Secrétaire, “Bottega dei fondi verdi”, Lombardy, early 19th century

Lombardy, early 19th century


Secrétaire consisting of a drawer under the top, a flap door concealing a cabinet and two doors in the lower body. Supported by truncated pyramidal feet joined to the piece of furniture by small inlaid shelves, raised uprights, frame of the inclined plane. The whole surface is veneered in bois de violette with borders in bois de rose and abundantly inlaid. The top frame is inlaid with an acanthus leaf motif, complex candelabra composed of vases and plants animated by animal and fantastic figures decorate the uprights. Below the floor, the space is divided into reserves that alternate phytomorphic motifs with two reserves with a background in green-stained maple on which two classic figures of warriors on a horse-drawn chariot are inlaid. Two reserves on the sides punctuate the spaces in which mythological figures are inserted, as happens in the two lower doors.

The decoration of the main door is more complex, this sees the space divided with an octagonal reserve in the center in which two vestals are depicted dancing around a classic brazier with festoons held by moths and wreaths of flowers in their hands, two other reserves on the sides of this drawing they contain classical candelabra composed of vases and cherubs. The door inside conceals a series of drawers, open compartments and secrets typical of these furnishings. Inside the lower door is the exhibition cartouche of the Commemorative exhibition of Giuseppe Maggiolini, held in Parabiago in 1965.

Dimensions: 154,5 x 94 x 42,5 cm ( 60, x 37 x 16,7 in )


Historical-stylistic analysis

The piece of furniture presented here is published in the catalog of the Parabiago exhibition to which the cartouche refers, where it is presented as a piece of furniture by Giuseppe Maggiolini, the origin cited is the same that had possession of it until our acquisition. A similar piece of furniture with few variations was presented at the 1938 exhibition at Palazzo Reala and published by Morazzoni, again as a piece of furniture by Giuseppe Maggiolini.

These are now outdated attributions, but they highlight the quality of the works that have so often deceived historians. The way of treating the inlay not as many tiles of different woods placed side by side but as surfaces to be engraved with a burin are one of the most obvious differences between the two cabinetmakers. If the presence of decorations also present in Maggiolini’s furniture could still be misleading, it must be said that these are proposals found in the drawings of Giocondo Albertolli, very widespread thanks to the prints and present in many shops.

The acanthus leaves are an example of the undertop decoration, derived from table V that Giocondo Albertolli proposes in Some decorations of noble rooms and other ornaments; or from the decoration of the shelf that joins the foot to the piece of furniture, present among the proposals of table X of, Different ornaments invented by Giocondo Albertolli. The most obvious reference, however, is given by the decoration of the central door with the dancing vestals taken directly from table XIII, also present in, Some decorations of noble rooms and other ornaments.

We are not faced with the only cabinetmaker who in those years wisely used the proposals of the great architect; in addition to Maggiolini who enjoyed direct contact with Albertolli, the example of Giovan Battista Maroni is certainly worth mentioning. This cabinetmaker known until recently with the GBM monogram, used more furnishings as we have had the opportunity to analyze the Albertollian decorations.

As described in the article in the catalog that I edited for the “Maggiolini & Co.” There is a corpus of furnishings which are evidently from the same laboratory and which I took the liberty of calling the Green Fund Shop. The dear friend and scholar Manuela Scotti Carbone, thanks to a long archive work brings together still several others. Today, however, we do not know the name of the cabinetmaker and the workshop. It is not even possible for us to exclude that it is always GBM, there are some neighborhoods with his best works, but not such as to confirm his authorship, just as the differences do not allow us to exclude him. However, I am inclined to think that this is another of those students who trained in the workshop of Giuseppe Maggiolini, one of the best who, like Maroni, was able to keep in touch with architects who needed to know how to help them in the skilful composition of the decoration. In fact, I am increasingly convinced that it is the direction of an architect that determines the compositional success of furnishings like this one, which combined with the craftsmanship of the cabinetmaker allow for the creation of excellent furnishings. They are the foremen or, as they were called in the shops, the foremen. And it is always for this reason that, unfortunately, freed from the creativity of an architect, the other creations unfortunately become repetitive.

Reference bibliography:

– Giocondo Albertolli, Ornamenti diversi inventati da Giocondo Albertolli, 1782;

– Giocondo Albertolli, Alcune decorazioni di nobili sale e altri ornamenti, 1787;

– G. Nicodemi (a cura di), Mostra commemorativa di Giuseppe Maggiolini, catalogo mostra Milano 1938;

– Giuseppe Morazzoni, Il Mobile intarsiato di Giuseppe Maggiolini, Milano, Gorlich, 1953;

– Mostra di Giuseppe Maggiolini, catalogo della mostra (Parabiago, Palazzo Corvini-Lampugnani, sala consiliare, 25 Settembre – 10 Ottobre 1965), Parabiago, Industria Grafica Rabolini, 1965;

– Catalogo vendita Il Ponte, Milano, 24 Ottobre 2013, lotto 71;

– Catalogo Christie’s, Londra, 6 Luglio 2016, lotto 32;

– Giuseppe Beretti, Il monogramma G.B.M. Ovvero Giovanni Battista Maroni, articolo online, 18 Aprile 2019 (link);

– Enrico Sala, Maggiolini & Co., ed. Anticonline, 2020.

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