Pair of star drawers
Napoli, Half of the 18th century
Material: Rosewood and walnut, yellow marble
Size: W 143 x D 67 x H 99 cm
review by DOTT. LORENZA DI BARTOLOMEO
Pair of two antique and elegant chest of drawers slabbed in various types of walnut and rosewood, by the renowned crafts and cabinet-making workshops active in Naples in the mid-eighteenth century. The chest of drawers is nothing more than an evolution of the wardrobe, on both sides of the coffer or bride’s marriage chest, and it takes their place in the bedrooms, to store linen, light garments, various clothes, toiletries. The dresser was in effect at the beginning a simple chest, consisting of a single chest door, placed on four legs, one of the first closed pieces of furniture to be put inside homes.
It was a simple rectangular wooden container used to keep valuables and used as a trunk during travels and moves. In the seventeenth century, thanks to carpentry techniques and due to better convenience, the chest began to have an embellishment with three or four drawers: the chest of drawers was thus born.More practical than the chest and less bulky than a wardrobe, it found its place and utility in any type of home. Designed to be easily moved, just as the word “mobile” in Italian means “which can be moved”-, therefore quite small, and placed in any corner of the room without interfering with the rest of the furniture. The chest of drawers is a rather large piece of furniture, yet never so high as to cover the walls decorations, which indeed remain visible, unlike other accessories having the same function, such as the wardrobe and the dresser (trumeau in French); due to this characteristic, it was highly appreciated over the centuries.
In the seventeenth century, houses had less furniture than nowadays. The furniture used was the wardrobe, the sideboard, the chest, and the chest of drawers. Life was much less stable than today, moves were more frequent, so the house had to be functional and the furnishings had to be designed to be easily moved. Furthermore, the furniture of those times had much smaller dimensions than today, designed to contain fewer objects. It was only in the Renaissance that the taste in furnishing homes spread for the first time, and in the eighteenth century, the dresser became lavish and refined, reflecting the fashion of the time.
The chest of drawers became an intimate and functional piece of furniture; it found its place usually in the bedroom, with two bedside tables that recalled its style. At that time, people began to adorn such furniture with marble tops, which gave an elegant and precious look to the whole. Over the years, the dresser changed its shape following the fashion of the times. While the first ones were some simple chest of drawers in solid wood, with a square shape and two or three drawers overlapping widthwise, the following ones, especially those more valuable, created for the upper classes homes, adopted elaborate shapes and refined decorations. The chest of drawers in Italy appeared starting from the sixteenth century.
The first Italian chest of drawers, parallelepipeds, and with drawers to be more comfortable, still recall the severity of the classic sixteenth-century style and used also to furnish sacristies. The eighteenth-century particularly used the refinement and rich variety of its decorative techniques in the chest of drawers, such as the carving and inlay of precious woods that rendered the chest of drawers one of the most sumptuous pieces of furniture in the eighteenth-century house.
The shape with the body placed on more or less long legs, curved or double-curved, depending on the shape of the silhouette, is characteristic of the mid-eighteenth century. The Neapolitan chest of drawers differs by its wavy shapes and large dimensions. The Louis XV chest of drawers from Campania usually had a marble top, while the most sumptuous ones had elaborate inlays and gilt bronze applications to embellish them, becoming elegant and proper. This pair of specimens embodies a scheme already in use at the beginning of the eighteenth century in Campania (a region in the south of Italy).
In particular, we can ascribe them to Naples mainly for their classical shape, even if with a lighter style; this was due to the movement on the shape of the sides, and the greater length of the legs. This way, they looked more slender as well as with a lighter look to the whole, if compared to the previous drawers from the sixteenth century, with their imposing and heavy size. The classic broken movement of the front, with two sharp edges on the sides and the threaded profiles, are other characteristics of the Neapolitan area of the Louis XV period.
These chests of drawers have a marvelous and precious shaped top in yellow marble, enclosing fossil remains of nautilus shells set inside the stone material. Furthermore, the top is refined. The wavy front has two drawers; they have borders with raised edges, and a marquetry lozenges-inlay embellishes each one, within a rectangular double frame shaped like a twisted ribbon and recurring small leaves around a star pattern
Their sides have the same marquetry decoration enclosing a star pattern in the center like its frontal drawers.
The furniture has in its lower part a shaped apron, with the same marquetry lozenges-inlay on its front and are placed on tapered and flared legs shod by gilded bronze shoes, depicting dog heads.
Finally, the two specimens are further embellished with handles and jets in gilded bronze richly shaped. This pair of chest of drawers is in very good condition.