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A 17th century, Italian, pietre paesina mounted, walnut, ebony and ebonised, table cabinet

1600 - 1650
109.00cm wide (42.91 inches wide)
54.00cm high (21.26 inches high)
33.00cm deep (12.99 inches deep)
Description / Expertise
The rectangular top and sides are delicately, inlaid with rosewood and bone in geometric patterns with some old repairs to losses around the edges. Typically the central cupboard is executed as a tabernacle with a temple front. It has an ebony, architectural pediment with ripple mouldings and baluster turnings, and a pietre paesina oval above, revealing a drawer. The door below is disguised by a large, pietre paesina panel with black marble inlay creating an arch, faced with ripple mouldings and flanked by bold, ebony, ring, turned columns. It retains its original hinges and a period, working lock opening to reveal an interior compartment fitted with four drawers. The plinths below have three, pietre paesina panels faced with ebony, ripple mouldings revealing another drawer.

The front has six, long drawers either side of the tabernacle, each simulating a pair of smaller drawers, with pietre paesina panels within a geometric border of black & red marbles and faced with ripple and plain mouldings with ivory inlay to create depth. They are all fitted with ebony knobs, have working locks, mostly original, some with replaced period locks and are lined in pine. The carcass is pine. The cabinet stands on later, bun feet.

Cabinet length 109 cm., 3ft., 6 ½ in., Height 52.50 cm., 1ft., 8 ½ in., Depth 33 cm., 12 ½ in.

This cabinet is one of a small group that were made in the 1620’s as taste and fashion veered towards the use of a Paesina Stone with its characteristic and evocative veining. Pietra paesina, is also called “landscape stone,” “ruin stone,” “ruiniform marble,” and “Florentine marble” among other names, and has been collected for centuries.

In the early-17th century, the virtuosity of the so-called Florentine work was unsurpassed. The cabinet displays all the refinements of the technique and the high degree of virtuosity achieved by the craftsmen of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure. It was made to be a work of art in its own right with architectural design and frontal emphasis. The carefully chosen stones bring together the wonders of the natural world and the refining influence of man’s artistic and scientific achievements.

Pietra Paesina is a silty limestone, found in Tuscany, formed during the Cretaceous period. It is a sedimentary stone mainly made of compressed limestone and clay formed in sea beds about 50 million years ago, with infiltrations of iron and manganese hydroxide which are responsible for the colourings. Although this stone has been used for ornamental purposes since ancient times, it is only from the 17th century onwards that its particular designs and its chromatic variations were appreciated and used sparingly to decorate the finest pieces of furniture. The use of Paesina stone spread throughout Europe where it was highly regarded for its rarity as a precious ornament and was very much sought after and in demand in the Royal Courts. The Florentine artisans were highly regarded for their knowledge in identifying the intricate colours and patterning in the stone and then cutting and polishing it to reveal architectural motifs, mountainous landscapes, castles, and ruins. Pietre peasina inlay can be seen the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Galleria Palatin in Palazzo Pitti.
Monique Riccardo-Cubitt, The Art of the Cabinet, p. 191, fig. 37, p. 192, fig. 51.

• La Pittura su Pietra, Florence 1970 (M Chiarini)
• Museo dell’Opificio delle Pietre Dure of Florence (A. Pampaloni Martelli)
• La scritture delle pietre, (Roger Caillois)
• L’ecriture des pierres, les sentiers de al creation (Rogere Callois)
• Pietre figurate. Collezioni invisbili, Regional Museum of Natural Science Turin (P Mariano Gallo)
• La Pietre Paesina in; bizzarrie di pietre dipinte dalla collezioni dei Medici Salimbeni Foundation, San Severina Marche, Silvana Editoriale 2000 (Nichola Cipriani)

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