One of the most expensive furniture pieces in the world has just fetched an amazing £4.5 million ($7.3 million) at Christie’s famous auction house in London. The ornate Cucci Cabinet dates from around 1665 to 1675 and is one of three wooden cabinets crafted by Italian artist and master craftsman Domenico Cucci. The other two can be found in Alnwick Castle in the English county of Northumberland, which is more well known as the setting for the Harry Potter films. These are owned by the Duke of Northumberland and together make the only three surviving pieces made by Domenico Cucci.
It’s still unknown who exactly has bought the third Cucci Cabinet but its previous owners were a powerful Spanish banking dynasty, the March family. Previous details of ownership are a little sketchy but it is believed to have been once owned by Queen Hedvig Eleonora of Sweden (1636-1715) who was married to King Charles X of Sweden. The Cucci Cabinet remained in Sweden until the late 19th Century and was later sold in Paris in 1923.
The expensive Cucci Cabinet is most noticeable for its Florentine ‘pietra dura’ panels which are Italian for ‘hard stone’. This alludes to the technique of creating intricate inlaid pictures from shaped coloured stones. Wonderful bronze figures which symbolise the seasons, support the upper part of the Cucci Cabinet on their heads. Extravagant gilt bronze mounts adorn the cabinet along with stone columns which provide a complimentary opulence to the tortoiseshell background.
The director of European furniture at Christie’s London auction house said: “A once in a lifetime opportunity, this rare survival from the Gobelins workshops attracted international interest and drew collectors, institutions and dealers from around the world to Christie’s London”.
Domenico Cucci was renowned during his own lifetime as well as now. He was considered one of the leading cabinet makers, ‘ébenisté’, who worked for the French King Louis XIV. The Italian craftsman became a member of the renowned Gobelins workshop in 1662 which attracted the best artists and craftsmen from around Europe. His works, amongst other things, included furniture for the famous Royal Palace at Versailles but which have since sadly been lost.
Experts believe the sale of the ornate Cucci Cabinet means it is now the fourth most expensive item of traditional furniture in the world. The most expensive is still held by another cabinet, the Badminton Cabinet which was sold in 2004 for £19.1 million ($31 million), also at Christie’s.