The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Column
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Italy
  • c. 1830
  • Igneous rock, bronze, malachite and gilt bronze
  • Object size: 288.4 x 48.8 x 37.7 cm
  • F522
  • Smoking Room
Further Reading
  • Although these are reminiscent of the column of St Mark in the Piazzetta at Venice, the lions of these columns support shields bearing the flowering lily of Florence, in reference to the city of residence of Prince Anatole Demidoff (1812-70), their first owner. The Corinthian capitals of each column also bear a malachite flowerhead including the hammer from the Demidoff coat-of-arms. Demidoff was one of the foremost collectors of the nineteenth century and heir to the Demidoff mining and iron-founding fortune. He spent much of his life in Florence, where he completed the Palazzo San Donato, begun by his father in the 1820s. He moved to Paris in 1859.
    Whereas the igneous (volcanic) rock was probably local to Florence, the malachite (hydrated green carbonate of copper) for these pieces doubtless came from Demidoff mines in the central Urals. This area was almost the only source of malachite until the discovery of similar ore in South Australia in the mid-nineteenth century. These columns might be said to represent in symbolic form the importance of malachite in supporting the Demidoff fortunes.
    Objects veneered in malachite became very popular from the first decade of the nineteenth century, prized not only for their vibrant colour but also for the relative scarcity of the material. Malachite was very costly and thus objects as large as this were a visible expression of extreme wealth.
    The art dealer Charles Mannheim acquired the columns in 1870 from the Demidoff sale in Paris for the 4th Marquess of Hertford. Other pieces of furniture acquired for Hertford in the San Donato sale now in the Wallace Collection were F93, F117-18, F134-5 and F263.