Further investigations into the Mannerist Neapolitan cabinet (1575-1621)

Studioli decorated with ebony and ivory are the central theme of this essay. The opportunity to reinvestigate the topic is the celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the rediscovery of this extraordinary chapter in the history of Italian furniture made by Alvar Gonzàlez-Palacios in the article Giovanni Battista de Curtis, Iacobo Fiamengo e lo stipo manierista napoletano (“Antologia di belle Arti”, Year II, No. 6, May 1978, pp. 136-148).

Among the few additions to the catalog established by Alvar Gonzàlez-Palacios published in forty years, which this essay will illustrate, one is particularly important: the box at the Hashmolean in Oxford signed by Theodoro de Voghel (dated 1587) that relates the German craftsmen specializing in this kind of works with one of the masterpieces of the late Italian Renaissance tarsia: the cupboards of the sacristy of Certosa di San Martino in Naples, by de Voghel and Lorenzo Duca made between 1584 and 1598. Besides this new connection, which will be examined with the philological analysis of this artwork and its iconographic sources, the same ones used by “scrittoristi”, the focus of this essay consists in two unpublished documents, kept in the Archivio di Stato in Naples, which add valuable informations about the production of neapolitan mannerist cabinets.

By Teodoro de Voghel and Ioannes Fersenauer in May 1575, the first document is the inventory of the furniture that another German named Ludovico Menhart, until now unknown to his studies, left in his shop at his death. The document lists and describes eighty-five cabinets inlaid with ebony and ivory but also polychrome wood with other precious materials, dating back to twenty years before the famous works of Giovanni Battista de Curtis and Iacobo Fiammengo studied by Alvar Gonzàlez-Palacios. Dated October 14th 1621, the second document provides important informations about the thriving industry of neapolitan “scrittoristi” in the early 1600s. It is the act of foundation of the “Monte dei Magistri artis de scrittorai di ebano, avorio, legnami, oro, argento, et altre sorte di mitalli”. Thirty-seven masters worked in Naples, among them only few known names, gathered in a guild to provide the development of this profession in town, and they wrote a statute that specifies obligations, rights and associative positions.

Further investigations into the Mannerist Neapolitan cabinet (1575-1621), “Furniture History Society journals“, Vol. LV (2019), pp. 27-49

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