A unique small masterpiece
Two orders of decoration mark this fantastic rectangular-shaped frame: the internal part is delimited by meticulously carved pilasters in the shape of a caryatid portrayed in profile and candelabra alternating with medallions with cherubs depicting an allegory of the seasons; at the corners profiles of four Italian poets who have treated of love: Dante Alighieri, Ludovico Ariosto, Francesco Petrarca and Torquato Tasso.
The lower frame is characterized by three views of Rome: the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Square and the Colosseum.
The attribution to Giovanni Battista Gatti is due to the high quality of the inlays that characterize this small frame, whose technical perfection borders on virtuosity. It is known for the excellence of its Renaissance-inspired decorations.
Giovan Battista Gatti
Giovan Battista Gatti (Faenza, 1816 – Roma, 1889), is one of the greatest Italian inlayers of the second half of the nineteenth century, whose works were the object of the admiration of collectors and critics from all over Europe. He received great acclaim during international exhibitions of that time.
Giovan Battista Gatti learned the art of inlay in Faenza under the guidance of a Dominican friar Girolamo Bianchedi; later, he moved to Florence where he attended the atelier of Luigi Falcini, one of the masters who specialised in the production of wooden inlays inspired by the Renaissance: decorative motifs taken more or less faithfully from artefacts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, including obvious derivations from the grotesques, were used to embellish furniture.
This neo-renaissance trend, which established itself starting from the 1840s, particularly in Tuscany and especially in Siena and Florence, was also characterised by dark woods, among which ebony stood out, decorated with inlays of ivory, bone, mother of pearl and coloured stones. In this environment, Gatti learned the secrets of the way to realized his piece of arts, for the next fifty years, he remained convinced faithful and, which was the reason for his remarkable success. Back in Faenza, he opened his shop and immediately received the first of a long series of prizes that accompanied his artistic journey.
The first institutional recognition attributed to works he produced dates back to 1841 when the Academy of Fine Arts of Ravenna exhibited a wooden table inlaid with mother of pearl, which received the first premium, and which was purchased by Cardinal Luigi Amat (the head of the apostolic legation of Ravenna). A second prize was awarded to him in a competition for applied arts in Forlì in 1843. In this same year, the decisive turning point of his career took place: Cardinal Luigi Amat was recalled to Rome to hold the position of prefect of the Congregation of Propaganda Fide and convinced him to move there. In the capital, where he lived until his last days, his activity received vast consensus, which resulted in considerable success.
His artistic expressiveness was specialised in creating furniture, caskets, desks, religious furnishings, ebony frames with ivory and mother-of-pearl inlays, with inserts of polychrome stones. The inlayer developed such a prodigious ability in combine the various coloured essences that he deserved the praise of the leading scholar of decorative arts of that time, Count Demetrio Carlo Finocchietti: “no one has come to deal with ebony and ivory with such skill … adding to this value that of cabinet making”, wrote the critic in 1873 about the furniture produced by Domenico Gatti.
His notoriety extends on an international scale for his participation in the most important universal exhibitions in the major European capitals (Paris, London, Dublin and Vienna in 1855 to 1878) and the other continents. His extraordinary works are partly preserved in the City of Faenza, Fondo della Pinacoteca and National Museum of the Neoclassical Age of Palazzo Milzetti and abroad in prestigious museums such as the Victoria and Albert in London, the Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
Queen Victoria’s wedding’s commemorative table commissioned directly by the Queen is kept in the Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, once a royal residence and now part of the Royal Collection Trust.
Gatti was one of the best known and established artist creators, as evidenced by numerous awards, included the prestigious Legion of Honor.