New Book | The Sixtus Cabinet at Stourhead

Posted in books by Editor on March 16, 2015

Available from Philip Wilson and the National Trust (with a preview at Emile de Bruijn’s Treasure Hunt). . .

Simon Swynfen Jervis and Dudley Dodd, Roman Splendour, English Arcadia: The English Taste for Pietre Dure and the Sixtus Cabinet at Stourhead (London: Philip Wilson, 2015), 304 pages, ISBN: 978-1781300244, £45.

prodzoomimg12643At Stourhead in Wiltshire, the Palladian mansion contains an extraordinary Roman cabinet glittering with gilt-bronze mounts, semi-precious stones and elaborate architectural ornament. Its façade conceals over 125 more-or-less secret drawers. The cabinet was brought to Stourhead in 1740 by Henry Hoare ‘the Magnificent’, of the Hoare banking dynasty; he had purchased it in Rome as made for Pope Sixtus V, the great rebuilder, whose papacy, from 1585–90, coincided with the Spanish Armada. The superb quality of the ‘Sixtus Cabinet’ became apparent during restoration in 2006–7 and this prompted an investigation into its history.

This book commences with a comprehensive account of the insatiable English taste for Italian pietre dure, from the 16th to the 20th centuries, and follows with a survey of the Roman pietre dure industry, hitherto unjustly neglected by comparison with Florence. A description and stylistic analysis of the cabinet itself precedes a trail of detection which takes it back to Pope Sixtus’s Roman villa, and then explores its tortuous descent through the Pope’s family to sale in 1740. Henry Hoare’s grand tour and his purchase of the cabinet led to its installation in a cabinet room at Stourhead, surrounded by Old Masters and with a new pedestal of triumphal arch form, incorporating reliefs of Pope Sixtus and his Roman monuments. Later his great-nephew, Sir Richard Colt Hoare created a new cabinet room, with embellishments by Thomas Chippendale the Younger. Horace Walpole and William Beckford were among the admirers of the cabinet, the focus of this remarkably wide-ranging study of Italian and English artistry, patronage and taste.

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