Monday, June 4, 2012

Napoleon III side-cabinet

A Napoleon III Ormolu and Florentine Pietre Dure-Mounted ebony and ebonized side-cabinet

Third quarter 19th century

The breakfront grey-veined white marble top above a conforming case and vine-branch frieze, over a door centered with a fruit and flower-filled vase, the interior with two shelves, the sides each with a musical trophy, the angles with female busts, on shaped apron and block feet
47½ in. (120.5 cm.) high, 51¾ in. (151.5 cm.) wide, 20½ in. (52 cm.) deep

Estimate price
$2,500 - $3,500
Pietra dura or pietre dure (see below), called parchin kari in South Asia, is a term for the inlay technique of using cut and fitted, highly-polished colored stones to create images. It is considered a decorative art. The stonework, after the work is assembled loosely, is glued stone-by-stone to a substrate after having previously been "sliced and cut in different shape sections; and then assembled together so precisely that the contact between each section was practically invisible".

Stability was achieved by grooving the undersides of the stones so that they interlocked, rather like a jigsaw puzzle, with everything held tautly in place by an encircling 'frame'. Many different colored stones, particularly marbles, were used, along with semiprecious, and even precious stones. It first appeared in Rome in the 16th century, reaching its full maturity in Florence. Pietra dura items are generally crafted on green, white or black marble base stones. Typically the resulting panel is completely flat, but some examples where the image is in low relief were made, taking the work more into the area of hardstone carving
One of the first collectors of pietre dure outside Florence was the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, whose court in Prague was one of the most fascinating cultural centres. He founded his own pietre dure workshop at the end of the 16th century and arguably the most significant piece in the Gilbert Collection is a collector's cabinet made for Rudolph in his workshop by the Castrucci family, circa 1610. The seven panels perfectly create the illusion of mountainous landscapes and clouded skies by the skilful selection and combination of local polished stones which are more muted in palette than Florentine examples.

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