Sotheby’s will stage a single-owner sale of superb 17th- and 18th-century antique Venetian paintings and furniture in London on July 6. Each of the 64 lots in the sale was chosen with care and a keen eye for quality by a private European family, who acquired the pieces over a period of some 30 years in order to adorn their palazzo in the Veneto region of Italy. Taken as a whole, the collection evokes the dazzlingly beautiful world that existed inside some of Venice’s most splendid palazzi during some of the most prosperous and charmed years of the Venetian Republic.
Chosen for their quality and enduring beauty, the pieces in the sale summarise the qualities that characterise “Venetian style”.
In the introduction to Sotheby’s catalogue for the sale, historian Roberto Valeriani writes: “Venetian style owes its distinctiveness to the gifted artisans of the city, but also to an innate sense of the luminous that brings precious materials to life. Anyone who has gazed on the frescoes, the furnishings and the plasterwork in the palaces along the Grand Canal knows that they are illuminated at certain times of day as light is reflected off the water into their interiors to create changeable, rippling effects.”
Just as its painters drew heavily on the lapis lazuli and exotic pigments made available to them by their city’s tradings with the East, so too Venetian craftsmen and furniture makers drew on the materials and techniques they encountered thanks to their contact with the East. Though many of their names are unrecorded, Venetian craftsmen of the 17th and 18th centuries were nonetheless masters of their art – be it in the production of furniture, glass, velvets and silks, lacquered goods inlaid with mother of pearl and pietre dure, or maiolica inspired by Turkish wares and porcelain.
Much of the furniture in the sale reflects the diversity of media which characterises Venetian craftsmanship. At the same time, the majority of the pieces in the collection date from the Rococo period, the style of which, with its lightness, airiness and sinuosity, is in many ways perfectly matched to place from which the pieces emanate.