Group of carved wooden monkeys. Lombardy, second half of the 18th century


Group of four monkeys in finely carved and dark patinated lime wood. The primates, represented with an abundance of anatomical details, assume singular poses that make them different from each other: a monkey holds a bag in one hand, while in the other a coin; another holds a small sphere between two fingers of the hand; finally, two specimens are depicted in a screaming attitude and with a hand resting on their head. Restorations.

Dimensions: 62 x 31 x 28 cm. approx.


Historical-stylistic analysis:

The group of four monkeys can be traced back to the Lombardy area of the second half of the eighteenth century. In fact, although the taste for the exotic was already present in a previous era, it was with the Rococo that these animals found a certain use as decoration of the noble rooms of palaces or wunderkammer, used to embellish the cornices of the ceilings, large bookcases, boiserie or more generally the furniture, with the aim of obtaining a strong scenic effect in line with the need to amaze visitors and magnify the environments.

Given their size and the arrangement of the limbs, designed to protrude from the support, the most likely hypothesis sees our group of primates originally placed in an elevated point, sitting on the upper section of a bookcase or on a ledge.

Lombard mirror - Collection of the Museum of Applied Arts of the Sforzesco Castle

Two interesting examples for a comparison of what has just been mentioned can be found in the Lombard capital, the first within the collection of the Museum of Applied Arts of the Castello Sforzesco, where there is a Lombard mirror from the third quarter of the 18th century with a monkey in carved wood placed in the center of the cymatium; the second in the Gallery of Tapestries in Palazzo Clerici, one of the most sumptuous homes in Milan at the time.

Fresco Giovanni Battista Tiepolo - Gallery of Tapestries in Palazzo Clerici

Here, painting, sculpture and matter come together to create one of the scenes of the figurative cycle of the ceiling: a monkey made of stucco hangs from the golden cornice, intent on watching its tormentor frescoed on the vault by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo in 1741, while this lastly he tugs her with the iron chain that keeps her on a leash.

Comparison bio:

  • Colle E., Museo d’Arti Applicate. Mobili e intagli lignei, Milano, Electa, 1996, pp. 398-399, fig. 708
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