11523

A RARE WALNUT AND BOXWOOD INLAID CIRCULAR CENTER TABLE WITH LARGE SCARLET TÔLE PEINTE DETACHABLE TRAY TOP CENTERED BY A SCENE AFTER MICHEL GARNIER (1763–1819) ‘CORNELIA, MOTHER OF THE GRACCHI’

Probably North Italian. Early Nineteenth Century.

Measurements

Height: 27 3/4" (70.5 cm); Diameter: 28 3/4" (73 cm).

Research:
Of walnut with boxwood inlay. The circular tôle peinte top with plain gallery with gilded top edge. The center with a painted classical figural grouping representing Cornelia, mother of the Gracci, with her sons and a female companion, the scene surrounded by a gilt ‘pearl’ edging with a further foliate border to the extremity. The arcaded apron above a stepped cylindrical column, the lower part with carved strigilation. The whole raised on a drum-shaped plinth.

Provenance:
A Texas Collection

Published:
Dampierre, Florence de. The Best of Painted Furniture. United States, Rizzoli, 1995, p. 182–83.

The scarlet ground tôle peinte top of the present table is centered by a painted scene representing Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, with her sons and a female companion, taken from a painting attributed to the French painter, Michel Garnier (1763–1819) (figure 1). Corneilia was the daughter of the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, and was married to the politician and general, Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus with whom she had twelve children. Unlike other Roman women, Cornelia is set apart by her interest in literature and language, and her investment in the education and political careers of her sons, Tiberius and Gaius. 

Known as the Gracchi brothers, the men were advocates for political and social reform in favor of the lower classes in the the late Roman Republic. Tiberius’ main goal was the survey and more equitable redistribution of land. However, the wealthy ruling class of Rome was opposed to these reforms and he was murdered in a violent opposition. A decade later, his brother, Gaius, took up a similar mantle of regulating those with considerable political and economical power. Like Tiberius, he met a similar fate, and was killed or forced to commit suicide before he could be apprehended by an angry militia.

The vignette on the present table depicts the brothers in their youth alongside their mother, as do most representations of Cornelia in art. The composition is sometimes called “Cornelia and her Jewels,” referring to an anecdote in which Cornelia, when questioned by another wealthy Roman woman of rank about her comparatively simple and understated dress, gestured to her children replying “these are my jewels.”

Full research report available on request. 

 

Full research report available on request.