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An Important Exhibition Florentine Renaissance Revival Pietre Dure and Carved Giltwood Centre Table The Pietre Dure Top by Gaetano Bianchini The Carved Giltwood Base by Angiolo Barbetti
c. 1860 Italy
Offered by Adrian Alan
Stamped beneath the marble top and to the inside of one leg 'Barbetti Firenze'.
Exhibited at the 1867 Paris Exposition Universelle.
This elaborate Florentine pietre dure mosaic table top on a carved giltwood neo-Baroque support by Barbetti, perfectly matches the description of one of a pair of tables commissioned by ‘Monsieur Montanè of Paris’ from the Bianchini workshop in Florence and shown at the Paris 1867 Exposition universelle:
‘two table tops in Florentine mosaic, with carved and gilded wooden legs, made at Barbetti’s workshop. They are 63 cm. wide and 120 cm. long. The ground of the tables is in black basalt, called pietra di paragone, the centre has vases and bowls of fruit and flowers, executed with Russian lapis lazuli, chalcedony from Monteruffoli, garnets, carnelians, and agates from Italy as well as abroad. The work in the centre is framed by a very thin yellow border, with carnelian beads and brooches made of chalcedony and topaz. There are branches with fruit and flowers, made of different gems, in the four corners. A ribbon of Russian lapis lazuli surrounds the tables‘.
(P.L.Barzellotti, Mobili ed altri oggetti destinati alle abitazioni, in: Del prodotti di varie arti e industrie inviati all Universale del 1867 in Parigi, Florence, 1867, pp. 40-47).
While the present table is certainly recognisable by this description, the location of the second table is presently unknown.
This table top can be identified as one of the last masterpieces created by Gaetano Bianchini (Florence, 1807-1866) who was first trained in the mosaic art at the grand-ducal manufactory and then founded his private workshop recorded in Florence as early as 1825. The renowned workshop continued by his son Telemaco, thrived until the end of the century. At the Florentine exhibition of 1861, the veteran Gaetano Bianchini is credited with creating an updated iconography in Florentine mosaic production. He presented a panel with a historical subject, inspired by the scene of the encounter of Cimabue and Giotto surrounded by profiles of famous figures to the corners, such as Dante Alighieri and Filippo Brunelleschi. The work marks the beginning of a new era in the history of modern stone mosaic, as it opened a path that was then pursued by fledgling private workshops. Bianchini collaborated in this project with his son-in-law, the painter Antonio Ciseri (1821-1891), who provided the drawings for the mosaics. The mosaic studio is listed in Murray's Handbook Advertiser as early as 1859, when it was still based in the area of San Lorenzo Church, in Via de’ Nelli; in later guides the address was updated to 1 Lungarno Nuovo and 2 Borgo Ognissanti. Bianchini promoted his production of tables and 'ladies ornaments of Florentine mosaic’, also inviting:
'the English Nobility and Gentry to visit his Establishment, where it may always be seen numerous specimens of this celebrated and beautiful Manufacture, in every ~ description of Rare and Precious Stones. Orders for Tables and other Ornaments executed to any Design‘.
Through this advertisement, we also learn about the ongoing collaboration between Bianchini’s workshop and the London export company of J. & R. McCracken, 'long established and highly trustworthy agents [who] have a large list of foreign correspondents, especially in Italy‘ (J. Murray, Handbook for Travelers in Central Italy, 1859).
Coupling exemplary Grand-Ducal pietre dure with opulent Neo-Baroque giltwood, this table perfectly encapsulates the production of luxury furniture in Florence in the 19th century. It demonstrates the collaboration between the two pre-eminent Florentine workshops in the second half of 19th century: the Bianchini mosaic studio and the mobiliere d’arte Angelo Barbetti (1805-1873). Barbetti also collaborated with Bianchini on two tables presented at the Esposizione delIe Arti e Manifatture Toscane, 1847.
Angiolo Barbetti (b. Sienna 1805 - d. Florence 1873) was a skilled carver, designer and decorator, with a flourishing atelier in Florence during the nineteenth century.
After working in his father Massimiliano's atelier in Siena, he took up an apprenticeship with Giovacchino Guidi (d. 1842), considered one of Siena's finest ebenisti. By 1826-7, he had established a workshop on the piazza San Giovanni, Sienna and in 1830 exhibited his first works at the Istituto delle Belle Arti, Siena.
In November 1842, Barbetti moved his workshop to Florence, establishing himself near the ponte alle Grazie. Important commissions from this period included carvings for the interiors of Villa san Donato for Prince Anatoly Demidoff.
Barbetti took part in many of the important international exhibitions of the second half of the nineteenth century, including the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, where he was awarded a medal for a suite of carved walnut furniture. The suite of furniture was purchased following the exhibition by the South Kensington Museum (V&A), where it remains today.
Joined in the business by his four sons Rafaello, Egisto, Ottavio and Rinaldo by the beginning of 1860, Barbetti as a fitory of Artrm, continued to find international success exhibiting successfully at the 1861 Exhibition in Florence, the Paris exhibition of 1867 and the Vienna Exhibition of 1873.
Born in the early years of the 19th century, Gaetano Bianchini studied at the Accademia di Belli Arti, Florence, whilst at the same time serving an apprenticeship at the Galleria dei Lavori of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure. In 1846, having established a successful business, Bianchini was elected a member of the Conservas and Crafts, which brought together the best craftsmen in Florence and the wider Grand Duchy. Employing many Russian immigrants trained at the imperial factory at Peterhof, the direct competitor of the Florentine mosaicisti, Bianchini's firm participated at many of the important international exhibitions of the period, including London in 1851 and 1862, Florence in 1854 and 1861 and Paris in 1855 and 1867. Following Gaetano's death in 1866, the firm was taken over by his two sons, Telemaco and Antonio, and the business continued until 1884.
Meyer, Jonathan, Great Exhibitions: London, New York, Paris, Philadelphia, 1851-1900, Antique Collectors' Club (Woodbridge, UK), 2006, p. 41.
Simone Chiarugi, 'La bottega di Angiolo Barbetti a Siena e Firenze', in C. Paolini, A. Ponte and O. Selvafolta, Il bello 'ritrovato', Novara, De Agostini, 1990, pp. 220-223.
Simone Chiarugi, 'La fortuna degli intagliatori senesi', in Siena tra Purismo e Liberty, exhibition catalogue, A. Mondadori and De Luca (Milan and Rome), 1988.
|Height||96.00 cm||(37.80 inches)|
|Width||125.00 cm||(49.21 inches)|
|Depth||67.00 cm||(26.38 inches)|