8027a

A VERY RARE PAIR OF VENEERED LEGNO SILICIZZATO TABLE TOPS

Probably Italian. Eighteenth Century.

Measurements

Length: 47 1/2" (120.7 cm)
Width: 23" (58.4 cm)
Thickness: 1 1/8" (2.9 cm).

Research
Veneered with legno silicizzato. Old repairs.

The present pair of veneered tabletops is a fine example of the use of legno silicizzato, or silicified wood, in furniture. These fossils, which usually date from the late Triassic period (around 200 million years ago), were prized for having the strength typical of hardstones, along with the well-preserved and attractive appearance of their original plant form. The extremely slow process by which the wood is silicified, replacing their organic cells with minerals over a period of millions of years, results in an opaque or translucent stone with a recognizable grain pattern, in colors ranging from white to shades of brown or green.

The unmistakable wood patterns in specimens of legno silicizzato undoubtedly contributed to their use in early furniture, for scientific interest as much as for their decorative appeal. One known early example of a table made from silicified wood was owned by Prince Federico Cesi, who founded the underground scientific society L’Accademia dei Lincei in Rome in 1603.1 Members met at Cesi’s palace in Via della Machera d’Oro to discuss scientific matters and the publication of their studies, including the infamous Il Saggiatore by member Galileo Galilei in 1623. One member named Cassiano Dal Pozzo, who was committed to continuing the Accademia founder’s work after Cesi’s death in 1603, purchased Cesi’s estate, including the table made of fossilized wood, which he sent to his friend George Ent in England around 1636. Ent, a noted physician and member of The Royal Society of London, took the table to the Society’s early meetings, where it is said to have contributed to the group’s debate on the origin of fossils.2

Full research report available on request.

Full research report available on request.