In April, the most valuable antique furniture pieces in the world go back on display. Just across the border from Cumbria, two antique cabinets owned by King Louis XlV are getting their final polish following 17 months of restoration work. They will be shown in a suitably royal setting – Alnwick Castle in Northumbria. Security will be tight at Alnwick. The cabinets are the only ones in existence with fully-documented Louis XlV provenance. Only one other was ever made, and it sold at Christie’s for over £43 million.
At Alnwick since 1930, the cabinets were personally commissioned by the Sun King from designer Charles Le Brun, and made by Italian artist and master cabinetmaker Domenico Cucci at the royal factory of Gobelins, in Paris. They were delivered to the Palace of Versailles in 1683.
Domenico Cucci (1640 – 1705) was at the height of his career when he created the antique cabinets, which Preston buyers would find ridiculously overblown today. Cucci produced arguably the most extravagant and expensive furniture ever sold. The last vestiges of his ostentatious French rococo style were swept away by the French Revolution, though it was in decline long before that. Following Louis XlV death in 1715, much of the pietra dura furniture was dismantled, some finding its way into the Paris Natural History Museum, the precious stones put on display in the minerals gallery.
In Lancashire, antique cabinets with Louis XIV provenance are like owls teeth. Rococo Revival styles are more tasteful and affordable, and can be found at good antique dealers in Preston. If you want Victorian dining chairs with plenty of extravagant gilding and padding, this is the style to seek out.
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