An 18th Century Metropolis in Marquetry

June 26 2013, 4:05pm

Carlton Hobbs LLC

The scenes depicted in these marquetry panels are based on 17th century illustrations of the city of Rome, one after an engraving of the Piazza de Santi Apostoli by Giovan Battista Falda in 1669 (figure 1) and the other most closely related to a late-17th century painting of the Piazza san Giovanni in Laterano, attributed to the Studio of Gaspar van Wittel (figure 2).   Figure 1

One of the views was perhaps chosen for its concentration of significant Renaissance and Baroque palazzi; on the left is the Palazzo Colonna, however most prominently on the right is the Palazzo Chigi-Odelscalchi with its magnificent façade by Gian-Lorenzo Bernini, finished in 1665.  At the far end of the square stands Palazzo Bonelli (today Palazzo Valentini), built in 1585 by Cardinal Michele Bonelli, nephew of Pope Pius V. The cupola of Santa Maria di Loreto can be seen to its right. At the beginning of the 18th century, Palazzo Bonelli was leased to numerous famous personages, including Francesco Maria Ruspoli (from 1705-1713), who hosted illustrious musicians of the day, particularly George Frideric Handel whom he employed as a House Composer.   Carlton Hobbs LLC

The other panel shows a view that is remarkably unchanged today, the southern transept façade of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, with its two medieval belltowers, dating from the 12th century, and large loggia designed by Domenico Fontana in the late 16th century. On the left is the dominating Palazzo del Laterano, originally a major palace in ancient Rome and later adapted as a papal palace; it was the primary residence of the pope from 400 to 1400 AD. Today the Palazzo houses the Museo Storico Vaticano, which illustrates the history of the Papal States. Pictured in the far right center of the panel is the baptistery, which was founded by Pope Sixtus III in 440 and was the only baptistery in Rome for several generations. It’s octagonal structure served as the model for baptistries throughout Italy, such as those in Florence and Parma. In the foreground is the Lateran Obelisk, the tallest in Rome, which was brought from Egypt by Emperor Constantius II.  It was discovered in the 14th and 15th centuries, but only restored fully during the reign of Sixtus V in 1588 on the site of the demolished tower of the Annibaldeschi, which formerly stood in the square. A similar view of the piazza, from a slightly different angle, can be seen in an early 19th century engraving by Luigi Rossini.   Figure 2

The present marquetry panels are very closely related to a set of six formerly in the collection of Carlton Hobbs (figure 3), which depicted views of royal houses in Bavaria, and which were confirmed to have been in the collection of Friedrich Wilhelm, Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. One of this set was signed by the artist Franz Kientz, who used very similar painted skies and water effects to those seen on the present pieces. They also show the same clever use of different woods and grains to add texture and depth.

Figure 3