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  • Place of origin:

    Venice (made)

  • Date:

    1580-1600 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved walnut, partly gilt

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, case WN, shelf FS

Italian chairs made from vase-shaped boards of wood have long been known as sgabelli, ultimately derived from the word scabellum (Latin for ‘stool’). They were often carved with fantastic monsters and grotesques, like this example, which belonged to Jules Soulages (1803–1856), a lawyer from Toulouse. His collection was exhibited at Marlborough House between December 1856 and January 1857, and subsequently bought piecemeal by this museum. Many pieces were heavily restored or made up of partly old pieces, like this example.

Physical description

Carved walnut wood chair, partly gilt. The front support of strapwork with a mask in the centre, the back of foliated ornament, flanked by two terminal figures.

Place of Origin

Venice (made)


1580-1600 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved walnut, partly gilt


Height: 121.7 cm, Width: 56 cm, Depth: 55 cm

Object history note

Bought (Soulages collection) £15

Historical context note

Comparable chairs
A carved and partly gilded walnut sgabello chair (one of a set of four) with arms of Massimo (110 x 35 x 42cm) with similar scrolling leaf panels to the back is published as Roman 1550-1600 in Ed. GONZALEZ-PALACIOS, Alvar: Fasto Romano - dipinti, sculture, arredi dai Palzzi di Roma. (Rome, Palazzo Sacchetti, 1991), no. 64. The entry notes Tuscan influence in the design.

Descriptive line

Carved wood chair, Venice, 16th century.

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

John Hungerford Pollen, Ancient & Modern Furniture & Woodwork (London: George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode, 1874), 104.
“7179. ’60. CHAIR. Carved chestnut wood, partly gilt. The front support a composition of strap work with a mask in the centre ; the back of foliated ornament flanked by terminal figures. Venetian. 16th century. H. 3 ft. 6½ in., W. 19½ in. Bought (Soulages Coll.), 15l.”

Bode, Wilhelm. Die Italienischen Hausmöbel der Renaissance (Leipzig, 1902), p.22
Ajmar-Wollheim, Marta and Flora Dennis, At Home in Renaissance Italy, London: V&A Publishing, 2006.

Labels and date

Pair of Chairs

These typically Venetian chairs, called sgabelli, were fashionable in the 16th century. Made of elaborately carved wood, they have fan-shaped backs and shield-like supports. The imaginative decoration includes grotesque masks, scrolling foliage and female figures known as caryatids. [35 words]

Walnut, partly gilded

V&A: 7179, 7183-1860
At Home in Renaissance Italy, eds.Marta Ajmar-Wollheim and Flora Dennis (London, 2006), cat.130, pl.15.23 [5 Oct 2006 - 7 Jan 2007]
Carved and partly gilt chestnut
ITALIAN (Venetian); 16th century
7179-1860 [Pre-2006]
Carved and gilt walnut.
ITALIAN (VENETIAN); 16th century.
From the Soulages Collection.
7179-1860. [Pre-2006]
CHAIR (Sgabello), one of a set
Carved and partly gilt walnut
ITALIAN (Venice); about 1590
From the Soulages Collection
7179-1860 [Pre-2006]


Walnut; Gold leaf


Carving; Gilding; Joinery


Ph_survey; Furniture; Household objects

Production Type

Limited edition


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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