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Armchair

attributed to Giocondo Albertolli

Category

Furniture

Date

circa 1810 - 1824

Materials

Walnut, gold leaf and silk

Measurements

86.5 x 59.0 x 50.0 cm

Place of origin

Milan

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Collection

Attingham Park, Shropshire (Accredited Museum)

NT 608165

Summary

A Northern Italian gilt-wood armchair, Milan or Turin (?), c.1810-1824, closely associated with a design by Giocondo Albertolli (1743-1839), with a curved square back and carved with egg and dart motifs and oak leaf sprays. Straight tapering arms on peacock supports, square seat frame carved with Vitruvian scrolls. Four ‘pied de biche’ feet linked by oak leaf wreaths. Padded shield backrest. Covered with a silk woven with a striped design and hand painted with floral sprays. The cover to the armchair is numbered 609591.2 / ATT/T/069/2

Full description

A Northern Italian gilt-wood armchair, Milan or Turin (?), c.1810-1824, closely associated with a design by Giocondo Albertolli (1743-1839), with a curved square back and carved with egg and dart motifs and oak leaf sprays. Straight tapering arms on peacock supports, square seat frame carved with Vitruvian scrolls. Four ‘pied de biche’ feet linked by oak leaf wreaths. Padded shield backrest. Covered with a silk woven with a striped design and hand painted with floral sprays. The armchair was almost certainly acquired by William Noel-Hill, 3rd Baron Berwick (1773-1842), while ambassador to Italy. First, he represented George III at the exiled royal court of Sardinia at Cagliari, then in Turin, and finally Naples. The remarkable group of Neo-classical furniture inside the Drawing Room at Attingham appears to have been collected by Lord Berwick over the course of two decades on the Italian peninsula. The chair comes en suite with a daybed with an identical frieze of Vitruvian scrolls (NT 608172). For many years the daybed’s cipher has been misread as CM rather than MT (The French and Italian T resembling an English C) and was therefore thought to be connected to Napoleon’s sister, Princess Caroline Murat (1782-1839), rather than the more likely previous owner, Queen Maria Theresa of Sardinia (1773-1832). Berwick was ambassador to the court of Maria Theresa and her husband King Vittorio Emanuele I of Sardinia (1759-1824) from 1807 to 1824. The armchair on satyrs’ legs is associated with a design by the Milan-based architect of Swiss origins, Giocondo Albertolli (1743-1839), a leading Neo-classical ornamental designer, notable for his work as an interior decorator in Milan (Palazzo Reale) and Florence (Palazzo Pitti) and for his volumes of engraved designs which were very influential. Albertolli drew numerous furnishings for the palaces of Maria Theresa’s father, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Este, and in the event is very likely to have delivered the designs for this particular chair and the associated daybed. Indeed, as Martin Drury noted, ‘The design [for the chair] can be attributed to the Italian Swiss, Giocondo Albertolli (1742-1839), who worked from 1775 in Milan on the royal palace and on the Villa Reale at Monza. Plate VI in his “Alcune Decorazione” (1787) shows a stool with legs very similar to those of the Attingam chair.’ (Drury 1984, p. 43). Several examples of the stool, or sgabello, the design of which is inspired by the tripods of Roman Antiquity, survive at the Castello Sforzesco in Milan (attributed to a Lombardian workshop, dated c.1780; Collezione dei mobili del Museo delle Arti decorative del Castello Sforzesco). The Attingham chair was exhibited at Gallery Wildenstein’s “Grand Tour Exhibition” in December 1982 (cat. no 61, fig. 66, p. 32). In an article dedicated to Lord Berwick’s embassies to Italy, John Cornforth noted that William Noel-Hill’s retirement from the diplomatic service ‘coincided with his succession as 3rd Lord Berwick and his inheritance of Attingham Park, near Shrewsbury. He brought back his ambassadorial plate, important paintings and an impressive amount of neo-Classical furniture. ... His letters contain passages that will strike a chord with many diplomats, particularly the references to vacating a house for a successor and taking on a predecessor’s. He wrote from Turin to his successor: “You must recollect this place had been long occupied by the French and you have French furniture almost as good as at Paris – you are bringing coals to Newcastle [if you bring] Pictures to Italy. However if you prefer an English bed it is your affair. I had mahogany tables made at Genoa as more English dined with me there.” To W. R. Hamilton, his predecessor in Naples, he wrote asking whether there was an English cabinetmaker in Naples, since he had employed on in Genoa.’ (Cornforth 2004, pp. 84-85).

Provenance

Probably made in North Italy (Milan or Turin?) and almost certainly acquired before 1824 by William Noel-Hill, 3rd Lord Berwick, who had been British ambassador to the courts of Sardinia (1807-1824) and Naples (1824-1832). By descent and bequeathed to the National Trust with the estate, house and contents of Attingham by Thomas Henry Noel-Hill, 8th Baron Berwick (1877-1947) on 15th May 1953.

Makers and roles

attributed to Giocondo Albertolli, designer

References

Drury, 1984: Martin Drury. “Italian furniture in National Trust houses.” Furniture History, vol. XX, 1984. Cornforth, 2004: John Cornforth, “In the taste of an ambassador.” Country Life 10 Mar. 2004: pp.84-89 Beretti 2014: Giuseppe Beretti, 'Giocondi Albertolli Disegnatore di Mobili (1777-1822), http://laboratorioberetti.eu/ricerche/giocondo-albertolli-disegnatore-di-mobili-1777-1822/ consulted, August 2017

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