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Quattro sedie di legno di noce intagliato con copertura di cuoio impresso

Four carved walnut chairs
with leather covers
Milan, about 1750


Height: 39.37” (18.30” to the seat)
Depth: 21.65”
Length: 19.29”.

State of conservation:

the leather covers are not original
some signs of use, especially on leather covers;
the rocailles at the height of the backrests
have lost part of the carved elements.

The four walnut chairs have a mixtilinear structure adorned with rocaille relief carvings; the legs are shaped and end with a curl. The backs and seats are padded and covered with impressed leather with figures and cartouche decorations from later production.
Around the mid-eighteenth century in Milan it was very popular to cover seats with impressed leather. Mutton or cowhide was used which, suitably tanned, was then worked with heated irons (hot decoration) or with carved wooden molds (cold decoration). These were impressed on the leather until obtaining a darker brown color. Our group of chairs is covered with cold-stamped cowhide.
This type of decoration, used systematically in Lombardy, was also present in other Italian regions (Stanislao Petri, Per le industrie dell’arte. Pizzi e Cuoi bolognesi, Rassegna d’Arte Antica e Moderna, 1916, IV, giugno, p. 129).

For a comparison with works similar in form, albeit lacquered and without original covers, see the chairs decorated with rocaille motifs and scrolls of acanthus leaves from the Alessandro Durini Legacy 1939, now kept in the Civic Museums of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan (see Enrico Colle, Museo d’Arti Applicate. Mobili e intagli lignei Milano, Milano 1996, pp. 261-262, n. 402).

Other bibliography:

Clelia Alberici, Il Mobile Lombardo, Milano 1969, pp. 129-131;
Luisa Bandera Gregori, “Il mobile lombardo tra Barocco e Rococò” in Settecento lombardo (catalogo della mostra, Milano 1 Febbraio- 28 aprile 1991), fig. V. 20 where there is a description of an armchair showing various similarities to our chairs;
Anna Contadini, «Cuoridoro»: Tecnica e decorazione di cuoi dorati veneziani e italiani con influssi islamici, in “Atti del Primo Simposio Internazionale sull’Arte Veneziana e Islamica” (a cura di Ernst J. Grube), Venezia, Ateneo Veneto 9-12 dicembre 1986, where the history of leather decorators in Venice and some stages of construction are described;
Antonella Capitanio, Leather as temporary furniture, in Rivista dell’Osservatario per le arti decorative in Italia (OADI) n. 9 del giugno 2014, where the diffusion of leather processing in Italian cities is treated.

Cover Photo: Fabrizio Stipari