Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Design for a Bookcase with Writing Desk

Anonymous, Italian, 16th century (Italian, active Central Italy, ca. 1550–1580)
ca. 1550–70
Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, over leadpoint
8-3/4 x 12-1/2 in. (22.2 x 31.8 cm)
Drawings, Ornament & Architecture
Credit Line:
The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1952
Accession Number:
Not on view
This design combines a case for book storage with a writing desk and is therefore essentially a precursor to the secretary desk which would emerge in the 17th century. Since not many bookcases from before 1600 survive, this drawing is highly informative. Half of it has been filled with books and it shows how the different compartments were used for books of various sizes. The inscriptions below the desk mention ‘casette a tirare’ which indicates that the design also incorporated three drawers: an element that would not become common in furniture until the early 17th century.
Inscription: Inscriptions and measurements in braccie (and "oncie") of various parts presumably by the artist or craftsman doing the execution. The inscriptions in pen and brown ink, from left to right: "una cassetta da/ tirare"; "le colonne si hanno da fare scannellate"; "una cassetta/ simile"; "una altra cassetta/ da tirare"; "q[uesto] chiuso/ come al[tro"'; "di me[zz?]o/ e così l'/ altro".

Marking: On verso: stamp in purple ink (Lugt 47a) of the Duke of Savoia-Genova, probably to be identified with Tommaso Alberto Vittorio di Savoia-Genova (1854-1931).
Duke of Savoia-Genova, probably to be identified with Tommaso Alberto Vittorio di Savoia-Genova (Italian, Turin 1854–1931 Turin); Vendor: János Scholz (American (born Hungary), Sopron 1903–1993 New York)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Living in Style. Five centuries of interior design from the collection of drawings and prints," June 17, 2013–September 9, 2013.

János Scholz Italian Master Drawings 1350-1800 from the Janos Scholz Collection. New York, 1976, p. ix (discussing generally the group of 312 drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that includes the present drawing, all as emanating from the Royal House of Savoy and as having been sold to Scholz about 1952 by a dealer.).

Piera Giovanna Tordella Il collezionismo dei disegni a Torino e in Piemonte da Emanuele Filiberto all'età napoleonica. "...quei leggierissimi tocchi di penna o matita..." Le prime collezioni di disegni in Piemonte. Ed. by Gianni Carlo Sciolla, Milan and Regione Piemonte, 1996, pp. 25-26 and note 66 (quoting Scholz's recollection and noting the Turinese provenance of some drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.).

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