Pair of neo-classical consoles


Pair of neo-classical consoles


Rome, First quarter of the 19th century, circa 1820.



Dimensions: Height : 38 1/2 in.; Width : 52 in.; Depth : 26 in.



Made of finely carved and gilded wood, these consoles are of a rectilinear shape with a breakfront form. It is delicately decorated with swirls of foliated leaves, punctuated by floral forms, and bordered above and below by bands of waterleaves. Its front legs are in the form of two majestic zoomorphic shins, adorned with sweeping acanthus leaves, with the paws of a lion at their feet and the head of a winged lion at the top; the rear legs flank an oblong mirror and are shaped as ancient grooved pilasters. The base is rectangular with slight projections for the front feet of the console and is made of black marble, or “Paragon”, that is bordered by gilt wood decorated with vertical grooves. On the top of each console is a block of breccia Gregoriana marble. The power and imposing masculinity of their design and their decoration is indicative of the revival in European decorative art that emerged in France in the 18th century.


In the early part of this century there was a backlash against the previous style of sweeping curves and it was this that led to the rise of neo-classicism under the reign of Louis XVI. As excavations in Rome gradually brought a deeper knowledge of Antiquity so we can see it appear increasingly often in the art of the period. Towards the end of the 18th century, and led by artists such the decorator Dugourc and the architect Belanger, griffins, female sphinx and lions came to be used as supports for large tabletops of precious marble. It was at this point that consoles with zoomorphic shins, a throwback to tripods from Antiquity, first made an appearance. However the true zenith for this type of console came during the Napoleonic era when two architects who were commissioned by Bonaparte, Percier and Fontaine, published their “Receuil de décorations intérieures”. They would have had little idea how much influence their work would go on to have across Europe, most particularly in Italy, the country that was the most receptive to this stylistic revolution.


The Roman craftsman charged with the production of these two consoles was also clearly a part of this remarkable change in the artistic aesthetic in Europe. While he drew inspiration from a number of plates in the “Recueil” he also very much retained his own particular style, as can be seen from the remarkable gilt carvings. It was probably this same artist, assisted by others from his workshop, who produced a number of similar consoles that are conserved in the Quirinale Palace in Rome. Originally these pieces were part of a series of twenty-four showpiece consoles in wood gilt with griffins and winged-lions for legs, six of which can be seen in A. Gonzalez-Palacios, Il Patrimonio artistico de Quirinale, I, Mobili italiani, p. 204 to p. 210. Although they do not carry any stamp our consoles are quite possibly of the same provenance and would quite clearly have fitted into a grand Roman palazzo at this time.