Carved figures inspired to Hercules
The bambocci chest of drawers represents the excellence and strength of 16th-century Genoese furniture, with its distinctive decoration of carved figures in the round, both whole and half-length. Today, it is the symbol of Italian high epoch furniture.
Bambocci chest of drawers from the 16th is generally monumental, generally 170 cm large, and our piece reflects this characteristic. Bambocci Chest of drawers from a later period are smaller because they had to be adapted to residences than large noble palaces.
This unique and superb bambocci chest of drawers, commissioned for the noble Doria family of Genoa, still retains its original iron key and locks and is in exceptional condition despite having over 400 years of history behind it!
The wood walnut sculptures adorning this superb Genoese chest of drawers show an extensive repertoire of subjects; in particular, the chest of drawers evokes two of the labours of Hercules, where it is possible to identify on the sides Hercules killing the Nemean Lion and the Hydra of Lerna.
Other subjects primarily play musical instruments, some with animals. The presence of the musicians is because Hercules was instructed in the art of war and combat, but he also devoted himself to music. However, the future hero did not appear very talented in this discipline, often receiving reproaches from his teacher. Precisely following a punishment inflicted on him, Hercules killed him in a fit of anger.
Amphitryon, who exercised his fatherland power, sent Hercules away from Thebes to atone. Heracles remained on Mount Citerone among the shepherds until he was eighteen. Drawers’ handles show cherubs who play musical instruments, some in the company of animals. While on the last drawer, we find Hercules as a child, killing the Nemean Lion.
This magnificent chest of drawers is made entirely of walnut with a dark patina, with walnut briar plating on the drawers giving it a tortoiseshell effect. The top has a bevelled edge and three paired drawers’ underneath. The central drawer bears the heraldic coat of arms with the crown and eagle of the important Doria family of Genoa.
We find the same richly carved frames with stylised leaves on the three large drawers below; please, note the chased connecting cords that divide the various drawers.
On the front drawers are present magnificently carved handless with putti; the drawers are framed by angular pilasters with man figures in high relief, while the base is richly carved with pods. The gilded and chiselled bronze keyhole escutcheons reproduce the Doria family coat of arms, confirming once again, the importance of the patrons. The pleasant feet with lion heads are from a later period.
The Doria Family Coat of Arms on the bambocci chest of drawers
The Doria family coat of arms present on our chest of drawers has been modified by replacing the two lions holding the shield with two cherubs. The rise of the family coincided with the colonial and maritime affirmation of Genoa, and to express the power achieved, it is significant the coat of arms that the Doria made common to all branches, in the fourteenth century, in honour of Henry VII Doria, admiral of the Republic of Genoa.
The Doria Family
Doria, originally de Auria (from de filiis Auriae), meaning “the sons of Auria”. The Doria belongs to the most famous and ancient noble families in the history of Genoa, starting from the 12th century, whose history is intertwined with that of the city. During the various eras, the Dorias gave several cardinals, archbishops and bishops to the Catholic Church and six doges to the Republic of Genoa: Giovanni Battista (1537–1539); Nicolò (1579–1581); Augustine (1601-1603); Ambrose, elected on 4 May 1621 and died on 12 June even before being crowned; Giovanni Stefano (1633–1635); Giuseppe (1793–1795), penultimate doge of the Republic.
Meaning of "bambocci"
The term ‘bambocci’ furniture originates from the series of carved figures that enliven this type of furniture in the Genoese area. Sculptural carved busts replace the classical handles, while carved sculptures are often aligned vertically on the side corners of these majestic pieces of furniture of the high period.
- Alvar González-Palacios, Il Mobile in Liguria, Genoa, 1996, see p. 47, fig. 48, p. 50, fig. 52, for similar examples.
- C. Steiner, Mobili e Ambienti Italiani dal gotico al floreale, Vol I, Milan, 1963, fig. 186, illustrates a similar chest of drawers in Castello Sforzesco, Milan. The same author, op. cit, fig. 189, also illustrates another very similar chest of drawers on the stiles `a bambocci’. A related model is illustrated by Giuseppe Morazzoni, Il Mobile Genovese, Milan, plate 28.
- Museum of Decorative Arts – Castello Sforzesco in Milan.
An important collection of ‘bambocci’ furniture can be found in the Furniture Collections of the Museum of Decorative Arts in the Castello Sforzesco in Milan.