Italian, Northern Italy - Set of Twelve Armchairs (Poltrone), mid 18th century

Italian, Northern Italy

Set of Twelve Armchairs (Poltrone), mid 18th century

Walnut with poplar and pine, 96 x 60 x 50 cm (37 13/16 x 23 5/8 x 19 11/16 in.)

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Object details

Accession number

F19e5.1-12

Provenance

Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from the antique dealer Gaetano Pepe, Naples on 26 October 1906 for 1816 lire (for set of twelve chairs and two benches, F19w33).

Bibliography

Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), p. 149. (early 19th century)
Fausto Calderai and Alan Chong. Furnishing a Museum: Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Collection of Italian Furniture (Boston, 2011), pp. 174-5, no. 64.
C.D. Dickerson. "The Art of Display" in Frederick Ilchman (ed.). Casanova: The Seduction of Europe. Exh. cat. (Fort Worth: Kimbell Art Museum; San Francisco: Fine Art Museum of San Francisco, Legion of Honor; Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2017), pp. 21-23, 301, fig. 6.


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Commentary


These chairs show the exuberant curves and delicate ornamentation of the 18th century Rococo style. The undulating lines of the oval back give the piece a particularly sculptural appearance. Continuing the floral motif of the tapestry above, carved foliage sprouts along the arms and legs. Notice the small carved armrests that playfully mimic upholstered pads.  

Isabella Gardner was unusual among American collectors in preferring Italian furniture over French, English, or American. While she often worked with advisors in forming her painting collection, Gardner sought out furniture on her own. Her use of furniture helps create the Museum’s intimate atmosphere, and chairs like these seem to have their own personality.

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