An important pair of late 18th century Piedmontese carved giltwood side tables with dark green malachite tops. Each having a frieze with a band of egg and dart carving above panels of scrolling leaves centred by a sunburst mask and hung at the front and sides with magnificent garlands of flowers; the tapering fluted legs joined by shaped stretchers and ending in acanthus feet.
In the manner of Giuseppe Maria Bonzanigo.
Formerly in the collection of the Earls of Rosebery at Mentmore Towers, Buckinghamshire.
Mentmore House sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co., 20 May 1977, lot 836.
Mallett and Son (Antiques) Ltd., 1993.
This magnificent pair of classical tables is attributed to the workshop of Italian craftsman, Giuseppe Maria Bonzanigo (1745-1820). The decorative arts of Piedmont in the 18th century were strongly influenced by France, but the elaborate carving on these tables is distinctly Italian. Bonzanigo was born in Asti where his father and uncle worked as woodcarvers, specialising in elaborate cases for church organs. Bonzanigo was primarily a sculptor and his work is characterised by superbly detailed carved ornament.
The flowers, in particular, on these side tables are of the sharpest quality. Art historian Hugh Honour compares the “minute delicacy” of Bonzanigo’s work to that of an ivory carver. The floral swags on the tables have affinities with those on the carved giltwood fire screen that Bonzanigo made in Turin for the King of Sardinia in 1775.
By 1773, Bonzanigo had settled in Turin and began to work for the court. During his long and distinguished career he established a position for himself as the finest exponent of Neo- Classicism in Piedmont in the field of carving and decoration. He carried out many commissions for Vittorio Amedeo III and, in 1787, received the accolade of being named a Royal Sculptor. His work in the Palazzo Reale in Turin and also in the Royal apartments of the hunting lodge at Stupinigi may be related to these particular side tables.
Russian carvers and gilders in the late 18th century were greatly influenced by Italian and German workshops. Giltwood side tables with green malachite tops at the Ostankino Palace in the northern part of Moscow show marked similarities with this pair. They may also be related to tables at the Pavlovsk Palace, which was built around 1780 just south east of St. Petersburg as a country residence of the Russian Imperial Family.
The provenance of Mentmore Towers, Buckinghamshire, places these side tables in one of the most outstanding collections of art, with a fascinating history. The contents of the house were sold through Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co. over an astonishing nine days, from 18th May to 27th May, in 1977. It was one of the first highly publicised, record-breaking English country house sales.
Mentmore was designed by the architect Joseph Paxton for Baron and Baroness de Rothschild as a house close to London. The house and its contents were inherited by their daughter Hannah, later Countess of Rosebery and her husband Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery. Following the death of their son, the 6th Earl, in 1973, the Labour government refused to accept the contents in lieu of inheritance taxes and the executors of the estate sold the contents by auction for over £6,000,000. The Rothschild / Mentmore collection is said to have been one of the finest ever assembled in private hands; comparable to the collections of the Russian and British Royal Families.
Lanto Synge, Mallett Millenium, Antique Collectors' Club, London, 1999, p. 160, fig. 196.
A view of Mentmore Towers, illustrated in Mentmore, Volume One, Furniture, Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co., published by Raithby, Lawrence & Company Ltd., 1977, p. 342.
The Blue Hall of the Ostankino Palace, Moscow, illustrated in Irina Semionova, Ostankino, Eighteenth-Century Country Estate, Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad, 1981, colour plate 32.
A similar side table by Bonzanigo, illustrated in Hugh Honour, Cabinet Makers and Furniture Designers, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1969, p. 184.
CONDITION REPORT ON REQUEST.