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The ebony-veneered architectural cabinet surmounted by a standing military figure, with four allegorical figures on the corners and a front drawer, each side with a hardstone marquetry panel surmounted by a hardstone cartouche including two low relief panels, all on a parcel-gilt, ebonized wood pedestal with garlands and lion’s paw feet under a red velvet cover
46 ½ in. (118 cm.) high; 34 2⁄3 in. (88 cm.) wide; 31 in. (79 cm.) deep, the cabinet
45 in. (114 cm.); 41 in. (104 cm.) wide; 37 ½ in. (95 cm.) deep, the pedestal
The figures and two cartouches with reliefs almost certainly commissioned by Cosimo III de' Medici (1642-1723) from the Galleria dei Lavori, Florence, possibly for a monument as a tribute to his son Ferdinando de’ Medici (1663-1713).
The cabinet and the stand, the Collection of the Rothschild family, Grand Hall in the Château de Ferrières, Seine-et-Marne.
By descent to the present owners.
K. Lankheit, ‘Il Giornale del Foggini’, in Rivista d’arte, 1959, pp. 77-78.
H. Demoriane, ’Le plus spectaculaire des châteaux bâtis en France au XIXe siècle: Ferrières’, in Connaissance des Arts, July 1963, no. 137, p. 76.
A. M. Giusti, P. Mazzoni, A. Pampaloni Martelli, Il museo dell'opificio delle pietre dure a Firenze, Milan, 1978, fig. 294 and p. 307, no. 325.
C. de Nicolay-Mazery, Private Houses of Paris. The ‘Hôtels particuliers’ revealed, London, 2000, pp. 35, 41.
C. de Nicolay-Mazery, Private Houses of France. Living with History, Paris, 2014, pp. 268-269.

K. Lankheit, ‘Il Giornale del Foggini’, in Rivista d’arte, 1959, pp. 55-108.
K. Lankheit, Florentinische Barockplastick. Die kunst am hofe der Letzten Medici 1670-1743, Munich, 1962, pp. 225-226, 239-250 and fig. 208-222.
Gli ultimi Medici. Il tardo barocco a Firenze, 1670-1743, exh. cat., Detroit/Florence, 1974, pp. 76-79, 346-349.
A. Gonzáles-Palacios, Il Tempio del Gusto : La Toscana e l’Italia Settentrionale, Milan, 1986, vol. II, p. 56, fig. 62-65.
A. M. Giusti, ed., Splendori di pietre dure, L’arte di corte nella Firenze dei Granduchi, exh. cat. Florence, 1988, pp. 17-18, 182-185.
A. M. Giusti, Pietre dure. L'arte Europea del mosaico negli arredi e nelle decorazioni dal 1500 al 1800, Milan, 1992, pp. 85-86, 112, figs. 48-49.
A. M. Massinelli, F. Tuena, Treasures of the Medici, New York, 1992, pp. 198-203, 208-209.
E. Colle, ed., I mobili di Palazzo Pitti. Il periodo dei Medici 1537-1737, Florence, 1997, pp. 222-227, no. 70.
A. González-Palacios, La collecciones reales españolas de mosaicos y piedras duras. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2001, pp. 115-116.
M. Mosco, O. Casazza, Il museo degli argenti. Collezioni e collezionisti, Florence, 2004, pp. 159-160, fig. 9.
A. M. Giusti, La marqueterie de pierres dures, Paris, 2005, p. 103, , pp. 198-199, 206-207, fig. 84.
A. M. Giusti, W. Koeppe, Art of the Royal Court. Treasures in Pietre Dure from the Palaces of Europe, New York, 2008, exh. cat., nos. 47, 55, 56, 59, pp. 186-188, 200-201, 202-203, 206-207.
K. d’Alburquerque, ‘The partial reconstruction of two sketchbooks by Giovanni Battista Foggini’, in Master Drawings, vol. XLIX, number I, 2011, pp. 67-94.
K. d’Alburquerque, ed., Giovanni Battista Foggini (1652-1725), premier sculpteur à la cour de Cosme III de Médicis. Un fonds inédit de dessins, Maurizio Nobile, Bologna and Paris, 2016, notice 4, no. 13-15, pp. 32-35; notice 6, no.3, pp. 38-39; notice 29, no. 58, pp. 93-94.


This exceptional monumental cabinet on stand bears witness to unparalleled Florentine artistic expertise, which helped to spread the influence of Medici power throughout Europe.

Following in the footsteps of the Roman and Byzantine Empires, Rome and then Florence specialized in the marquetry of hardstone in the 16th century. It was in 1588 that the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando I (1549-1609), founded the Galleria dei Lavori, initially in one of the wings of the Uffizi, which still exists today under the name Opificio delle pietre dure. From decorative objects to official architecture including the Capella dei Principi in the church of San Lorenzo, the factory was at the service of the ruling powers from the outset, and was seen as an important diplomatic tool. 

The great-grandson of Ferdinando I, Cosimo III de' Medici (1642-1723) married the granddaughter of Henri IV of France, Marguerite-Louise d'Orléans. He succeeded his father Ferdinando II in 1670 and ruled Tuscany until his death in 1723. Cosimo followed in the footsteps of his ancestors by continuing as an important patron of the arts. He remained close to artists such as Ferdinando Tacca, as well as the painter Ciro Ferri and the sculptor Ercole Ferrata. The Galleria dei Lavori took a different turn, however, with the appointment of Giovanni Battista Foggini as head of the workshop.

The Florentine Giovanni Battista Foggini (1652-1725) studied drawing in the workshop of Vincenzo Dandini and sculpture in that of his uncle Jacopo Maria Foggini, before moving to Rome in 1673 at the request of Cosimo III de' Medici to study with Ciro Ferri and Ercole Ferrata at the academy set up by the Grand Duke. On his return to Florence in 1677, he sculpted for several churches and worked for the Medici on decorations for the Palazzo Pitti and the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, while also providing models for works in gold, such as the paliotto of the Santissima Annunziata basilica. First Sculptor, then First Architect and director of the grand-ducal workshops from 1695, Foggini drew, modeled and sculpted marble and stone in his workshop, which also had its own foundry (Lankheit, 1962, op. cit., pp. 225-226 and d'Alburquerque, 2016, op. cit., p. 7). A prolific draughtsman, Foggini produced a large number of drawings up until his death in 1725 (F.M.N. Gabburri in K. d'Alburquerque, 2011, p. 67), including the Uffizi album known as the Giornale and others now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

On stylistic grounds, the figures from our cabinet can confidently be attributed to Giovanni Battista Foggini, and testify to the technical skill and quality of the sculptures produced in his workshop. Foggini played a particularly active role as director from 1695, supervising every detail of the works produced. This can be seen through the fascinating series of drawings he produced, particularly towards the end of his career, around 1713-1718. A number of these drawings, some of which have recently been rediscovered, can be linked to the figures of the present cabinet; for example, the four female figures in the corners seem to represent the cardinal virtues, which have unfortunately lost their attributes. Fortitude wears a helmet and is very similar to the figure also illustrating Fortitude that Foggini made around 1705 for the church of San Giorgio alla Costa (Oltrarno district, Florence). Numerous drawings by Foggini also show the importance he attached to helmets, as can be seen in those now at the Metropolitan Museum in New York (inv. no. 52.570.225) and in the Pandolfini album (d'Alburquerque, 2016, op. cit., pp. 38-39). Justice would have been carrying a sword or scales. Prudence and Temperance are more difficult to distinguish; the two remaining figures are raising their arms and may have been holding the traditional symbols of Prudence, such as a mirror, a snake, or a compass. Temperance may have been holding a ewer and basin to collect the water poured into it, or perhaps a snaffle bit or a clock. Several drawings in the Metropolitan Museum feature similar allegorical figures, such as the one with two three-figure groups before an architectural background (inv. no. 1985.1016), or the one with the central obelisk flanked by Prudence and Fortitude (inv. no. B5 recto, see d'Alburquerque, 2011, op. cit., p. 76, fig. 18).

Foggini also worked with Giuseppe Antonio Torricelli (1659-1719), 'scultore in pietre dure e cammei', on a number of projects, including the carving of the heads and the limbs of figures. Naturalistic compositions dominated the hardstone market for almost two centuries. The fruit motif carved in relief, which is sometimes found on Foggini’s caskets, was so popular that he eventually appointed a fruittista who was specifically dedicated to cutting, carving and polishing the hardstones imitating these fruits. One example is the impressive fruit-inlaid prie-dieu created by Foggini in 1706 for the Electress Palatine, which accompanied a monumental cabinet and a holy water font. It is now in the Palazzo Pitti (inv. no. OA 1911 no. 836) and features gilt-bronze garlands similar to those covering the upper section of the present cabinet, suggesting that they came from the original structure. The two medallions in the main cartouches depict Pegasus and a sunflower following the sun. Whilst tempting to compare Pegasus with the current symbol of Tuscany, and despite the fact that it features on a medal by Benvenuto Cellini as early as 1537, it only appeared on the region’s flag in the 20th century. In this case, the sunflower symbolizes bravery and wisdom as well as loyalty, devotion and longevity. These two medallions’ excellent execution allows us to attribute them to Torricelli as they can be compared to the reliquaries of Daniel, St. Mary of Egypt, St. Ambrose and St. Sebastian that the lapidary sculpted between 1704 and 1715 (treasury of San Lorenzo, Florence). The gilded bronze frames decorated with shells and foliage can also be found on certain drawings in the Giornale at the Uffizi (inv. 8027, verso of p. 91, 125, 144, 145, recto of p. 34, 100).

The identity of the impressive gilded bronze figure, whose head is made from a single piece of agate, remains enigmatic. Old family inventories in the Rothschild collections identify the man in armor as Johann Wilhelm, Elector Palatine (1658-1716), husband of Anna Maria Lodovica de Medici, daughter of Cosimo III. In fact, similarities, in the position of the body reinforced by the martial character and in the quality of the chasing, can be seen with the figure of the Elector at the center of the cabinet kept at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence (Museo degli Argenti, inv. no. OA 1911.909). As the Pitti cabinet was made around 1707-1709, and so, seemingly, several years before the Rothschild cabinet, it seems unlikely that the Elector should be depicted at a much younger age on the Rothschild cabinet. This incoherence is heightened by a notable difference in the facial features of the two figures. The identity of the model must therefore be questioned, and several members of European families could be considered such as the Lorraine family, the Habsburgs of Austria or, more likely, the Medici family itself.

A figure study in limewood and calcedonio di Volterra for the face with the features of Cosimo III is preserved in the Museo dell'opificio delle pietre dure (Giusti, Mazzoni, et al, 1978, op. cit., fig. 294 and p. 307, no. 325). This reinforces the idea that Cosimo III commissioned a second cabinet with his figure or that of his son and heir presumptive, Ferdinando (1663-1713). A reference in Lankheit points out that a second cabinet must have been made to match that of the Elector: 'Un secondo stipo doveva servire da pendant a questo - dell'Elettore - e probabilmente gli era destinata proprio quella figura seduta di Cosimo nel Museo delle Pietre Dure, che venne copiata da quella dell'Elettore' (‘A second cabinet was to serve as a pendant to this one - of the Elector - and probably that seated figure of Cosimo in the Museo delle Pietre Dure, which was copied from that of the Elector, was intended for it’; Lankheit, 1959, op. cit., pp. 77-78). Perhaps Cosimo initially wanted to represent himself and, following the death of his son in 1713, wished to change his commission in order to commemorate his lost successor. A few drawings of a young man in armor have survived which, as d'Alburquerque points out, could represent Ferdinando, his arm outstretched holding the baton of command, in a pose similar to our figure (d'Alburquerque, 2016, op. cit. note 4, pp. 32-35, no. 13-15). The proportion of drawings showing plans for catafalques and funerary monuments in the Uffizi album and Lankheit's proposed dating of these drawings to around 1713-1714 reinforces the theory that Foggini suggested structures at the Grand Duke's request (ibid., p. 63). The highly finished treatment of our figures and the quality of the casts also suggests a creation that went well beyond the sketch stage and one which was actually produced. Unfortunately, no documentary source has been found to confirm the existence of this work of art.

However, the later re-invention into a cabinet is a marvelous and elegant reflection of the combination of hardstone, gilt-bronze and ebony that Foggini most esteemed, and which he used with huge success. The Galleria's spectacular creations, such as the Badminton Cabinet of the 3rd Duke of Beaufort, made around 1720-1732, still the most expensive piece of furniture sold at auction today (sold Christie’s, London, 9 December 2004, lot 260, £19,045,250), won the admiration of all European courts, prompting even the young French king Louis XIV to create the Gobelins workshops in 1667.

The initial structure that supported the five figures and the cartouches is, for the moment, unknown, but one can imagine what it might have been thanks to the numerous drawings by Foggini. The position of the central military figure suggests a monument that invites the viewer to move around and appreciate it from several points of view, unlike the figure on the Elector's cabinet, which is only visible from the front in its niche. Among Foggini’s surviving drawings are the study for a commemorative monument in honor of Grand Prince Ferdinando de' Medici, circa 1714 (Uffizi, Florence, GDSU, no. 8027 A, fol. 49r), the studies of a man in armor in the Pandolfini album, as well as those illustrated by Lankheit (op.cit., 1962, figs. 209-222), which include projects for funeral monuments, catafalques, fountains, ephemeral decorations and reliquaries. For example, one drawing shows allegorical figures at the base of columns on a proposed catafalque (location unknown; d'Alburquerque, 2011, op. cit., p. 87, fig. 48), while another shows figures framing a representation of a man in armor (V&A, London, inv. no. D.319-1887; ibid, p. 88, fig. 51). The principle of angular figures, sometimes leaning against a wide scroll like our figures, can also be found in bronzes and drawings by Foggini. One example is the monument to Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor, in which the figures of the vanquished adopt positions similar to our figures, leaving open the possibility of a simpler monument with a rectangular plan, less complex than his many other, more Baroque drawings. The figures from this monument are now in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum in Munich (inv. R 3969/W 220, R 3970/W 221 and R 5035/W 319; see Lankheit, op. cit., 1962, fig. 108-112; Gli ultimi Medici, no. 40a, 40b and pp. 76-78). Another equestrian monument of interest is the one dedicated to Carlo II of Spain, which follows the same pattern (Museo del Prado, Madrid, ibid., fig. 113 for a drawing in Dresden and 115 for a bronze at the Prado; Gli ultimi Medici, pp. 76-77, no. 39 and fig. 39).

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