THE COLONNA TABLES: A HIGHLY UNUSUAL PAIR OF CARVED RED-PAINTED AND GILTWOOD SIDE TABLES SET WITH SUPERB LUMACHELLA MARBLE TOPS

June 8 2009, 2:52pm

The extremely fine tops to the present tables are geologically interesting, made from lumachella, derived from the Italian word for “snail” (lumaca). The stone is largely composed of marine fossil shells of two kinds, small ovoid gastropods (sea snails) about 1/2-inch long and larger oysters. The latter show up as irregular pale brown fibrous patches or accurate shapes. The slabs have been cut parallel to the natural bedding of the stone and thus represent a section of the sea floor. This stone is a rare sample and its distinctly green ground color suggests that it was mined in Tunisia and is of a type referred to as “lumachella orientale.” The extraordinary bases, with their bold stylized organic legs, united by stretchers bearing tasseled fabric ties, date from around 1700, and have no design precedent in the cannon of Roman baroque furniture. Their highly unusual form would have been well-suited to the extravagance of the Palazzo Colonna where they once stood.