Andrew Hopkins, King of carving, Apollo, 23rd June 2009.
Anna Maria Spiazzi, Andrea Brustolon 1662-1732 `Il Michelangelo del Legno', Palazzo Crepadona, Belluno, 28th March-12th July 2009.
Giuseppe Morazzoni, Mobili Veneziani del'700, Milan-Rome, MCMXXVII, plates XIV-XXVI.
These magnificent tables tops with their exuberant inlay and engraving are amongst the most outstanding examples of a small group of related pieces executed by Lucio and Antonio De Lucci in Venice in the late 17th century. Furthermore, this is the first time that the bases can be attributed to Andrea Brustolon, the celebrated Venetian carver. In previous literature, it did not mention that the table bases were carved from boxwood which is a strong indication of the work of this sculptor, who sculpted in a similar vein.
The tops by Lucio and Antonio De Lucci:
Furniture by these craftsmen constitute the only known pieces of elaborate marquetry furniture dating from the second half of the 17th century emanating from Venice emphasing their rarity.
There is a paucity of information about the De Luccis, apart from the few items signed by or attributed to them that have come to light in the research by Alvar Gonzáles-Palacios, op. cit.
There is in addition to the present pair of tables, a third, closely related table top recorded on which a very similar Turkish figure is holding an ivory scroll inscribed ANT. DE LUCCI FECE IN VENETIA 1686 (González-Palacios, fig. 597, erroneously shown as fig. 595)-reproduced here in fig.1. This table is important as it sets the date for all the other pieces by the De Luccis. As their works are extremely alike, there can be no doubt that Antonio and Luccio De Lucci were related and that they were active in the same workshop in Venice in the fourth quarter of the 17th century.
There existed a fourth top, possibly made en suite and identically inscribed, that was cut up in the eighteenth century to be employed as marquetry decoration on a German writing desk probably constructed in 1764 (Daniela di Castro, 'Una tarsia veneziana del Seicento per un bureau Tedesco del Settecento', DecArt, Riviste di arti decorative 1 (2004), pp. 20-25).
A fifth, unsigned top, inlaid with a view of Napoli Di Romania (presumably Nauplia, Greece), which on being compared with the abovementioned signed tops be safely attributed to either of the same makers (González-Palacios, op. cit., fig. 598)-reproduced here in fig.2.
Another table top with the view of Vienna has been recently recorded on the art market.
In the Davia Bargellini Museum of Bologna three console tables inlaid with mother of pearl are surely by the De Luccis . In fact a letter exists signed by Lucio De Lucci,in Venice and dated 10th August 1699 referring to these three tables ( A.G.P. Antologia delle Belle Arti, S. Tumidei, Intagli a Bologna, Intagli per Bologna, n 59-62, 2000,p.36-37 and 48).
The work of the De Luccis is not only recorded on table tops but also can be found on a group of chests of drawers, some of them certainly by their hand. Amongst those worthy of mention include a magnificent pair in the Galleria Benucci, Rome, which without a doubt originates from the same workshop and depict exotic figures in cartouches. Other artisans must have followed the style of the De Luccis as similar chests but more provincial in appearance have survived.
The marquetry by the De Luccis is characterized by boldly scrolled ribbons, exuberant floral patterns and highly ambitious pictorial scenes. The central panels on the present tables show perspective views of colonnaded buildings that are strongly reminiscent of Renaissance designs for marquetry, published by Hans Vredeman de Vries in Antwerp around 1560 (Simon Jervis, Printed furniture designs before 1650, Leeds 1974, figs. 122-141) and reflecting a contemporary South German tradition-reproduced here in fig. 3.
These panels are surrounded by vignettes of hunting scenes.The Turkish figures in the upper corners may refer to the defeat of the Turks at the Siege of Vienna in 1683. The grotesque figures depicted in the lower reserves of the marquetry tops are inspired by Jacques Callot's (d. 1635) celebrated series of engravings, Varie figure Gobbi di Iacopo Callot Fatto in firenz al'anno 1616-reproduced here in fig. 4 & 5. Callot's engravings were first depicted on pietra dura panels designed by Baccio del Bianco (1604-1656) in the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Florence (for instance the panel illustrated in A.-M. Giusti, Pietre Dure, London, 1992, fig. 106, which is based upon Callot's engraving 'Le Joueur de flageolet').
Figures from these engravings also featured on a bureau-plat that was purchased in 1841, by the 5th Duke of Buccleuch from Edward Holmes Baldock (d.1843), no doubt the latter influenced by the same engravings after Callot, which inspired the figures on the offered tops.
The table bases attributed to Andrea Brustolon (1662-1732):
The tables are superlative examples of the exhuberant late baroque carving executed in Venice. There is no doubt that such elaborate and exquisite Venetian table tops of such outstanding quality required equally magnificent bases to support them and they surely must have been produced in the same city by a very skilled sculptor. A few considerations should be made which allow us to suggest for the first time an attribution to the celebrated sculptor Andrea Brustolon from Belluno, who produced his finest works in the lagoon.
The stands are made of stained boxwood which is a wood which was mastered on several occasions by Brustolon and one of his signatures(see the suite for Pietro Venier, post). The strong baroque design which distinguishes these tables is also strongly reminiscent of Roman models influenced by the designs of Filippo Passarini and J.P.Schor. From annotations to his drawings, we know that Brustolon visited Rome and that he was fascinated by the superb Roman carriages made for Cardinal Rinaldo d' Este after the elaborate drawings by Ciro Ferri. The Roman context must have surely influenced his work when he went back to Veneto. Drawings of elaborate consoles by Brustolon are to be found in the Museo Civico di Belluno, see Spiazzi. et al. op. cit., page 225 which depict elaborately carved and curved feet with vegetal and fruit elements interspersed as on the present tables. The military trophies and scrolling acanthus inlaid on the table tops are skilfully repeated in the carving on the bases.
Brustolon was termed by the celebrated French writer Balzac as `the Michelangelo of Wood'. He was apprenticed at the age of fifteen to the famous baroque sculptor Filippo Parodi. His earliest recorded work is a pair of angels for the Frari in Venice in 1684.
Should this attribution prove to be correct, the date of the tops and bases would indicate that Brustolon was a young man in his early 20's, when he executed the bases as the carving although very fine and sculptural , is somewhat less detailed than the celebrated armchairs and furniture which made up the `fornimento Venier', the suite commissioned in 1690 by the nobleman Pietro Venier to display his celebrated collection of porcelain vases in his family Palace in Venice.
There are also examples of similar sculptural armchairs historically attributed to Brustolon in English Country Houses, see for example, the set of ornately carved armchairs by Brustolon in Burghley House, Lincolnshire.
Hugh Honour in 1963 in an article in Apollo, `Italian Sculptured Furniture of the Eighteenth Century, states that Brustolon `proved himself more than capable of satisfying his private patrons' desire for extended monumental decorative programmes.''
Also see for example Colle, op. cit., p. 302, for a Venetian bookcase although unattributed, with similar exhuberant carving, with military trophies and boldly scrolling acanthus leaves and flowers, now in the Biblioteca del Seminario, Padova, where Colle mentions the names of Pianta and Brustolon It is worthwhile noting that Colle op. cit., p. 302, reproduces the offered table with the arcaded building opposite the bookcase.
Walter Francis Montagu Douglas Scott, 5th Duke of Buccleuch, 7th Duke of Queensberry (1806 – 1884):
In 1819, Walter Francis Douglas Scott succeeded his father to the Dukedoms of Buccleuch and Queensberry, becoming one of the country's wealthiest landowners in the process. The Duke acquired some extraordinarily good furniture for his residences from the great London dealer and cabinet maker Edward James Baldock (1777-1845). It therefore must follow that it was most probably at this time that the consoles entered the 5th Duke's collection.
Baldock was held in high regard, so much so that he was a supplier of works to George IV, William IV and Queen Victoria until his death. He appears to have supplied the Duke predominately with furniture between 1830 and 1843, selling him the very best and there are pieces still in the Buccleuch collection, notably a bonheur du jour by Martin Carlin and at Bowhill where there is a card table by Bongen and a commode by Horrix both acquired by Baldock for him, see Reinier Baarsen, French Furniture in Amsterdam in 1771, Furniture History, XXIX, 1993, P. 114. There is also documentation of Baldock travelling to Italy and making purchases there, a pietra dure top, said to have come from the Borghese Palace was acquired from the abbé Celloti for William Beckford's Fonthill, see Geoffrey de Bellaigue, Edward Holmes Baldock, Connoisseur, August, 1975, p. 290.
It is very likely that the pair of consoles offered here come from that group of purchases made in Italy. The later inlaid ivory armorials bare all the hallmarks of Baldock, sensitively let in to the marquetry top, most probably replacing an earlier Italian armorial, a minor alteration which Baldock would have delighted in; inlaid and marquetry furniture being a hallmark of this great 19th century dealers stock in trade.
Ivory, stained horn and pewter-inlaid ebony, rosewood, fruitwood, boxwood walnut
Each 90cm. high, 171.5cm. wide, 87cm. deep; 2ft. 11½in., 5ft. 7½in., 2ft. 9¾in.
Alvar González-Palacios, Il gusto dei principi, Arte di corte del XVII e del XVIII secolo, Volume II, Milan 1993, pp. 338-339, figs. 595 (erroneously switched with fig. 597) and 596.
Enrico Colle, Il Mobile Barocco in Italia, Milan 2000, ill.on pp. 302 , where the table with the arcade is illustrated and p. 322, where both tops only are illustrated.
Probably acquired through Edward Holmes Baldock by Walter Francis Montagu-Douglas-Scott, 5th Duke of Buccleuch and 7th Duke of Queensberry (1806 – 1884), in circa 1830-40
Thence by descent to Walter John Montagu-Douglas-Scott, 8th Duke of Buccleuch and 10th Duke of Queensberry, K.T., P.C., G.C.V.O., until sold, Christie's, London, 11th March 1971, lot 53.
Sold Christie's, London, 7th December 2006, lot 70 (£635,200)
Private English Collection