A Pair of Console Tables in the Manner of William Kent with Veneered Legno Silizzato Tops

June 8 2009, 3:13pm

The Tops Probably Italian. Eighteenth Century. The Bases English. Nineteenth Century. The present pair of tabletops is a fine example of the use of legno silicizzato, or silicified wood, in furniture. These fossils, which usually date from the late Triassic period, were prized for having the strength typical of hardstones, along with the well-preserved and attractive appearance of the plants they originally were. The extremely slow process by which the wood is silicified, replacing the organic cells with minerals over millions of years, results in an opaque or translucent stone with a recognizable grain pattern, in colors ranging from white to shades of brown or green. The unmistakable wood patterns seen in specimens of legno silicizzato undoubtedly contributed to their use in early furniture, for scientific interest as well as for their decorative appeal. One of the most famous examples of a fossilized wood tabletop is found on a guéridon in the collection of Versailles.