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The Attingham Daybed

attributed to Giocondo Albertolli

Category

Furniture

Date

circa 1810 - 1824

Materials

Giltwood, walnut, silk

Measurements

98.0 x 204.0 x 70.0 cm

Place of origin

Milan

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Collection

Attingham Park, Shropshire (Accredited Museum)

On show at

Drawing Room, Attingham Hall, Attingham Park, Shropshire, Midlands, National Trust

NT 608172

Summary

A northern Italian gilt-wood daybed, Milan or Turin (?), c.1810-1824, with curved back supported on flowering cornucopiae, one arm jutting from a panache of carved foliage and terminating in foliate wreaths enclosing a monogram surmounted by an open coronet with strawberry leaves. Oblong base with Vitruvian scroll border, on four scroll and rosette feet. The daybed is very likely to have been acquired by William Noel-Hill, 3rd Baron Berwick (1773-1842), while ambassador to Italy.

Full description

A northern Italian gilt-wood daybed, Milan or Turin (?), c.1810-1824, with curved back supported on flowering cornucopiae, one arm jutting from a panache of carved foliage and terminating in foliate wreaths enclosing a monogram surmounted by an open coronet with strawberry leaves. Oblong base with Vitruvian scroll border, on four scroll and rosette feet. The daybed is very likely to have been 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. 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 coronet with strawberry leaves surmounted the cipher is identical to the lower section of the Sardinian crown. The Attingham daybed comes en suite with an armchair on satyrs’ legs (NT 608165) associated with a design by the Milan-based architect of Swiss origins, Giocondo Albertolli (1743-1839). 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 the daybed. It remains a puzzle how Berwick came into the possession of so intimate a piece of furniture that was presumably made for one of Queen Maria Theresa's private boudoirs. 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 one 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.

Marks and inscriptions

Armrest: 'MT' monogram, surmounted by a coronet of strawberry leaves.

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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