Drop-leaf chest of drawers, Rome, second quarter of the 18th century

Rome second quarter of the eighteenth century.


Drop-down chest of drawers, consisting of three drawers inserted into the wavy front surmounted by a flap door.
The piece of furniture, built with architectural care, has pierced and carved pilasters with opposing curls, two placed on the front uprights at 45 degrees and two more in the middle of the sides where the piece of furniture widens through a constructive leavening.

The piece of furniture is completely veneered in rosewood and inlaid on the surface in “yellow angel” as this exotic maple-like wood was indicated in the inventories, the motifs are intertwining phytomorphic typical of the decoration of the time and show the engraving that still shadows and enriches the inlay.
The flap door hides a cabinet with 5 drawers, one of which is central and a compartment concealing a compartment with 5 secret drawers, the entire internal surface is always veneered in rosewood with inlays in angel yellow and some backgrounds in negative, dark on light . The carved parts of the piece of furniture, frames and curls are ebonized, the feet end in a shelf at the front. The interiors are in poplar and on some bottoms of the drawers you can see traces of test drawings for the inlays. Replaced hardware as well as the vents, in gilded bronze are a non-contemporary addition.

Dimensions: 115 x 140 x 68 cm ( 42,2 x 55,1 x 26,7 in )

Historical-stylistic analysis:

The very architectural structure of the furniture, as well as the inlaid motifs with these intertwining, of oriental taste, are typical of the late Roman Baroque taste. Especially in the non-parade furnishings and therefore not related to Roman carving, the influence of Dutch inlayers is felt, both in the Berrain-style designs but also in the use of exotic woods. Alvar Gonzales Palacios, in describing a limelight very similar to this, places it in the first decades of the 18th century, also referring to a piece of furniture dated 1758 which, while retaining the same type of inlay, has already Rococo shapes.

The bedside table in question is fortunately signed and dated, Giovan Battista Barnabei 1758. It has a high and rounded leg, but the inlay is very close to that of the piece of furniture in question. Enrico Colle also publishes a similar limelight and a kneeler with the same architectural movement and the same inlaid motifs. Similar in architectural layout there are two double-bodied pieces of furniture, a trumeau in the Colarossi collection and one in the Pallavicini collection, the latter hypothetically attributed to the workshop of Domenico Calcagni, cabinetmaker active for the Pallavicinis in 1743. The various comparisons lead us to believe therefore that the piece of furniture in question was made in the second quarter of the eighteenth century.


– Alvar Gonzalez-Palacios, The temple of taste, Rome and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, ed. Longanesi 1984

– Enrico Colle, Il mobile Rococò in Italia, ed. Electa 2003

– Goffredo Lizzani, Il Mobile Romano, ed. De Agostini-Gorlich 1970

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