L. Caterina, C. Mossetti (eds), Villa della Regina: il riflesso dell'Oriente nel Piemonte del Settecento, Turin, 2005
The taste for Chinoiserie that swept through Europe in the 18th century found a particular resonance in Piedmont, at the royal court of Savoy. No fewer than twenty-seven documented interiors 'alla China' survive in the former royal palaces in and around Turin, created using either wallpaper or silk panels imported directly from China or by painting and lacquering Chinoiserie scenes on to boiseries, ceilings, and furniture.
In the 1730s King Carlo Emanuele III (1701-1773) commissioned the redecoration of the north-east wing of the Royal Palace of Turin, supervised by court architect Filippo Juvarra (1678-1736), and which resulted in the creation of some of the most accomplished Chinoiserie interiors of the 18th century. Pietro Massa was the artist chosen for the Chinese decoration of a number of ambiences, including the 'Cabinetto del Pregadio della Regina', or small budoir. Here the intricate boiserie is inset with eight panels depicting birds perched on branches and flowers on a gilt background that bear a striking stylistic resemblance to the present pair of encoigneures (fig. 1; discussed in Caterina and Mosetti, op. cit., pp. 466-69), so much so that an attribution to his workshop could perhaps be attempted.
Pietro Massa was certainly one of the most talented ornemanistes of his time, specializing in delightful lacche painted with exotic flowers, birds and figures. By the early 1730s his workshop was receiving important commissions from the Royal Family, most notably at the Royal Palace and the Villa della Regina - whose furnishings were sadly dispersed from the second half of the 19th century.
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