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Table

Category

Furniture

Date

circa 1600

Materials

Marble, hardstones and giltwood

Measurements

920 mm (H); 2570 mm (W); 1340 mm (D)

Place of origin

Rome

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Collection

Powis Castle and Garden, Powys

On show at

Powis Castle and Garden, Powys, Wales, National Trust

NT 1181054

Caption

Pietre dura table, Florence or Rome, c1600. It is a family tradition that this table came from the Borghese Palace, Rome, given to them by the Pope Innocent XI. A possibility as Roger Palmer, Earl of Castlemaine, nephew of the 1st Marquess of Powis, conducted an embassy from King James II to Pope Innocent XI, after being appointed the King’s ambassador-extraordinary in 1685. This is when such items as the twelve Caesars and the pietre dure table may have been acquired.

Summary

Pietre dura table, Florence or Rome, c1600. The oblong marble top decorated with inlaid hardstones depicting insects and flowers, the central panels with roundels. Supported on two arches and six decorated Ionic columns above a solid base, the plinth to the table with six carved and giltwood figures with human torsos terminating in single lion foot and scroll, with lion heads at corners and lionesses at the centre. The pietre dure (Italian, ‘hard stone’) table at Powis Castle dates from about 1560 and is thought to be from the Borghese Palace in Rome. It was first recorded in an inventory at the castle in 1793 but when it arrived at Powis has not been clearly proven, yet. The table is of exceptional size and quality. Its splendid pietre dure top and elaborate wooden base both date to the mid-16th century. It is 2.5m long and the top alone weighs 630kg. It is unusual to find such a table with its original wooden base. This base is highly decorated, partly gilded, and painted to look like porphyry (a semi-precious stone). The fine carving of the wooden figures of lions and lionesses retain most of their original 16th century gilding. It is a Herbert family tradition that this table was from the Borghese Palace in Rome and came to Powis as a gift from Pope Innocent XI. There is a family connection to the papal court to suggest this provenance is quite likely. The Catholic Herbert family had strong links with Rome and Roger Palmer, Earl of Castlemaine, nephew of the 1st Marquess of Powis, conducted an embassy from King James II to Pope Innocent XI, after being appointed the King’s ambassador-extraordinary in 1685, when items such as the pietre dure table may have been acquired.

Provenance

Accepted by HM Treasury on 21st March, 1963 in lieu of tax and conveyed to National Trust ownership in 1992.

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