Pair of armchairs
Original embossed leather covers
Milan, Circa 1750
40.94″ high [18.11″ to the seat] x 21.65″ in deep x 27.55″
104 cm high (46 to the seat) x 55 cm deep x 70 cm.
State of conservation:
good. The wooden part, still “in patina”, shows some signs of use. The covers are contemporary and original and show some signs of wear, as well as slight rippling in few areas; on the reverse, the leather has been reinforced with new leather applications.
The two walnut armchairs have a mixtilinear layout decorated with rocaille relief carvings, some of which are highlighted in gold; the legs are shaped and end in a curl. The backrests and seats are padded and upholstered in leather embossed with figures and cartouche decorations.
An inventory number written in ink appears on the back of the backrest.
Around the mid-eighteenth century in Milan seat covers of embossed leather were very popular. Mutton or cowhide was used which, when suitably tanned, was then worked with heated irons (hot decoration) or with carved wooden molds (cold decoration). These were pressed into the leather until a darker brown color was obtained. 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).
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 for a description of an armchair exhibiting various similarities to ours;
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, for a description of the history of leather decorators in Venice and some stages of construction;
Antonella Capitanio, Leather as temporary furniture, in Rivista dell’Osservatario per le arti decorative in Italia (OADI) n. 9 del giugno 2014, for a discussion of the diffusion of leather processing in Italian cities.