As a centre of European maritime trade, from the early 17th to the late 19th century Malta fostered a cabinetmaking tradition distinctive in terms of design, the use of locally-available woods and workmanship.
The highlight of Chorley’s two-day sale in Prinknash on September 19-20 September 19-20 sale was a fine late 17th century century Maltese marquetry commode with an impeccable provenance.
The intricately inlaid 5ft 3in (1.59m) wide chest fashioned in orangewood, olivewood and walnut was once the property of William Parnis, an eminent lawyer from a Maltese family. His son Edgar (1857-1913) left significant bequests to the National Library of Malta and the Valletta Museum with this commode (originally one of a pair) inherited by his younger son Alfred (1860-1946) and passed by descent to the vendor.
The large size of these commodes, made for wealthy nobles and knights, may be explained as they could accommodate a Maltese lady’s ‘faldetta’ (shawl or hooded cloak) without the need for folding. This example was on the market for the first time in over 150 years and pitched at £8000-10,000. A full bank of telephone bidders – many from Malta or originally from the island – contested it to £28,000.
The winning online bidder was a dealer from Malta who bought it for his personal collection. He deemed it among the best examples on the market in recent years in terms of both sophistication and condition.
At a glance
Date: September 19-20
Price paid: £28,000