18th-century furniture frequently features lavish detail and showcases exquisite craftsmanship. The Baroque era and subsequent movements saw a new kind of refinement enter the world of furniture-making. It’s most famously represented in the French furniture of the Louis XV and Louis XVI styles.
But France was not the only place where Baroque furniture blossomed. Indeed, Italian Baroque furniture exhibits a unique take on the forms and ideas of the era. It features some of the most remarkable pieces of the time.
One of the chief contributors to this pool of excellence was Giuseppe Maggiolini, the most significant cabinetmaker in 18th century Milan. Maggiolini’s style, blending Late Baroque and Neoclassical forms, is instantly recognizable and has become synonymous with a certain decorative splendor that showcases unique painterly artistry.
In today’s blog, we will explore the life and craft of Maggiolini, to lend special contextual texture to some of the Baroque pieces in the Styylish catalog. For a similar exploration of the Late Baroque style in France, be sure to read our post on Jean-Henri Riesener’s magnificent work.
Born in the small town of Parabiago, near Milan, in 1738, Maggiolini was the son of a forester. He discovered a love for wood early in his life and developed a specialty in marquetry-making. Marquetries are the intricate patterns and pictures on the surface of furniture.
After apprenticing at a woodworking shop in town, he opened his own shop and was soon commissioned for significant projects by Italian nobility. His immediate success saw him receive invitations to collaborate on projects for the Habsburg family, including designing pieces for the wedding of the son of Emperor Franz I.
The Habsburgs then became significant patrons of Maggiolini. He opened a second workshop in Milan, dedicated to working on projects for the Imperial family. Subsequent commissions included work on royal villas around Italy, and by the end of the century, he had firmly established himself as a major force in European cabinetry.
The Napoleonic era saw his star fade. The severity of the Empire style undermined his more romantic approach to furniture making. He nevertheless experienced a professional resurgence late in life, upon being commissioned to design a piece for the Bonaparte family.
Maggiolini died in 1814, before the end of Napoleon’s reign. Drawings from his workshop were assembled by his son Carlo Francesco and remain on display in Milan. The impact of Maggiolini on 18th-century Italian art cannot be overstated.
Giuseppe Maggiolini’s Work
The bulk of Maggiolini’s work consists of commodes and chests, in addition to desks and tables. The vast variety of woods on display in his intricate marqueterie set him apart from his contemporaries. Both European kinds of wood and imported exotic ones are frequently on display side by side to create exceptionally detailed landscapes.
His work takes the nature-inspired shapes of Baroque furniture and incorporates them into the strict angles and classical forms of the later Neoclassical style. A classic Maggiolini will likely feature strict right angles in combination with an impossibly beautiful, flowing marquetry design.
The most impressive feature of his work is indeed the marquetry. Check out some of the examples of his dressers provided here. Note, in particular, the way he juxtaposes very dark and very light wood to create an almost metallic effect of contrast. That kind of dramatic use of light would become an essential part of Art Deco style over a century later.
For more information on the craft behind marquetry design, check out our blog post on the topic.
Maggiolini in the Styylish Catalog
The Styylish catalog currently features a commode in the style Giuseppe Maggiolini, an exceptionally rare and valuable find. Let us take a close look at it now, to identify the signifiers and qualities that make this an extraordinary piece.
The first thing you’ll notice is no doubt the continuous, flowing, golden lines of his marquetry décor. With geometric splendor and exceptionally clean lines, he develops an imposing feel on all sides of the commode, including the top surface.
Recalling both the stately aesthetic of a Roman chest and the organic whimsy of a Baroque piece, it’s about as classic of a Maggiolini as you can get. The human figures in the circular details all interact with nature in some small way. And there is certainly a touch of humor in the unique design of each individual person.
Other pieces in the Styylish catalog emphasize similar values.
Other Finds on Styylish
This Neoclassical Dresser, designed in the manner of Maggiolini, is one of our very favorite pieces in our catalog. With a musical theme, it showcases extraordinary detail and a genuinely lovely overall aesthetic.
Note, too, the marquetry ribbon that travels around the edges of each rectangular side. It’s designed in a way that lends an almost three-dimensional quality to a first impression. It’s certainly hard to find an antique as exceptionally beautiful as this dresser.
This French Antique Secretary Desk exhibits similar attention to detail and carefully designed wood art. While it lacks some of the painterly features of a Maggiolini piece, its columns showcase a recurring geometric pattern that’s simply gorgeous. And you can’t go wrong with a piece that so exceptionally showcases a tree’s natural geometry.
Giuseppe Maggiolini’s style has certainly become a collectors’ favorite around the world for a reason. Few cabinetmakers exhibit the kind of exquisite thematic and visual attention to detail that Maggiolini does.
If you’ve become a fan of his work based on what you’ve just seen, you might find more treasures to your liking in the Styylish catalog. An antique of quality like a Maggiolini is universally compatible with modern interiors. Bringing a little taste of 18th century Milan into your home will enliven your space in groundbreaking ways.