivio Corsini, Florence, G. 49, c. 21, 1749 apud Colle, p. 477).
These descriptions are a very close match to the design of the group of tables here discussed, and the fact that Corsini seems to have been the carver with more console tables supplied to the family, leads us to believe that there is a strong possibility that they were indeed a product of his workshop. One should note that the use of the term tavolini in coeval documents can be ambiguous and would not necessarily implicate small scale.
Giuseppe died in 1752, but the workshop carried on working for the Princes Corsini under the direction of his daughter Lucia Corsini Barbarossa and fellow carver Antonio Muggetti, which developed the workshop style into something more figural, with characteristic grotesque masques (mascheroncini) frequently applied to the feet or legs of his tables, of which at least two are still at the palace (Colle, nn. 30-31, pp. 142-47).
One should also note that Colle associates the consoles tables at Palazzo Corsini to Nicola Carletti. Nevertheless, this seems unlikely as the decorative ensemble of the tables appears far removed from that on the chairs attributed to him (see Daniela di Castro, "L’arredo del Palazzo Pallavicini Rospigliosi", in D. Di Castro, et alt. (ed.), Il Palazzo Rospigliosi e la Galleria Pallavicini, 2000, p. 297). In fact, Carletti seems to have been a menuisier focusing on restoring pieces of furniture, producing small tables and, first and foremost, suites of seat furniture, although in 1755 he did make two 'tavolini a cantone' with 'foglie, cartelle alla francese' for Palazzo Corsini (Archivio Corsini, Florence, G. 61, c. 29 apud Colle, p. 148).
With the Corsini association and the potential attribution to the homonymous workshop supported by archival evidence, this table and the group it belongs to mark a step forward in the understanding of the work produced by botteghe active for the Patrician Roman families and their different styles. As part of the same distinctive ensemble of tables, the piece here on offer is a magnificent example of Roman Rococo, and would have certainly been commissioned for the palace staterooms of similarly grand patrons.
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