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A HIGHLY IMPORTANT ITALIAN BAROQUE LAPIS LAZULI AND JASPER MOUNTED EBONY CABINET BY GIACOMO HERMAN\nTHE CABINET, CIRCA 1669-1675,\nTHE VIRGINAL 1676,\nTHE CONSOLE TABLE, FIRST QUARTER 18TH CENTURY, APPLIED WITH MINIATURES OF BASILICAS AND MONUMENTS OF ROME, CONTAINING A VIRGINAL BY GIOVANNI BATTISTA MABERIANI AND DATED 1676 AND SURMOUNTED BY A NOCTURNAL CLOCK SIGNED BY GIOVANNI WENDELINO HESSLER IN ROME, ON A SUMPTUOUSLY CARVED GILTWOOD CONSOLE TABLE, WITH A VENEERED VERDE ANTICO AND LUMACHELLA MARBLE TOP, ROME, the cabinet of architectural form with a triangular pediment surmounted by a later gilt-bronze equestrian figure (19th century and re-gilt) above a night timepiece signed Gioann Wendelino Hessler Romae, the dial painted with Chronos and the Papal tiara , a mitre, princely crowns and a helmet, flanked by  jasper panels and scrolled  gilt copper corbels above a gilt-bronze balustrade gallery surmounted by  four gilt-bronze busts of Roman Emperors (modern), the central door  with a lunette inset with a gouache depicting St. Peter's Square, opening to reveal a mirrored architectural interior, flanked by  lapis lazuli columns with corinthian capitals surmounted by an arcaded painted panel depicting  Romulus and Remus suckling the wolf, flanked by jasper panels and six drawers each applied with two painted gouaches within gilt-bronze banding depicting the Basilicas of Rome and monuments visited by the Pope in Office, each end of the cabinet concealing a sliding mirror reflecting the panorama of the churches, the frieze applied with further jasper panels  and concealing a drawer, opening to reveal a removable virginal, on a stepped moulded base; a few gilt-copper sculptural elements missing; the carcase made of poplar; the drawers made of walnut; the fuse movement of the night timepiece with circular plates, baluster pillars and lipped barrel, verge escapement, lacking pallets, regulation device, driving three hours discs each pierced with numerals for a four hour cycle; the console table with serpentine veneered verde antico and lumachella marble top, above a concave frieze carved with lunettes and a twisted-ribbon centred by a  smiling braided female mask flanked by ribboned oak leaf swags, within an s-scrolled cartouche flanked by further bold s-scrolls, the supports in the form of two leaning nude youths sculpted in tutto tondo entwined with oak leaves and acorns, the massive sculpted base centred by  a winged moustached grotesque mask flanked by bold scrolls terminating in similar grotesque mask, on a shaped moulded plinth (re-gilt);   INSCRIPTIONS\nThe reverse of the clock incised: Gioann Wendelino Hessler Romae\nThe right end key of the virginal inscribed in ink Io/ Gio[van]ni Ba[tti]sta Maber/iani/ feci/a/ Roma 1676....45\nThe back of the drawer concealing the virginal inscribed in ink  num 3 - 850\nThe top of the drawer concealing the virginal inscribed in ink 3 lon....p.mi 6 onc. 2-850\nThe ebony section under the equestrian figure, inscribed in pencil on the reverse: Den Studiol hatt der Johannes Meisser gemacht von Freiburg von ihm selbstgefertigt (The cabinet was made by Johannes Meisser of Freiburg himself).  \nThe cabinet 184cm. high (including the equestrian group on the top), 153cm. wide, 50cm. deep; 6ft.Iin., 5ft.Din., 1ft.7Nin.





I           Miniatures                                                                               page 3

II          Four Cabinets                                                                          page 4

III        Inscriptions                                                                             page 4

IV        A Document on Four Cabinets by Giacomo Herman               page 5

V         The Pallavicini Rospigliosi Cabinet                                       page 6

VI        Baroque Cabinets and Giacomo Herman                                page 7

VII       Clockmaker                                                                             page 9

VIII      Gilt Metal Mounts                                                                   page 9

IX        The Console                                                                            page 10

X         Notes                                                                                       page 11

XI        The Virginal by Grant O'Brien                                               page 13

XII       Appendix                                                                                 page 15

XIII      Acknowledgements                                                                 page 16

XIV     Text in Italian (if needed)                                                        page 18



The cabinet houses fourteen miniatures which are fixed to the drawers and the central niche of the façade.  Arranged around a view of St Peter's Square, with the Pope blessing the crowd, there are twelve other images of Rome.  Above left, the Porta Ostiense and the Pyramid of Cestius, with the Pontiff in a red carriage drawn by six white horses.  To the side one can see the courtyard of the Palazzo del Quirinale, once again with the Pope blessing the crowd from the balcony.

On the drawer immediately below, on the left, Santa Maria sopra Minerva is depicted on the feast  of the Annunciation, and to the side, the square of San Giovanni in Laterano and the Baptistery with the Pope on the Loggia.

On the drawer beneath, on the left Santa Croce in Gerusalemme and on the right San Sebastiano fuori le mura.

On the top drawer to the right St. Peter's Square appears once again;  to the side, Santa Maria in Cosmedin and the Temple of Vesta with the Pope in his carriage.

On the second drawer, we have an illustration of Castel Sant'Angelo from Via dei Banchi whilst the Pope is being taken to the Capitol by litter upheld by two white mules.

On the bottom drawer, two images, by another hand, show San Paolo fuori le mura and Santa Maria Maggiore.  On the lunette above the central view there is a miniature of the Capitoline She-Wolf.

Some of the miniatures described hitherto are very similar and at times identical to those on another much simpler cabinet, kept at the Museo di Roma (fig. 14a, page 26).




There are three cabinets in existence similar to the one we are currently examining

(fig. 1): two are in the Royal Collections in Denmark (fig. 2 & 3) and were purchased for the Danish Crown in 1767 but we do not know where. (2)  The third today is in Cracow at the Chapel of the Virgin of Loreto (Annunciation Church) (fig. 4) which comes from the Wilanov Palace in Warsaw (3).  This latter piece of furniture, which is meant to have been given by Innocent XI to Jan III Sobieski (1629-1696), King of Poland, after the liberation of Vienna from the Turks in 1683 (4), once stood, according to an inventory dated 1696,  in the chamber where the king died (fig. 24 & 25).

These three cabinets have miniatures showing scenes from the Bible, taken from paintings by Raphael in the Logge Vaticane.

The four cabinets are all of the same size, the two in Copenhagen (one at the Castle of Rosenborg and the other at that of Fredensborg, (pp. 46 & 48) and ours stand on as many gilded consoles with identical verde antico and lumachella marble tops; the one in Cracow no longer has its supporting stand and today is placed on an altar.

Their architectural facade is identical; each one is decorated in the centre by two lapis lazuli columns bordering a small arched doorway which leads to a compartment;  on either side of this door are three drawers,  each with two illuminated panels;  the cabinets are crowned by a nocturnal clock with a pediment;  in the area at the base is a compartment out of which a virginal can be pulled.

Some of these ornamental characteristics are no longer present in the cabinet at Cracow which has been quite noticeably damaged.



The cabinet described here bears several inscriptions:

The clock is engraved on the back of the movement with the signature of the maker      "Gioann Wendelino Hessler Romae" (fig. 5).

Behind the drawer which hides the extractable virginal from the central part has

"num? 3 - 850" written in ink on it (fig. 6).

On top of the same drawer we find the Roman measurement inscription

"3 lon...p.mi 6 onc. 2 - 850 (fig. 7)".

The inscription  "Io/ Gio[van]ni Ba[tti]sta Maber/iani/feci/a/ fec/a/ Roma 1676-45" is found on the last key of the virginal on the right. The number 45 indicates the position of the last key (fig. 8).

A few words appear inside the carcase under the equestrian statuette. They should refer to the maker of the cabinet who most probably worked in the workshop of the more famous Giacomo Herman: 'Den Studiol hatt der Johannes Meisser gemacht von Freiburg von ihm selbstgefertigt' are written in pencil and difficult to decipher but they seem to read ' The cabinet was made by Johannes Meisser of Freiburg himself'.  (fig. 9).

The Cabinet at Rosenborg (fig. 19) has the clock signed "Gio. Wendelinus Hessler fecit Romae";  it has "num? 4 - 850" written in ink  behind the drawer which hides the virginal and "45-1678" under one of the last one of virginal's keys (fig. 18). Here too, the number 45 indicates the position of the key while 1678  the date when the virginal was completed.

The cabinet at Fredensborg (fig. 23) has the clock signed Gio. Wendelinus Hessler fecit Romae" (fig. 21); it has "num? 5 - 850' written in ink behind the drawer (fig. 20) which hides the virginal. The virginal has been restored in 1896  and it has not been possible to inspect the keys underneath.

On a separate label (fig. 22), we read again the name of Johannes Meisser: "Johannes Meisser von Freiburg Aus dem Schwartzwald Gattungsbegriff Gemacht Anno fertig dem zum diesen 12 Endtermin Anno 1678' which should read 'Johannes Meisser from Fribourg made  in the style of  the  Black Forest (Swartzwald) to be delivered on month 12 year 1678'.

It is to be observed that the inscriptions with a consequential order number (3-4-5) and the figure 850 appear in the same handwriting and in the same place on the all the three abovementioned cabinets.

We reiterate that the cabinet in Cracow has been reworked and does not bear any inscription; the clock mechanism is missing.




There is a document which is well-known to us by the German cabinet maker, Giacomo Herman, who worked in Rome and who stated that on 20th November 1669 he took to the Pope's Monsignor Maggiordomo four large cabinets to be inspected by the Cardinal Nepote, Giacomo Rospigliosi (fig. 12) and probably by the Pope himself, at the Palazzo del Quirinale.  Herman writes "A di 20 9bre 1669 per ordine dell'Ill° Monsig. Maggiordomo di N.S. ho pagato a sei facchini per aver portato quattro studioli grandi al suo appartamento a Monte Cavallo e nel seguente giorno riportateli nell'appartamento del Signor Cardinale Rospigliosi e di poi riportarli a casa mia" (5)

"On this day 20th November by order of the III° Monsignor Maggiordomo to His Holiness I paid six porters to take four large cabinets to his apartments at Monte Cavallo and on the following day to  take them back to the apartment of Cardinal Rospigliosi, thereafter to be returned to my abode".

This is the only time, as far as we know, that a cabinet maker in 17th Century Rome prepared simultaneously four large cabinets which were in all likelihood similar and took them to be shown at the Papal Palace (fig. 10).  Due to a series of favourable circumstances, it has been possible to identify four identical cabinets which were undeniably made in Rome at the time the document mentions them, around 1669.

The dates inscribed on two of the virginals (1677 and 1678) and probably that found on the loose label of Fredensborg Castle (1678)  stand to indicate that it was only at that moment (a few years after the death of Clement IX (fig. 11) in 1669) that the cabinets were equipped  with musical instruments and therefore completed.

Still mysterious are the inscriptions under the statuette of our cabinet and on the loose label at Fredensborg. If correctly translated and interpreted they all should refer to a craftsman called Johannes Meisser from Fribourg. Much probably he was one of the

craftsmen who worked in the workshop of his compatriot Giacomo Herman.



Clement IX (Giulio Rospigliosi of Pistoia) was elected Pope in June 1667 and he died in December, 1669 (fig. 11).  He had been trained at the Court of the Barberini and had been Papal Nuncio in Madrid as well as Secretary of State to Alexander VII.  Not only was he cultured and the author of several highly regarded theatrical works, but he was also considered to be of a universally generous and patient nature.  He died less than a month after Herman's visit to the Quirinale, after two and a half years pontificate.  As he was an honest, austere man he most probably did not intend to allocate these `'four large cabinets", evidently highly important pieces of furniture, to his own family and in any case, there would have been  no time left for him to see the finished items.

In 1670, a nephew of Clement IX, Giovanni Battista Rospigliosi (1646-1722), married Maria Camilla Pallavicini, niece of the wealthy Genoese Cardinal Lazzaro Pallavicini (d.1680), thus giving rise to a family with two lineages:  Pallavicini and Rospigliosi.  The couple had five children, the second of whom Nicolò Maria Camillo Pallavicini (1677-1759) inherited the surname and possessions of Cardinal Lazzaro. Amongst the latter goods, on his death, in 1680, there appears ''un studiolo d'ebano con due colonnine di lapislazoli con spartimenti di figure di miniature di rame dorato, sei teste, e busto d'Imperatori, et un cavallo con Imperatore à cavallo di rame dorato da capo e suo piede compagno" (6)  "a cabinet made of ebony with two little lapis-lazuli columns with miniatures of  groups of figures framed  in gilded copper, six busts of  Emperors, and  an Emperor on horseback made of gilded copper  and its stand".

Two years later, in 1682, in an inventory of Palazzo Pallavicini Rospigliosi (fig. 13), we find what is probably the same piece of furniture.   In the room to the right of the loggia in the Casino dell'Aurora, the following is described: "Un Studiolo grande con suo piede d'ebano, à 6 tiratori figurati à minio, rappresentano l'istoria di Giuseppe col pendolo che fù descritto nelle stanze de SS.rini con sopra un cavallo di rame indorato simile a quello di Campidoglio, con colonnette di lapislazaro, et altre pietre preziose, et una spinetta in mezzo (7)  "a large cabinet with its ebony pedestal, including six illuminated drawers, representing the story of Joseph with a pendulum clock  which was described in the rooms of the "Signorini " (the young Princes Domenico Clemente Rospigliosi and Nicolò Maria Camillo Pallavicini) mounted by a copper gilt horse similar to the one in the Campidoglio, with lapislazuli columns and other precious stones, and a virginal in the middle". This description tallies perfectly with the cabinets in Denmark or with the one which today is in Cracow, before it was damaged. They all show, amongst other biblical scenes, the stories of Joseph. No mention of that piece of furniture was found after 1682 in other inventories at the Palazzo Pallavicini Rospigliosi.

To recapitulate: Giacomo Herman was preparing four similar cabinets which he took to show the Pope, or at least his nephew, in November of 1669.  We are not aware of when these cabinets were actually finished;  nevertheless in 1680, on Cardinal Lazzaro Pallavicini's death, as we have seen, one of those pieces of furniture appeared to have been completed, decorated with miniatures on the front of the drawers, surmounted by a small equestrian monument and six small bronze busts.  On that occasion, there is mention of the cabinet pedestal or "its stand".  Two years later, in 1682, in the Casino dell'Aurora at Palazzo Rospigliosi, it is specified that a cabinet which is listed - in our view the same which we  previously referred to, left by Cardinal Lazzaro to his nephew -  had six illuminated drawers (that is to say, decorated with miniatures) with stories of Joseph. The cabinet, which rested on an ebony pedestal, was mounted by a clock, a horse and ornamented with bronze and copper gilding, lapis-lazuli columns, other semi-precious stones and, what is most unusual, a virginal in the centre.

It would be legitimate to ask ourselves why the Pope or his nephew wanted to see Herman's four cabinets. Did they intend to purchase them? Had they been ordered by Cardinal Rospigliosi? Did they intend to reserve and then subsequently acquire them, once they were completed, as diplomatic gifts?  These kinds of gifts were customary in the 17th and 18th Centuries and sometimes the Pope would commission precious objects, especially tapestries and mosaics, which he would set aside to give to important figures.  It should not be surprising that one of these cabinets passed to Cardinal Lazzaro Pallavicini with whom Pope Clement IX intended to enter into family ties, since his nephew had married the Cardinal's niece and heir.  It is possible that the Cracow cabinet was given, for the same reasons, a few years later by Innocent XI - the successor to Clement IX - to the Polish King Jan Sobieski III, victor of the Turks at Vienna in 1683.



One must of course bear in mind that the construction of furniture such as our pieces signified the involvement of various categories of  craftsmen.  Firstly a drawing was required for which the involvement of an architect was necessary. A carpenter (on our cabinet, possibly Johannes Meisser whose signature is recorded) would then have to build the carcase and then a specialized cabinet maker (who in some  cases also prepared the structure) would take care of the laborious scaling-down  of the hard types of wood, such as ebony, and  fit the many  metallic, pictorial and siliceous decorations.  The assistance of bronze workers and gilders was occasionally necessary to perfect the details.

In the case of our four cabinets, yet another craftsman was required, one for musical instruments. On the present cabinet the virginal was made by Giovanni Battista Marberiani (page 40).

Furthermore, as we have already seen, here was a clockmaker, Giovanni Wendelino Hessler, who signed his name on the clocks of three of the cabinets.

The document on Giacomo Herman's visit to the Quirinale (or Montecavallo as it was often called then) in 1669 is unique because it documents the only time when a 17th Century cabinet maker simultaneously prepares four similar cabinets of considerable dimensions and great richness.  It does not seem plausible that these four pieces of furniture were destined for one palace alone.  Several facts allow us to exclude this possibility.  The iconographic programme of three of the cabinets (Rosenborg, Fredensborg, Cracow) is made up of biblical stories mostly concerning Moses and Joseph, which end up by being repeated, based as they are on Raphael's works in the Logge Vaticane.

The fourth cabinet, here at Sotheby's, whilst keeping the same dimensions and architectural solutions, suggests another theme:  it is in fact embellished with views of Roman Basilicas and other particularly significant monuments of the City, such as the Cestia  Pyramid, the Capitol, Castel Sant'Angelo, the Temple of Vesta, the Palazzo del Quirinale, all of them places which the Pope had to see when he came into office on his way to the Lateran, or which were chosen for specially important ceremonies. In the most famous Roman princely palaces, it was quite usual during the baroque era, to display sumptuous pieces of furniture such as these.  During his various sojourns in Rome, the King of Sweden's well-known architect Nicodemus Tessin the Younger (1654-1728:  he was in Italy between 1673 and 1674 and  1687-1688) mentions in Palazzo Barberini an ebony cabinet adorned with miniatures by Giulio Romano with stories from the Old and New Testament, and yet another item of furniture, also made of ebony, on which "Pietro da Cortona had painted the Seven Churches of Rome" (8) The names of Giulio Romano and Pietro da Cortona tend to indicate a family tradition or a  type of pictorial taste more than an actual attribution.

It is however possible that in the same household there might have been a cabinet depicting biblical scenes and another with views of the city, but it is not probable that one single commissioner had four cabinets with virginals (which moreover would not have been played all at the same time).

On the other hand, what is today considered the most important Roman piece of 17th Century furniture, the Vienna-Kunsthistorisches cabinet (fig. 15 & 31, p.53), signed by Giacomo Herman in 1668, includes stories of Constantine on the outside and views of Roman churches on the inside (fig. 29a & b).  The architectural invention of that piece of furniture can be compared with that of our four cabinets and, like them, is crowned by a pediment with a nocturnal clock (signed and dated by Pietro Tommaso Campani in Rome in 1663) (fig. 30) the whole then surmounted by a horse (fig. 17) identical to those which are still preserved in Denmark.  The Vienna cabinet is thought to have been given to the Emperor Leopold I by Pope Alessandro VII although it is more likely that it was a present from Cardinal von Hesse. (9)


We do not know exactly when the German, Giacomo Herman, arrived in Rome, but it was probably before 1653.   He died there in 1685 at the age of 70 and had a workshop at Sant'Ignazio.  His work for Alexander VII, Clement IX, Clement X and Innocent XI is documented.  He had very important assignments such as the Vienna cabinet which was signed and dated by him in 1668.  If to this magnificent piece of furniture we add two other famous items which are still preserved at Palazzo Colonna, for which they were made (the pedestal with three moors of a cabinet made of pietre dure, and the large cabinet decorated with ivory bas-reliefs by the Stainhart brothers, works in which it is proven that Herman participated between 1671 and 1680) it is obvious that he was the most important cabinet-maker working in Rome during that entire century. (10)

Many of his works still need to be identified, yet there are documented works for Clement IX Rospigliosi (bearing in mind the unpublished papers discovered by A. Gonzalez-Palacios) to whom, in July of 1667, he submitted "two large tortoiseshell cabinets carved in ebony and adorned with copper gilt ", "two tables", "an ebony inkstand" , ebony frames and a writing-desk.



Three of the mechanisms out of the four cabinets we have examined are preserved, but the entire mechanism is missing in the Cracow cabinet.  The three machines are signed, but not dated, by Giovanni Wendelino Hessler, the craftsman of whom we have some knowledge.  Several works ascertained to be his are left, including a solar ring and an equinoctial solar clock (signed and dated in Rome in 1689).  Specialised literature shows that he was working in Rome between 1680 and 1685 (11)

With no known pieces dated prior to 1680, it is almost certain that the three clocks on these cabinets are his oldest works.



Only the two cabinets in Denmark are still surmounted by bronze gilt equestrian monuments identical to the one which is on the only cabinet signed by Giacomo Herman in 1668 and kept at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (fig. 17).  A fourth horse (fig. 16), identical to the three just mentioned, and almost certainly removed from the cabinet for sale today at Sotheby's, was identified many years ago by A. Gonzalez-Palacios when he published the Vienna cabinet in 1970.  At that time, it was in a private collection in London, but now its whereabouts are unknown.

The paintings on the Vienna cabinet show the Emperor Constantine in his relations with the Church, and it is therefore logical to believe that the equestrian monument which crowns that piece of furniture represents Constantine, yet in Cardinal Lazzaro Pallavicini's inventory of 1680 mention is only made of an Emperor on horseback.

Two years later, in the inventory of Palazzo Pallavicini Rospigliosi it is specified that the cabinet had "on top of it a gilt copper horse similar to the one in the Capitol," in other words a  reduced model of the monument of Marcus Aurelius.  In the documents which concern the Sobieski cabinet currently in Cracow, reference is made to the corresponding element as Curtius on horseback.  In actual fact, the model, which was put into execution at least five times (probably the specimen in Cracow is irretrievably lost, and the one belonging to the cabinet in London is, as already stated, in unknown hands) should date back to the heyday of the Seicento and appears to be reminiscent of the well-known model of the Capitol.

The four matching cabinets have kept a large proportion of their gilt metal mounts and decoration although the one in Cracow, as already mentioned, was badly treated and most of the bronze and copper re-gilt.  The busts, originally six on each cabinet, are today partially present only on the ones in Denmark. The Danish cabinets show further figurative bronzes on each side of the pediment and above the arched door which are not present any longer on our example.

The cabinets have a rather curious device, on the sides of the façade: two mirrors can be extracted doubling the entire façade and creating a surprising architectural effect

(p. 135).

The four cabinets which we have examined, together with the one now in Vienna and the Colonna cabinet with ivory bas-reliefs, date back to the decade roughly between 1668 and 1680.  The architectural idea behind these exceptional cabinets, possibly the best ever built in Rome during the entire century, adopts the shapes of a façade with an obvious interest in classical prototypes reinvented in a baroque manner. In these pieces of furniture, the sculptural elements, the colourful painted panels and gilt mounts achieve a remarkable dynamism. In the Colonna cabinet though, it is the sheer contrast between white and black which adds to the dynamism.



When Giacomo Herman, then the most famous cabinet maker in Rome, completed the pieces of furniture we refer to, they were supported by ebony stands. In fact, in Cardinal Pallavicini's inventory of 1680 and that of Palazzo Pallavicini Rospigliosi's in 1682, it is specified that the cabinet with the Stories of Joseph was supported by an ebony stand. In the late 17th Century, a gilt console like the ones on which the examined cabinets now rest would have been stylistically premature, not because it was gilded nor that it was formed by human figures (others do exist), but  because it shows a serpentine movement which preludes to the Rococo.

In well-known 17th Century Italian and Roman cabinets, the stands can be fashioned into painted or gilded human figures. We can list that of Leonardo van der Vinne, at Palazzo Pitti of 1667, the one aforementioned belonging to the Colonna family made of pietre dure supported by moors in which Herman himself is involved, or the gilded console tables in the Gallery at Palazzo Colonna.  These solemn works display an emphasis which was totally baroque whereas the gilded consoles of Denmark and here in London show a different and lighter movement: an intertwining of bodies that tends to be more graceful, more in harmony with the fine art of the time, such as the elusive ornamental stuccoes at Palazzo Altieri, see ceiling below, which already herald the 18th Century (12).

These three consoles evidently form part of the same series and were most probably commissioned to remodernise the previous stands, at a time when the fourth cabinet had already left to be delivered in Poland.  The three consoles are similar but are not identical. The very expressive and virile figures of different racial type, resemble allegories of the Senses and reveal an uncommon sensuality.  The masks which centre the friezes do not seem identical to one another, and neither do the garlands which tie them to the figures. The taste for the contrived intertwining, which is shown in these consoles, the particularly flattened grotesque masks, and beneath, the large screaming masks which are added to the lower part, are typical of Rome.  The upper and lower frames have much in common with Roman furniture and are typically 18th Century.

The artisan, who carved these pieces was of the first order, well and truly a sculptor as these three consoles are considered to be amongst the most important in early 18th Century Rome. They are the ideal crowning glory of a series of furniture pieces; starting with a few consoles at Palazzo Spada completed in 1700 (where we see busts that are of female heads similar to ours); the consoles which were already part of the Rospigliosi collection (divided today between Palazzo del Quirinale and Palazzo Sacchetti); and certain already late Baroque pieces which have not been studied in depth, such as the magnificent organ at Santa Maria Maddalena which dates around 1735 (13).

Lastly the thick tops, with coloured marble veneers, are typically Roman.



1.  Roma 1300-1875 L'arte degli anni santi, catalogue of the exhibition edited by M. Fagiolo and M.L. Madonna, Roma Palazzo di Venezia, 1984 (Milan) cat.XI.3,p445 (E Di Gioia) No. inv. Dep. 121 MPV 228

2. K. Nordstrom, "To spinetter pa Rosenborg slot - en praesentation" in Dansk Musiktidsskrift, 1-2, 1967, pp 7-9, it appears the cabinets were bought by the curator of the royal collections Gerhard Morell in 1767. A. Gonzalez-Palacios, "Il mobile di corte italiano," 2, in Bolaffi Antiquariato, November 1985, no. 65, pp.58, 52-53: A. Gonzalez-Palacios, Arredi e ornamenti alla corte di Roma, Milan, 2004, p.26, fig 14.

3. Inventory of Wilanów Palace in1696 made after the death of the king Jan III Sobieski.

A. Czowski, A lost inventory, Urzàdzenie Pacu wilanowskiego za Jana III, Lvov 1937.

Throne of Relic, in Honour of his Royal Highness the Invincible Jan III Sobieski, King of Poland, on the three hundredth Anniversary of his death 1696-1996, Exhibition catalogue, 17th June -30th September 1996, The Wilanów Palace Museum, 1996, Warsaw, pp.172-173.

Clocks in the Wilanów Collection, The Wilanów Palace Museum, 2000, Warsaw, pps.19-23

Odsiecz Wiedenska, Wystawa jubileuszowa, w Zamku Krolewskim na Wawelu, The Battle of Vienna, 1683, Tom I, Panstwowe Zbiory Sztuki na Wawelu, 1990, Cracow, pps. 146-147, Pl VIII, photo 111-112.

Wojciech Fijalkowski, Wilanów Rezydencja Krola Zwyciezcy, Warsaw, 1983 p.74.

Wojciech Fijalkowski, Wnetrza Palacu W Wilanowie, Warsaw, 1986, p.34.

Tadeusz Jaroszewski, Poland: Country Houses, Warsaw, 1996, pp.205-221.

Exhibited in 1983 in Wavel Castle.

4. L. von Pastor, Storia dei Papi,vol. XIV, part II, Rome, 1932, p.130, note 1, claims that Innocent XI after the liberation of Vienna sent Sobieski "an ebony-inlaid writing-desk to be found in the Castle of Willanow (sic) where the chamber in which Sobieski died has been turned into a chapel".  Von Pastor does not substantiate this affirmation. In 1696 listed in  the post-mortem inventory of Jan Sobieski, at no. 203, we find "a Roman item of furniture with  drawers, and with miniatures showing the Lives of Joseph and Moses, partly damaged;  inside, a nocturnal clock with a lamp and above, Curzio on horseback  in gilded metal" Inwentarz Generlany Klejnotow, Sreber, Galanterii I Ruchomosci roznych tudziesz Obrazow, ktore sie tak w Palaci Wilanowskim jako po Skarbcach Warszawskich He. K. Mci znajdowaly...odprawiony d. 10 Novembris Anno Domini 1696 Antykamera Krola Jego Mosci..203. Szkatula rzymska, na niey po szufladach miniatury ze historij Jozefa yMoyzesza, mieyscami nadpsowana, w teyze szkatule zegar lampa na wierzchu Curtius metalowy, zlocisty na koniu. In 1720 the Palace was sold by Sobieski's heirs to Elzbieta Sieniawski.  At that time it was passed  on to the Capucin Monastery in Warsaw and according to a further document on 18th February 1733, it was officially donated by Jakub Sobieski, son of Jan III, to the Capucins of Cracow, where it is still kept today, in the Chapel of Loreto as a tabernacle.

5. A.Bertolotti, Artisti belgi ed olandesi a Roma, Florence-Rome 1880-85, p.247.

6. Rome, Archivio Pallavicni, A. 5. 13 fasc.4, cart. 40 v; referred to also by D. Di Castro, A.M Pedrocchi, P. Waddy, Il Palazzo Pallavicini Rospigliosi e la Galleria Pallavicini, Turin, 1999, p.273.

7. Rome, Archivio Pallavicini, A.5.2., cart.278; mentioned but not transcribed by D. Di Castro, work referred to in previous annotation.8. Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, Traicte" dela decoration interieure 1717, Stockholm, 2002, p.261

9. A. Gonzalez-Palacios, Il Tempio del Gusto, Milan, 1984, p.60 with the earlier bibliography.  For the provenance: L, von Pastor, Storia dei Papi cit, vol XIV part 1, p.389 writes that the cabinet was donated by Alexander VII in 1663 to Leopold I, which seems impossible, given that the piece of furniture appears signed by Herman in 1668, when Alexander VII was already deceased.  A few years ago, Manfred Leithe-Jasper informed us that in an anonymous book published in Vienna in 1702 it is stated that the piece was donated to the Cardinal of Hesse (died in 1682) Kurtz: Lesens  Wurdige Erinnerung von Herruhrung Erbau: und Benambsun auch Vilfaltig-anderen/alt: und neun Seltenheiten Bemerck: und Andenkungen sowhol in: als um die Kayserliche Haubt: und Residentz-Stadt Wien in Oesterreich....p.57

10. For Herman see A.Bertolotti, Artisti Belgi...cit. pp.246-248; L.Ozzola "L'arte alla corte di Alessandro VII" in Archivio della Societa' Romana di Storia Patria XXXI, 1908, passim. Thieme Becker Kunstler-Lexicon, Leipsig, 1923, ad vocem; F. Noack, Das Deutschtum in Rom, Berlin-Leipsig, 1927, vol I, p.83, vol.II p.256: V. Golzio, Documenti artistici sul Seicento nell'archivio Chigi, Rome, 1939, pp.370, 372; M. Worsdale in Bernini in Vaticano, cat. of the exhibition, Rome, 1981, p.235; A. Gonzalez-Palacios, Il Tempio del Gusto, cit. p.60; J.Montagu, Gold Silver and Bronze, New Haven, London 1996, p.216, no.69; F. Petrucci "Alcuni arredi seicenteschi del Palazzo Chigi in Ariccia nei documenti di archivio" in Studi Romani, July-December, 1998, p.332; F. Hammond, S. Walker Life and the Arts in the Baroque Palaces of Rome, Ambiente Barocco, New York, 1999, pp.13,14, 17, 198; R. Valeriani in E.A. Safarik, Palazzo Colonna, Rome, 1999, p.257; C. Strunck, "Die Kunsmobel der Galleria Colonna in Rome" in Romische Historische Mitteilungen, 47, 2005, passim.

11. E. Zinner, Deutsche und Niederlandische Astronomiche Instrumente des 11-18. Jahrunderts  Munich in Bavaria, 1972, mentions Johann Wendelin Hessler of whom there is knowledge around 1689, and a solar clock of his, signed Joh Wendelin Hessler Rom 1689 in a private collection at Aquisgrana.

E.Morpurgo, Dizionario degli orologiai italiani, Milan, 1974, p.89, recalls that Hessler had a workshop in Rome between 1680-1685 and mentions various of his dated works, including one in 1692.

G.C.Del Vecchio Addenda al Dizionario del Morpurgo, Milan, 1989, refers to a certain Roman Andrea Hessler who was working at the beginning of the Settecento, perhaps the son of Giovanni Wendelino.

At the Museo Poldi Pezzoli.  Orologi e Oreficeria, edited by G.Brusa and T.Tomba, Milan, 1981, p.140 there is an explanation of a projection nocturnal clock,signed but not dated, by Hessler.

12. See for example some of the paintings in the Sala della Clemenza at Palazzo Altieri with nude couples embracing and in the same edifice, the stuccoes whose artist still remains unknown:  Palazzo Altieri, Rome, 1991, pp.82-83,  and 177-184.

13. For the consoles in Palazzo Spada  formerly Rospigliosi: A. Gonzalez-Palacios, Arredi e ornamenti... cit, p,124 and 173; the choirstalls of Santa Maria Maddalena, ivi, p.154.



By Grant O'Brien

Catalogue description: An ottavino or octave virginal, Italian, by Giovanni Battista Maberiani, Rome, 1676.  It has a compass of C/E to c3, short octave, and is signed in Italian:  "Io / Gio'[van]ni / Ba[tti]sta / Maber / iani / feci / a / Roma / 1676" written in ink on the top surface of the top c3 keylever.  Maberiani is known to have worked for the Pamphili family in Rome from 1683 to 1686.

The case and jackrail are made of cypress, the soundboard of fir, the baseboard of white poplar, the keys of beech and the jacks of pear.  The naturals are covered with ivory and the sharps are of ebonised pear.  The instrument retains a number of original iron and brass strings and was clearly designed to sound at octave pitch.

Dimensions without the lower mouldings: Length: 806mm;  depth:  328mm; height:  133mm.

This is a small rectangular Italian virginal kept inside, and part of, a 'studiolo stupefacente'1, an elaborate and decorative seventeenth-century cabinet.  The instrument is simple and plain.  It has a compass of C/E to c3 four octaves with a bass short-octave.  It has a poplar baseboard, a cypress case and a fir soundboard without a soundboard rosette.  It survives with many old and possibly original brass and iron strings, and is clearly designed to sound at a pitch an octave higher than normal.

The instrument is signed in Italian:  "Io / Gio'[van]ni / Ba[tti]sta / Maber / iani / feci / a / Roma / 1676" written in ink on the top surface of the top c3 keylever (fig. 8)

Unlike most Italian virginals except for some made in Naples, the tuning pins are placed at the rear left of the instrument rather than along the right side.  Also, like some Neapolitan virginals, the bridge (nut) over which the strings pass at their left-hand end is placed on the wrestplank into which the tuning pins are placed.  This means that the nut has solid wood underneath it and cannot vibrate, and therefore this bridge does not sound.  The boxslide in which the jacks move is beside and glued to the near side of the wrestplank.  There are two vertically-placed braces glued to the baseboard at either side of the keyboard just behind the inside edges of keywell sides.  Other than this there is no internal framing.

1  The word studiolo, although used today mainly to mean a private room for study, was widely used in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to mean a writing desk or cabinet. Indeed the maker himself calls it, in a kind of Italian-German, "Den studiol", p. 21, Fig. 9. The keyframe is nailed to the baseboard so that it is necessary to remove the keys individually in order to gain access to the inside of the instrument.  The beech keys are guided at their tails using a slip of wood embedded in the tail of each keylever which slides vertically in a slot in a rack attached to the rear of the keyframe.  The jacks are guided in the usual boxslide and the jack tongues use white quill springs instead of the usual shim brass.  The soundboard is of fir cut well off the quarter and there are two very light soundbars also of fir attached to its lower surface.

This instrument is very similar to an instrument depicted in Michele Todini's Galleria armonica published in Rome in the same year that this instrument was made.  The unit of measurement used to design and construct this instrument can be determined scientifically.  The value of the oncia found for this instrument is 20.75mm ±0.3% or 20.75 ±0.07mm.  The difference between this and the 'text book' of the Roman oncia is of the order of only 0.005% leading to the conclusion that, as expected, the instrument was definitely made in Rome.

It is therefore clear that the maker of this instrument used the Roman palmo and oncia to design and build this instrument.  The maker of the studiolo itself, on the other hand, used the Freiburger Zoll with a length of 24.438mm to design and build it.  This confirms that the virginal and the studiolo in which it is contained were made by two totally different craftsmen.

This instrument is very similar to the central instrument on the right of the plate shown below from Michele Todini's Galleria armonica 2. This shows part of an amazing group both of organs and of plucked string keyboard instruments. All of these instruments can be played simultaneously through hidden mechanical connections between the player at the harpsichord on the left and the other instruments.

This engraving is particularly relevant since it was published in 1676, exactly the same year in which the instrument under study here was made. The central instrument in the group of three on the right bears many resemblances to the Maberiani instrument.

2  Michele Todini, Dichiaratione della galleria armonica eretta in Roma, (Tizzoni, Rome, 1676; facsimile edited by Patrizio Barbieri, Libreria Musicale Italiana Editrice, Lucca, 1988).


Giovanni Battista Maberiani was born about 1640-42.  He appears in the Roman archives as a harpsichord builder in his own right as early as 1663 to 1666 when he would only have been in his early twenties.  His wife's name was Maria Felice.  He worked as a harpsichord builder for the House of Pamphili, one of the most influential and powerful families in Rome, during the years 1683 to 1686.


Donald H. Boalch, 'Mombriani, Mamberiani', Makers of the Harpsichord and Clavichord, 1440-1840, (George Ronald, London, 1956; 2/Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1974; 3/edited by Charles Mould, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1995) p. 133.

Patrizio Barbieri, 'Cembalaro, organaro, chitarraro e fabbricatore di corde armoniche nella "Polyanthea technica" di Pinaroli (1718-32).  Con notizie sui luitai e cembalari operanti a Roma', Recercare, 1 (Libreria Musicale Italiana Editrice, Lucca, 1989), 152.

Michele Todini, Dichiaratione della galleria armonica eretta in Roma, (Tizzoni, Rome, 1676; facsimile edited by Patrizio Barbieri, (Libreria Musicale Italiana Editrice, Lucca, 1988).

Angelo Martini, Manuale di metrologia, (E. Loescher, Turin (also Rome and Florence), 1883; reprint Editrice E.R.A., Rome, 1976)

Horace Doursther, Dictionnaire universel des poids et mesures anciens et modernes, (M Hayer, Brussels, 1840)

Pierre Larousse, Grand Dictionnaire (Paris, 1874).The complete study of the virginal by Grant O'Brien is available from the department.








The Rosenborg Cabinet is mounted with miniatures depicting biblical scenes taken from the repertory of Vatican Logge:

1.Jacob and Laban

2.Joseph Interprets Pharaoh's Dreams

3.Isaac Grants a Second Benediction at the Entreaty of Esau

4.Jacob's Dream

5.Melchizedek Offering Bread and Wine to Abraham

6.Jacob with His Family en Route Home

7.Joseph Telling His Dreams to His Brothers

8.Joseph Escaping from Potiphar's Wife

9.Joseph Sold by His Brothers

10.Solomon Anointed King of Israel by the High Priest Sadoc

11.Jacob Encounters Rachel at the Well

12.Isaac Blesses Jacob

Upper Central Panel, Moses Striking the Rock

Middle Central Panel, Cain Killing Abel

Lower Central Panel, God Tells Abraham His Destiny


The Herman-Fredensborg Cabinet is mounted with miniatures depicting biblical scenes taken from the repertory of Vatican Logge:

1.         The Queen of Sheba Visiting Solomon

2.         Samuel anoints David

3.         David Killing Goliath

4.         Joseph Sold by His Brothers

5.         The Judgment of Solomon

6.         Joseph Interprets Pharaoh's Dreams

7          David Seeing Bathsheba from His Window

8.         The Building of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem

9.         Joseph Telling His Dreams to His Brothers

10.       David Returns in Triumph to Jerusalem

11.       Abraham Welcomes the Three Angels

12.       God Forbids Isaac to Go to Egypt


Cracow cabinet is meant to have been given by Innocent XI to Jan III Sobieski (1629-1696), King of Poland, after the liberation of Vienna from the Turks in 1683 (3 &4, page 36). It stood once, according to an inventory dated 1696, in the antechamber of Wilanow Palace, where the king died.

In 1720 the Palace was sold by Sobieski's heirs to Elzbieta Sieniawski.  At that time it was passed  on to the Capucin Monastery in Warsaw and according to a further document on 18th February 1733, it was officially donated by Jakub Sobieski, son of Jan III, to the Capucins of Cracow, where it is still kept today, in the Chapel of Loreto as a tabernacle.

The Herman-Cracow Cabinet is mounted with miniatures depicting biblical scenes taken from the repertory of Vatican Logge:

1.         Joseph sold by his brothers to the Israelites

2.         Joseph introducing Jacob to the pharaoh

3.         Joseph thrown into a well

4.         Moses and the burning bush

5.         Joseph listening to his brothers accused of a cup theft

6.         Joseph telling his dreams to his brothers

7.         Moses receiving a miraculous stick from God

8.         Moses found by the pharaoh's daughter

9.         Moses descending the Mount Sinai with the tablets of the covenant

10.       Joseph interprets Pharoah's dreams

11.       Moses striking water from a rock

12.       Zipporah at the well

Top Central Panel,  Israelites crossing the Red Sea

Middle Central Panel, The first discussions of Moses with god

Lower Central Panel, Moses' anger on Israelis who obeisance to a gold sheep




We wish to thank for providing their contribution to the present research:

In Denmark

Her Majesty, the Queen of Denmark

Merete Femo and John Kidde-Hansen, Fredensborg Palace

Dr Jorgen Hein, Dr Peder Lind Pederson, Rosenborg Palace

Ole Priskorn and Jens Greve, Christiansborg Palace

In Poland

Professor Ian Ostrowski and  Dr. Anna Petrus,  Wavel Castle, Cracow

The Friars of the Annunciation Church, Cracow

Ms Anna Ekielska-Mardal, Wilanów Palace, Warsaw

In Wien

Dr Franz Kirchweger and Dr Manfred Leithe-Jasper, Kunsthistorisches Museum

In Rome

Princess Donna Maria Camilla Pallavicini

Prof. Roberto Valeriani

Dr.  Luca Chiarini

Gabriella Fraboni, Palazzo Rospigliosi Pallavicini

In London

Prof.  Andrew S. Ciechanowiecki

Anne Rossi-Lefèvre, Sotheby's

Elizabeth Jamieson

Joseph Gordon

Jonathan Cook

Dr. James Yorke, Victoria and Albert Museum

York Conservation Trust

Dr. Grant O'Brien

Tim Knox, Sir John Soane Museum


The cabinet 184cm. high (including the equestrian group on the top), 153cm. wide, 50cm. deep; 6ft.Iin., 5ft.Din., 1ft.7Nin.


Alvar Gonzalez-Palacios, Il Tempio del Gusto, Roma ed Il Regno delle Due Sicilie, Milan, 1984, pag. 55, plate. X (vol. I), fig. 108 pag. 64 (vol. II). Milan, 1984.

Alvar Gonzalez-Palacios, Il mobile di corte italiano, in Bolaffi Antiquariato, Novembre 1985, n. 65, pp. 58, 52-53.

Alvar Gonzalez-Palacios, Arredi e Ornamenti alla corte di Roma, Milan, 2004, pag. 26, fig. 14.

Catalogue of Rosemborg Castle, Esbjerg, 1999, page 31.

Stefanie Walker and Fredercik Hammond, Life and arts in the baroque palaces of Rome, London, 1999, page 2

Wojciech Fijalkowski, Wilanow Rezydencja Krola Zwyciezcy, Warsaw, 1983, page 74,

fig. 107.


The cabinet

Recorded in 1669 as one of four cabinets by Giacomo Herman and shown to Cardinal Giacomo Rospigliosi at Palazzo del Quirinale, Rome.

Private Collection, United Kingdom

Mrs Baston, sold Phillips, London, 19th September 1972.

Acquired by Mr and Mrs Joseph Gordon, London.

The console

Executed in Rome in the first quarter of the 18th Century for the cabinet.

Probably separated around 1945-1955, when it was probably purchased by John Bowes Morrell, who donated it to the Assembly Rooms in York.

Assembly Rooms (Rotunda Room), York, York Conservation Trust

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.