Y A circular Italian specimen marble and scagliola table top, Rome, circa 1830, attributed to the workshop of Giacomo Raffaelli in the Via Del Babuino, The specimen marble top, with precious hardstones (including blue john, amethyst, malachite, and lapis lazuli, agate, Kushkuldin jasper, Revna jasper from the Ural mountains, Egyptian jasper, Lumachella from Abruzzo and Labradorite ) inset into a scagliola base simulating giallo antico, with a border of concentric bands simulating verde antico, white marble and rosso antico, the whole mounted on a metal disk, with a modern base of tulipwood, overall height 80cm, 95cm diameter
This very unusual top, with its combination of scagliola and hardstone, was almost certainly made in the Via del Babuino workshop of Giacomo Raffaelli (February 2, 1753 - October 11, 1836), perhaps the greatest of Roman mosaicists. Anna Maria Massinelli's book "Giacomo Raffaelli Maestro di stile e di mosaico" notes that Raffaelli was conscious of the artistic and commercial potential of creating works in scagliola. In this connection, he writes to his son in a letter from Milan dated 11th April 1804: "I beg you to learn well the technique of making scagliola, as I think we could do business with it here in Milan, and learn how to make all the different colours". Massinelli has identified various table tops in scagliola created by Raffaelli, which are inspired by his designs for micro mosaic table tops.
However, the present table top appears to draw its inspiration from the unusual marble and hard stone table tops created by Giacomo Raffaelli. An example is a table top that dates to circa 1810 in the State Hermitage Museum Figure..., St Petersburg. Here we see a formal arrangement of similar types of hard stones, which are cut into various geometric shapes and inset into a white marble base. The oval and octagonal forms remind us that Raffaelli also made snuffboxes; in our table top we also see him use these shapes some of which were probably originally intended for use in making boxes that then either became surplus to requirement or had been slightly damaged and were subsequently incorporated into a table top. A work by Raffaelli which is even more closely related to ours, was made in circa 1826. Here we see another inventive and less formal design by Raffaelli whereby the specimens appear to be strewn across the table as if they were pebbles on a beach. Like our top, these stones are inset into a coloured marble background, in this instance, "breccia corallina".
Apart from the inspired and original designs that Raffaelli created, what also sets his work apart was the use of exceptional and distinctive specimens, whether they came from ancient Roman ruins or from contemporary sources. We know from his letters to suppliers such as Ciccio Vittolomeo that Raffaelli took enormous trouble to obtain the most beautiful specimens. His collection was also extensive as is born out by the two hundred or so cases containing marble and hard stones that were sent back to Rome from his workshop in Milan in 1821.
Although we have not found documentary evidence to confirm our attribution to Raffaelli, we believe that both the design of the top as well as the very distinctive specimens suggest that this work was created in his workshop of Via del Babuino.