Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Sgabello chair

Sgabello chair

  • Place of origin:

    Venice (made)

  • Date:

    1560-1600 (made)
    1830-50 (restored)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Walnut, carved

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Italian chairs made from vase-shaped boards of wood have long been known as sgabelli, derived from the word scanno (Italian for 'stool'). They were often highly ornately carved, and would have been very uncomfortable to sit on without a thick cushion, held in position by a circular dished area carved into the seat. This sgabello formed part of a set that belonged to Jules Soulages (1803-1856), a lawyer from Toulouse. His collection was bought piecemeal by this museum, after being exhibited at Marlborough House between December 1856 and January 1857. Many pieces, including this example, were heavily restored, or made up of a mixture of old and new pieces.

Physical description

Sgabello type chair, partly gilt. The support in front is carved with strapwork, terminal figures, masks, etc. with a shield of arms in the centre, described by Pollen as 'argent and gules, per fess, over all a cross ancré of the tinctures of the field counter-changed' (two tau crosses, one inverted over the other, painted in red and white). The back is fan-shaped, with perforated acanthus scrollwork, flanked by terminal figures and surmounted by two sphinxes forming a pediment.

The back is fitted to the seat using the three vertical mouldings which pass through the seat and are wedged. The chair is heavy and the joints generally tight. Possibly constructed using old seats and fronts. Gesso is visible below the gilding.

Place of Origin

Venice (made)


1560-1600 (made)
1830-50 (restored)



Materials and Techniques

Walnut, carved


Height: 48 in, Width: 20 in

Object history note

Bought for £15
RF 49/3234

Historical context note

See Clive Wainwight, 'Models of Inspiration' in Country Life, June 9, 1988 pp 266-267 which includes an illustration of a chair from this group, within a discussion of the acquisition of Soulages' collection.

Descriptive line

Sgabello chair, carved walnut, made in Venice, 1560-1600

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

John Hungerford Pollen, Ancient & Modern Furniture & Woodwork (London: George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode, 1874), 109.
“5682. ’59. CHAIR. Carved walnut wood, partly gilt. The support in front carved, with strap work, terminal figures, masks, &c., with a shield of arms in the centre ; the back fan-shaped, with perforated acanthus scroll work, flanked by terminal figures, and surmounted by two sphinxes forming a pediment. Italian (Venetian). About 1560. H. 4 ft., W. 20 in. Bought (Soulages Coll.), 15l.”

J.C.Robinson, Catalogue of the Soulages Collection: being a descriptive inventory of a collection of works of decorative art, formerly in the possession of M. Jules Soulages of Toulouse; now, by permission of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade, exhibited to the public at the Museum of Ornamental Art, Marlborough House (London 1856), nos. 604-611, pp. 167-8
Pollen, J. H. South Kensington Museum Art Handbook, Furniture Ancient and Modern (London, 1875), p.71

Labels and date

Label text c.1930 while displayed in Tapestry Court: North-West Block. West Side. [gallery 44 ‘East Central Court’ c.1909-1952]

CHAIR (sgabello).
Carved and gilt walnut.
ITALIAN; mid 16th century.

Production Note

Possibly remade in 19th century using some old parts





Subjects depicted

Sphinxes; Acanthus; Masks; Strapwork; Terminal figures; Coats of arms


Furniture; Household objects


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.