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BUREAU CABINET (TRUMEAU). VENICE, CIRCA MID-18TH CENTURY
Mobile a due corpi con piano scrittoio ribaltabile (trumeau)

Bureau Cabinet
(trumeau)
Venice, about mid-18th century

The internal and external handles,
and the gilded wood decorations are original;
the five external mirrors are original

Measures

Height: 108.66 in
Length: 64.17 in
Depth: 24.80 in

State of conservation:

overall almost excellent

The cabinet consists of two parts.

The lower part rests on four carved feet in the shape of a flattened sphere, and is equipped with three large drawers and two smaller ones. It ends in the upper portion with a tiltable writing surface that contains a central well, small drawers, and several compartments that in turn conceal secret compartments.

The upper part is closed by two doors that feature their original bevelled mirrors on the outside, while on the inside they display two engraved mirrors with the figures of a man and a woman (as previously mentioned, these are not original). The interior contains numerous open compartments arranged around a central enclosed space, which in turn conceals a small safe (also installed at a later time).

Two other mirrors, consistent in shape with those of the outer doors, adorn the sides. The center area above the doors has another smaller mirror decorated with an engraved vase of flowers.

A prominent, mystilinear cornice frames the top of the cabinet with various rocaille elements of carved and gilded wood.

This type of furniture derived its shape from the Anglo-Dutch repertoire; in Italy, it was – and still is – improperly called a ‘trumeau’ (a term which in French instead indicates a mirror placed between two windows). It very soon became the most important piece of furniture in the palaces of the ancient Venetian aristocracy and the rich merchants. Although designed for prestige and placed on the main wall of the ‘sala’, these furnishings also had a practical function, as demonstrated by the numerous compartments. While the trumeaus commissioned for country villas were often painted or decorated in the style of ‘arte povera’ to simulate lacquer, the finest examples placed in prestigious palaces in the lagoon were veneered with walnut burl and, more rarely, with other precious woods, often, as in our case, highlighted by carved and gilded decorations.

Some examples of comparison with this trumeau are currently located in:

– Ca’ Rezzonico, Venezia (ora museo del Settecento Veneziano);
– Palazzo Mocenigo in quartiere Santa Croce a Venezia (ora Museo del tessuto e del costume);
– Villa Reale, Monza;
– Maritime Museum, Kotor, Montenegro.

Reference bibliography:

Levy, Saul, Il mobile veneziano del Settecento, Milano 1964, tavv. 170-184 e tav. XXVIII;
Santini, Clara, Mille mobili veneti, Modena 2000, passim;
Colle, Enrico, Il mobile Rococò in Italia – Arredi e decorazioni d’interni dal 1738 al 1775, Milano 2003, pp. 330-335.

Cover Photo: Bruno Pulici