Seat furniture was often adapted to the social and architectural environment of Ligurian palaces: the decoration of the walls echoed the furnishings, whereby the carving of the furniture followed the design of the stucco-work of the room where the furniture was placed. For example, trails and vines are found on the walls of the Gallery of Mirrors at the Palazzo Durazzo and a room in the Palazzo Reale, Genoa (first illustrated in A. Gonzalez-Palacios, op.cit., p.230 and also in G. Mazzariol, op.cit., p.130, fig. C). Although the overall shape of these armchairs is typically Genoese, the rich carving, especially to the crest, is highly unusual and it may suggest that the present suite was specifically commissioned to match a corresponding interior decoration, with vines mirrored in the silk upholstery, carvings and stucco-work on the walls, altogether producing a magnificent visual effect.
The finely carved and pierced trails of vines and grapes, delicately painted to give them more of a lifelike quality, are to be admired for their outstanding and rare quality. Added to the work of the carver and painter is that of the gilder, who gave the armchairs a characteristic glow which enhanced the depth of the carving.
These particular armchairs relate to an example in the Palazzo Reale, Genoa (illustrated A. Gonzalez-Palacios, op.cit., p.227, fig. 260) and one example from the same suite as the present lot is illustrated by G. Morazzoni, op.cit., 1949, p.153, belonging to the collection of Comm. Cesare Sangumeti. One of the present chairs, when in the Fossati-Bellani collection, is illustrated in G. Mazzariol, op. cit., 1964, p.130, ill. A).
The prestigious Milanese Fossati-Bellani family were textile industrialists who produced two outstanding collectors, the brothers Luigi Vittorio and Tulio (d.1961). Whilst Luigi Vittorio focused his interests on contemporary painters, Tullio was more traditional, but eclectic, acquiring sculpture and architectural fragments dating from the Middle Ages to the Rococo which he placed amongst Renaissance and eighteenth-century paintings and fine 18th century furniture.
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