Freeman’s is pleased to offer the property of a Virginia gentleman in the October 16 British & European Furniture & Decorative Arts auction (lots 420 – 551). For several decades, just outside of Richmond, a collector with an eye for opulence assembled an unusual and comprehensive group of 19th century decorative arts.
With a special concentration in the decorative arts of Venice and France, specifically those of the Louis-Philippe and Napoleon III periods, this collection brings to mind the lavish décor of the Tuileries Palace and its imitators, or the sumptuous interiors in a film by Visconti. Of particular interest is a diverse collection of polychromed Venetian Blackamoor figures.
These figures first appeared in the carvings of Andrea Brustolon (1662-1732). Brustolon trained in the studio of the Genoese sculptor Filppo Parodi, and also studied in Rome at the height of the Baroque period. Brustolon—perhaps inspired by the theatrical nature of Roman churches and the work of Bernini at St. Peter’s—began to produce elaborately carved boxwood figures depicting North African Moors, who were then employed in Venice as major-domos and accountants on the famous estates of the Veneto.
Brustolon’s first piece was an extravagant work designed and delivered to nobleman Pietro Venier to display Japanese porcelain. It used figural allegories including Hercules with the Hydra and Cerberus, Moors and reclining river-gods. Brustalon had many imitators, and the depiction of the North African residents of Venice continued well into the 19th century. One such imitator was the Venetian sculptor Valentino Panciera Besarel (1829–1902), who created upholstered armchairs and figures such as torchéres and consoles in the Brustolon manner from the 1860s on. These were widely copied in Italy and abroad.
Lots 420 - 551 are a reminder of the lavish 19th century European taste for theatrical and exotic historical revivalism, and modern collectors will find ample opportunity to discover objects of interest.