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Cupboard (commodino)

Cupboard (commodino)

  • Place of origin:

    Vercelli (A small city, about eighty kilometres east of Turin, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1785-1790 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Ravello, Ignazio (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Decorated with marquetry panels, satinwood and ebony stringing; veneers of mahogany, tulipwood, spindlewood and stained green wood; mother-of-pearl

  • Museum number:

    6812-1860

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 3, case FS, shelf BY WW []

Ignazio Ravello (1756-1836) came from Vercelli, in the north west of Italy, and described himself as a cabinet maker. He is best known for his high quality marquetry, which earned him the patronage of the court at Turin and a royal pension granted to him by Vittorio Emanuele III, King of Sardinia, in 1791. From about 1780 Ravello, assisted and followed by his son Luigi, specialised in architectural fantasies or what he called 'perspectives', which he either incorporated into pieces of furniture or sold individually as pictures in wood. These architectural scenes were often derived from contemporary prints.

This work table is liberally veneered with mother-of-pearl and tropical woods such as rosewood, mahogany and tulipwood, characteristic of royal furniture made at Turin from about 1730 onwards. The scene on the front is taken from an engraving by Carl Schütz dated 1772 and that on the proper left side is from an etching by Vincenzo Mazzi of c.1771-1777. In its use of ebony and mother-of-pearl this piece closely resembles a semi-elliptical commode by Ignazio Ravelli acquired by the Museum at the same time: 6813-1860.

Physical description

This 'commodino' is a small square cupboard or work table, fitted with a shallow drawer above a single-doored cupboard, the whole raised on four tall, tapering legs. The cupboard is decorated with panels of marquetry showing architectural scenes.

Place of Origin

Vercelli (A small city, about eighty kilometres east of Turin, made)

Date

ca. 1785-1790 (made)

Artist/maker

Ravello, Ignazio (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Decorated with marquetry panels, satinwood and ebony stringing; veneers of mahogany, tulipwood, spindlewood and stained green wood; mother-of-pearl

Dimensions

Height: 83.8 cm, Width: 53 cm, Depth: 43 cm

Object history note

Bought in 1860 for £50, when it was described as 'Italian. About 1760'. For acquisitions at this period there are no Registered Papers giving details of the acquisition, so the place of its acquisition, or the name of auctioneer or dealer are not known.

The cabinet-maker Ignazio Ravello (1756-1836, also called Ravelli and Revelli) and his son Luigi (1776-1858) came from Vercelli in Piedmont, in the north west of Italy. They specialised in marquetry panels of architectural fantasies, which were either be incorporated into pieces of furniture or sold separately as pictures in wood. These perspectival scenes, featuring classical buildings and ruins, often derived from contemporary print sources by artists such as Giovanni Battista Piranesi and the Bibiena family.

According to the 19th-century biographer G B de Gregory, Ignazio Ravelli began to produce this kind of work in about 1780, supposedly inspired by the 15th-century inlay work of the choir of the church of S. Andrea in Vercelli. He executed works for members of the court at Turin such as the duke of Aosta, and in June 1791 he was granted an annual salary by Vittorio Amedeo III, King of Sardinia (see Ferraris, 2003, pp. 291-292).

This piece and 6813-1860, acquired by the Museum at the same time, are characterised by inlaid patterns of ebony and mother-of-pearl framing the architectural scenes, and by an illusionistic frieze of mother-of-pearl cubes along the top front edge of each piece. Unlike the commode, this piece is decorated on all four sides and fitted with castors, showing that it was designed to be moved around a room to wherever its owner was sitting.

The quality of the marquetry panels varies greatly on this piece: the front and proper left panels are far more complex in design and intricate in execution than those on the proper right, back and lid. The proper left panel is taken from an etching by Vincenzo Mazzi (active 1748-1790) from his series of Caprici di scene teatrale of c.1771-1777. The design of the front panel is usually described as a 'scene of a prison, in the style of Piranesi', but in fact derives from an engraving by the Austrian artist Carl Schütz (1745-1800) dated 1772. At least four other versions of this design, in differing sizes, are known: one panel signed by Ignazio Ravello and now in the Museo Arquelógico, Madrid (inv. 52666), two signed by Luigi Ravello (one in the Museo Camillo Leone, Vercelli, the second in a private collection) and a third (also given to Luigi) in Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery (inv. 1965T6391.2).

Descriptive line

A small cupboard or 'commodino' decorated with marquetry panels, raised on four tall, tapering legs, by Ignazio Ravello, Turin, c.1785-90

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

De Gregory, G. B., Storia della vercellese letteratura e arti. Turin, 1819 - 1824, Vol. IV, pp. 385-386.

Sotheby's 'Treasures' sale, 4 July 2012, lot XXXVI, p. 238
Yorke, James, 'A Signed and Dated Commode by Ignazio Ravello', in Furniture History, vol. XL (2004), pp. 74-82
Antonetto, Roberto, Il mobile piemontese nel Settecento. Turin: Umberto Allemandi & C., 2010, vol I, no. 17, p.334
González-Palacios, Alvar, 'I Ravelli, certo e incerto', in Il gusto dei principi. Milan: Longanesi & Co., 1993, pp. 363 - 366

Labels and date

Small cupboard or work table (commodino)
About 1790

Furniture with marquetry or inlay was rare in Italy, where carving was a speciality. When the King of Sardinia admired early inlaid work in a church in Vercelli, the local cabinet-maker Ignazio Ravello began to make furniture using a similar technique. Like many cabinet-makers, he based his marquetry designs on published engravings. Ravello received royal patronage and was awarded a pension by the king.

Italy (Vercelli)
Probably by Ignazio Ravell0
Pine veneered with walnut; marquetry in European and tropical woods and mother-ofpearl; gilded copper alloy mounts
[09/12/2015]
COMMODE
ITALIAN; about 1795
Mahogany with marquetry veneer.

Attributed to the firm of Ignazio and Luigi Revelli [Ravello] of Turin. [pre October 2000]

Materials

Walnut; Rosewood; Tulipwood; Spindle wood

Techniques

Marquetry; Veneering; Joining

Categories

Furniture

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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