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Sgabello chair - Sgabello chair

Sgabello chair

  • Object:

    Sgabello chair

  • Place of origin:

    Venice (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    ca 1830 - 1840

  • Materials and Techniques:

    carving, staining, nailing

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Physical description

This walnut sgabello chair is carved on all components except the back board, and stained throughout, with no gilding. It is made up of the following parts: a fan-shaped backrest, flanked by two female terms which frame two triangular panels carved with vine scrolls, surmounted by a crossbar terminating in ionic volutes, with a scrolled crest and a shell, placed above a winged putto's head, forming the apex; an octagonal dished seat, carved with leaves on all eight sides; a vase-shaped front board flanked by two winged female terms, placed either side of a mask, terminating in two feet in the form of satyrs' heads; and a stained but unadorned back board of the same shape.

The back and front boards are each made of one piece of wood and nailed to the seat and the side aprons immediately below it. The diagonals and uprights, which frame the vine leaf panels, terminate in polygonal pegs, which pierce the back of the seat, and are held in place by wedges. The crest is nailed to the crossbar, and conceals the upper ends of the upright and diagonals.

There are no repairs or replacements to the front feet, but the right back foot has a vertical cut near the end. Both the back and front boards look comparatively recent, as does the crest and crossbar. The seat does look worn but flat. This piece is probably 19th century.

Place of Origin

Venice (possibly, made)


ca 1830 - 1840

Materials and Techniques

carving, staining, nailing


Height: Height: 106.5 cm
Width : 49.5 cm
Depth: ca.106.5 cm Maximum overall height, Height: 49.5 cm maximum, Depth: 43 cm maximum (approximation), Height: 51.7 cm back rest, Width: 49.5 cm back rest, Thickness: 3.7 cm back rest, Depth: 40.3 cm Seat, Width: 34.5 cm seat, Thickness: 2.4 cm Seat, Height: 53.7 cm Front slat, Width: 35.5 cm front slat, Thickness: 2.7 cm front slat, Height: 53.2 cm back slat, Width: 34.5 cm Back slat, Thickness: 3.1 cm back slat

Object history note

Bought (Soulages collection) £20
See RF 51/3527

This chair formed part of the collections of Jules Soulages (d. 1856), a sucessful lawyer from Toulouse, who specialized in collecting every-day objects of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. These items were bought by Henry Cole, then curator of the Museum of Ornament at Marlborough House, London, and a group of subscribers, who exhibited the items at Marlborough House between 5th December 1856 and 31st January 1857. Despite initial reluctance, the Government bought the items in instalments between 1859 and 1865, and this item was acquired by the South Kensington Museum, the fore-runner of the V & A, in 1860.

Historical significance: Jules Soulages was one of the earliest collectors of medieval and renaissance decorative arts. He acquired his items between about 1830 and 1840 from Rome, Venice and Florence, as well as Paris. Items of the Renaissance or of the Renaissance style became highly sought after by about 1880, when historical revival styles became much sought after thoughout Europe. This item was probably acquired by Soulages during the 1830s and definitely by the museum in the 1860s. It is therefore an early example of either a Renaissance fake or an object made in the Renaissance style.

Historical context note

The Soulages Collection was acquired at a time of mounting concern about British standards of industrial design, in comparison with those of her commercial rivals, particularly France, and the need to acquire good original items, to serve as models. The "Association of Art-Trades to promote the purchase of Soulage's Collection of Ornamental Art for Public Consumption", which inculded Jackson & Graham, Gillows and Holland, argued that the public collection of Greek and Roman antiqities "have far less practical bearing that Italian Medieval Art on improving the ornamentation of manufactureers required by present wants". This item would no doubt have been regarded as a genuine article, although no doubt heavily repaired. An RIBA report of February 1857 observed that "some [of the items] have been considerably repaired or modified by inferior hands, but others remain intact".

Descriptive line

Italian, carved walnut, ca. 1830 - 1840.; Italian, 1540-1560, chestnut, ivory inlay, 52/3047

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

John Hungerford Pollen, Ancient & Modern Furniture & Woodwork (London: George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode, 1874), 104.
“7202. ’60. CHAIR. Carved walnut wood. The support in front carved with a mask flanked by terminal female figures ; the back fan-shaped, with foliage decoration, and also flanked by terminal female figures. Italian. (Genoese?) About 1560. H. 3 ft. 6 in., W. 2 ft. 7½ in. Bought (Soulages Coll.), 20l.
The wood of the back is framed in panels, of a long triangular shape, with a piece carved and pierced, morticed in to form a pediment top. The work on this piece is effective but rude and of inferior design and workmanship to that of the finer gilt carved Italian chairs, of which such stately specimens are contained in the Museum Collection. It is of North Italian, perhaps Genoese, manufacture.”




Carving; Nailing; Staining



Production Type



Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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