Some of the earliest European antique furniture came from Italy and very few original examples survive today. A rare Italian Renaissance walnut trestle table, dating from the 1550s, features heavily carved acanthus leaves on the feet and across the stretchers between the three trestles that support it,antique chests or cassone with heavily painted panels and credenzas used for serving food are all fine survivors from this early period.
Italy, as the birthplace of the Renaissance, has some level of expectation placed upon it to produce really fine antique furniture. The 17th century saw it spearheading the baroque style which produced curvaceous extravagant pieces of furniture decorated with motifs of the sea, to include gods and sea monsters. Hardly surprising that, with this level of ornamentation, sculptors rather than antique cabinet makers were mainly responsible for creating these pieces.
Although Italian Rococo perpetuated the exuberance of the baroque, Italian antique furniture became less sculptural towards the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century as the French Neo-classical tastes and larger more imposing French Empire style brought about through Napoleon’s conquest of Italy came more into vogue. However, as with all Italian furniture through the ages, it was always decoration and style that superseded function which gave it its characterful liveliness. Some fabulous examples of heavily sculptured bombé commodes came out of Venice during the 18th century, often heavily lacquered, gilded and painted with swathes of flowers.
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