A Rare Italian Marquetry Secretaire


Circa 1780

Reference #: EF1078

Follower of G. Maggiolini (1738-1814)


Height: 59 ¾ inches (151.7 cm.)

Width: 42 ¼ inches (107.3 cm.)

Depth: 14 ¾ inches (37.4 cm.)


Giovanni Maggiolini, considered the foremost cabinet maker of the Lombard Neoclassical movement, produced some of the finest marquetry furniture of the Italian eighteenth century.  His remarkable mastery of this technique and a superior understanding of canonical architecture, resulted in pristine, elegantly proportioned pieces of furniture integrated with elaborate figural scenes.  The distinctive style he developed was the inspiration for the present secretaire.

Italian marquetry furniture was often produced in sets, wherein might be found commodes, console tables, night tables, or slant front desks.  Although a number of these classical types attributed to Maggiolini survive, the secretaire is perhaps the rarest type known.

A Lombardization of the French Louis XVI style, the present secretaire features an ebonized drawer with scrolled foliate motifs at top.  Below, the main panel, centered by a detailed depiction of a woman comforting a shepherd, opens to reveal an arrangement of shelves and drawers embellished with a marquetry floral bouquet.  The reverse of this panel is lined with a leather writing surface.  The cabinet doors below include a pair of circular panels depicting seated females, while images of flutes and horns on either side may indicate that this piece was used in a music room.  The expert use of marquetry in these scenes, employing a remarkable diversity of wood types and color variations, create extraordinary effects of shading and depth equaled only by French eighteenth century ebenistes.

The rarity, quality and aesthetic appeal of the present Maggiolini school secretaire, makes it one of the most highly sought after furniture types of present day collectors and museums.

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