Sunday, June 30, 2013

Precious Time: A Mosaic Cabinet and Clock, circa 1700

Mosaic Cabinet and Clock
Giovanni Battista Foggini
Italian with a German clockworks.
pietre dure (hardstone mosaic), ebony, gilded bronze,
brass, mother-of-pearl and ebonized wood
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Isn’t this gorgeous? This cabinet and clock was over one hundred years in the making and represents the work of several different artists. The bottom part of the cabinet dates to 1700-1705 and is constructed of pietre dure (hardstone mosaic), ebony, gilded bronze, brass, mother-of-pearl and ebonized wood. The central mosaic panel is not the original decoration, but rather an addition from the Nineteenth Century. Looking closely at the pietre dure central panel, we can see that it was originally intended to be a tray. The composition which features a mosaic of a string of pearls was designed to be viewed from above, horizontally, and not vertically as it is positioned here. Nevertheless it is an attractive addition to the original piece.

The initial design is the work of Giovanni Battista Foggini of Florence. Foggini created this cabinet for Anna-Maria Luisa de' Medici. In the late Seventeenth Century, the top portion and clock were added. Crafted of the same materials and in a similar style, the top half is the work is almost as old as the original portion—having been added many years after its initial creation.

The present clock is a replacement for the mid-Eighteenth Century English clock which had been built into the cabinet. The second clock is German in origin and was added in the mid Nineteenth Century. At the same time, the central panel on the bottom portion of the cabinet was replaced with the one we see today.

Having been lost from the de’ Medici home, this beautiful group found its way into a private collection. Its owners have generously loaned it to The Victoria & Albert Museum.

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