Cardinal Mazarin’s Chambers aux Tableaux
Frieze Masters London 2019
The true usage during the Renaissance of the highly decorative and refined colored pottery known as Istoriato Maiolica has long been a matter of debate. Whether it was actually used, or was displayed by the side of the table on a credenza, or even handled and discussed in a demonstration of cultural knowledge and erudition are all points with equal validity. However in the seventeenth century it was highly regarded for its decorative qualities and its links with Urbino, the ideal renaissance city-state and in particular Uribno’s most famous son, the painter Raphael.
The cardinal Jules Mazarin, chief minister of France and lover of the French Queen, was one of the most powerful men in Europe and an avid collector of paintings and sculpture. Although little is known about how his collection of Maiolica was formed, the inventory taken after his death in 1661 shows that it was displayed hung alongside paintings and framed in the same manner. Descriptions include a sa bordure (frame) noir a filletz d’or and verni dore a la chinoise.
This evolution from the table to the wall literally elevated the status of Maiolica from that of utensil to the highest art form. This was reflected in the description of it in English as “Raphaelware” and led to the grand eighteenth century collections such as those of Sir Andrew Fountaine and Horace Walpole. Its enormous popularity in the nineteenth century is reflected in the important holdings of the British and the Victoria and Albert Museum, to name but two.
With this display at Frieze Masters we hope to replicate in a small part of the chambers aux tableaux of cardinal Mazarin and show the decorative effect these small paintings may have had in the heyday of their collectability.
T.E.F.A.F. Maastricht, 2019
(Stand Christophe de Quénetain)
In 2019, we showed a rare collection of Italian and French Renaissance maiolica featuring a possible credenza display made up of istoriato ware fit for a prince or a duke. This credenza da parata – da pompa would have been displayed on special occasions such as a wedding or diplomatic reception.
The display of the credenza, a term originally used for the objects on display before eventually referring to the furniture upon which it was placed, became a distinctive element in the grand reception room of the palace where official events and diplomatic banquets would take place.
During the Renaissance, the context of the princely art de la table took on a new symbolic dimension. While still influenced by the liturgical ritual of the Middle Ages, by the end of the 15th century it had become a social feature of the prince or duke himself. Thus, the magnificence of the tableware played a key role and as it reflected the quality of both the guest and the host.