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THE ROMAGNANO/BALBIS WALL APPLIQUES

A set of six Italian painted and parcel-silvered carved giltwood wall appliques, circa 1705, Piedmont
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13

THE ROMAGNANO/BALBIS WALL APPLIQUES

A set of six Italian painted and parcel-silvered carved giltwood wall appliques, circa 1705, Piedmont
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Details & Cataloguing

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A set of six Italian painted and parcel-silvered carved giltwood wall appliques, circa 1705, Piedmont
modelled on the coat-of-arms of Carlo Antonio Amedeo, 16th Marquis of Romagnano and Maria Balbis di Vernone, the Romagnano shield to the left, "Azur ground with a silver stripe bordered by two gold threads", and Balbis on the right, “Gold with five bands of azur", surmounted with a marquis' coronet and flanked by two rearing unicorn, carved overall with acanthus and C-scrolls, with a scrolled acanthus candle arm issuing from the bracket and terminating with a gilt-metal drip pan and sconce 
58cm. high, 48cm. wide; 1ft. 11in., 1ft. 7in.
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Provenance

Probably commissioned by Carlo Antonio Amedeo, 16th Marquis of Romagnano (1678-1728) and Maria Balbis di Vernone (d. 1731) for Castello Romagnano, Virle, Piedmont, circa 1705 (fig. 1).

Literature

Antonetto, R., Il Mobile Piemontese nel Settecento, 2010, Vol. II, p. 243, fig. 2.

Catalogue Note

This set of heraldic giltwood wall appliques are rare examples of the Piedmont decorative arts from the early 18th century. Their boldly carved and sculptural form belies the influence of the late Baroque ‘Louis XIV’ style as promoted by architects, designers and engravers such as Daniel Marot in his Nouveaux Livre d'Orfevrerie, first published in 1703 (see Plate VI 4). A related design by Sicilian born architect Filippo Juvarra (1678–1736), famed for the majestic Basilica of Superga in Turin, is worthy of comparison displaying close similarities with the ornamental repertoire employed on the present appliques, although Juvarra was not working in Piedmont until 1714 (fig. 2).

Surmounted by a Marquis’ coronet and dynamically flanked by rearing unicorn, a potent symbol of authority, the design of the present appliques is clearly based on the Romagnano coat-of-arms as demonstrated by an Ex-Libris label from the biblioteca at Castello Romagnano in Virle, Piedmont (fig. 3). Emblazoned with a coat-of-arms, these appliques relate to the second marriage of Carlo Antonio Amedeo, 16th Marquis of Romagnano (1678-1728) to Maria Paola Salesia Balbis di Vernone at the church of Santa Maria, February 24th 1705. Two further examples from the same set are illustrated in Antonetto, R., ibid, p. 243, fig. 2 (Private Collection).

The Marquises of Romagnano were an ancient noble Piedmontese family dating back to at least the 10th century, reputedly descending from Arduino Glabrione, 1st Marquis of Turin. There were three areas in which their estates were focussed: Romagnano Sesia, Carignano and Virle. Invested in 1163 by Holy Roman Emperor Federico Barbarossa, the 1st Marquis of Romagnano of the Virle branch dates from around 1230 for Giovanni Romagnano. They became Lords of Virle in 1278, controlled vast estates of the local villages and towns, ran a series of mills and even founded their own Cistercian abbey. The Romagnanos also enjoyed many high ranking and powerful offices of state, including Grand Chancellor of Savoy, Ambassador to the Doge of Venice and Mayor of Turin. Although the political importance of the Romagnano di Virle began to decline by the mid-16th century to the more powerful House of Savoy, they maintained significant presence in the area for at least six centuries until the last Marquis’ death without heir in 1849. Their principle seat, Romagnano Castle is a vast complex which rises up from the Piedmont countryside twelve miles south of Turin, in small medieval village of Virle Piemonte. Dating back to the Middle Ages, it was rebuilt in the first decade of the 18th century by the Marquis Francesco Romagnano. Carlo Antonio Amedeo, 16th Marquis of Romagnano (1678-1728) was the son of the 15th Marquis, Andrea and Petronilla Francesca Capris. He rose to the rank of President of the Senate of Nice and Mayor of Turin in 1726.

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