19th Century Carved Walnut & Marquetry Centre Table Attributed To The Falcini Brothers
The workshops of the Falcini family were established by Gaetano Giuseppe Falcini (d.1846) in the early 19th century in Campi near Florence. His Sons Luigi Falcini ( 1794 – 1861 ) and Angiolo Falcini ( 1801 – 1850 ) went to Florence in the 1820’s, a City famous for its intarsia workshops since the Renaissance and opened up workshops in Via delle Fosse and via Rosa. The first piece to be exhibited by the Falcini brothers was a prize-winning marquetry table shown at the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Florence in 1834 – 1836, for which they received a medal. It was subsequently purchased by Grand Duke Leopold II for his private collection. In the following years Luigi and Angiolo, exhibited in many exhibitions of the Accademia as well as the Florence exhibitions of 1854 and 1861, the 1851 London Exhibition, the 1853 New York Exhibition and the 1855 Paris Exhibition. Their high quality work was in demand from many important Italian and international collectors and they completed important commissions for a number of prominent patrons. Amongst which were Prince Demidoff for the Villa San Donato, Florence, the Duchess of Casigliano and Countess Borghesi. Luigi was also entrusted with the prestigious work of restoring the Renaissance doors of the Palazzo Vecchio.
The intarsia work that the Falcini’s produced was varied. In their earlier years it was more neo-classical and monochromatic. Later it became richer in colour and materials and more lively in design. They used a large quantity of different native woods like acer, box and olive. For the dark grounds of their furniture they chose imported wood like ebony, Indian walnut, and mahogany from Cuba and Jamaica. For the red shades in the marquetry they used red ebony, Corallino delle Antille, Indian aloe and bois de violette from Gayas and Brazil. For yellow shades, legno di scotano, il sommaco di Sicilia, il priego di Spagna e di America and bois de citron were chosen. Calambaco del Messico was used for different shades of green. Other colours, like purple or light blue were reached by colouring woods by chemical means – a technique developed to perfection by the Falcini’s.
The use of multiple coloured woods plus other materials like mother of pearl, ivory, bone and sometimes even metal, derives from the Falcinis interest in the Baroque art produced at the last court of the Medici era. In particular they admired the work of Flemish-born Leonardo Van Der Vinne ( d. 1713 ), who had played an active role in the Medici’s Opificio delle Pietre Dure. The Falcini’s most famous pupil was Gian Battista Gatti, whose skills in very fine intarsia work were internationally renowned. After the death of the brothers the workshop, by then run by Luigi’s sons, Cesare and Alessandro, lost its importance, which was also due to the change in taste, as flower marquetry went out of demand around 1860.