AntiquesClassic Monday

A piece of furniture dedicated to Dante Alighieri

2021 marks an important anniversary for the history of Italian literature and culture: the 700th year since the death of Dante Alighieri.

The “Supreme Poet”, unanimously recognized as the father of the Italian language and author of one of the most famous works, the Divine Comedy.

Dante Alighieri
Sandro Botticelli, Dante Alighieri, tempera on canvas, 1495, Geneva, private collection via Wikipedia

It therefore seems a fortuitous coincidence the entry into our collections of a secrètaire, on top of which stands the walnut-carved bust of Dante, in the year dedicated to him.

And it is precisely to this furniture the protagonist of our Classic Monday.

It is an important library or study furniture, of high quality both in the finishes and in the constructive part. Already the feet, richly carved, in fact denounce a great attention to detail, as can be said for the carved uprights that frame the front. Here there are, starting from the bottom, three drawers, of which the last has a desk top and various compartments, one containing an inkwell and secret compartments to hide precious papers.

Secrétaire Umbertino with Bust of Dante Alighieri

Quite unique is the upper part. Here, what appear to be three other drawers on the outside hide a folding door. Behind this lies an architectural doodle, which wants to emulate the front of a building, with a steep staircase and punctuated by columns. In the central part two niches hosting two bronze sculptures frame a door, above which there is the inscription “INDULGENT PLENR QUOTI PERPET”. As well as of great scenographic impact, also thanks to the use of maple and ebony. The scarabattolo is also interesting for the many secrets it hides. Openable through spring or interlocking systems, these hard-to-access holes were useful hiding places at the time, as well as today, also becoming curiosities to be discovered with a careful analysis of the furniture. In the upper part there is another drawer, very interesting for the nozzle, carved mask with the screaming mouth, to accommodate the lock.

In walnut, veneered in walnut briar and adorned with ebony frames, it is a piece of furniture belonging to the Umbertine period, as clearly denounced by the taste that distinguishes it.

To crown the secrétaire, in the center of a broken tympanum, the bust of the carved Poet.
A sign that the love for this man of letters has always been rooted, so much so that it is also celebrated in the private sphere, with a piece of furniture dedicated to him.

Secrétaire, Dante Alighieri
L'Arte è la mia passione. Il mio autore preferito? I fratelli Campi.

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