An Italian museum has secured a lost piece of its founder's legacy from Bonhams thanks to local donations. The piece was to have been auctioned as part of Bonhams million pound London sale of the Marouf Collection in May, but has now been secured by the museum in a private treaty sale - with Bonhams adding a gesture of good will in terms of the commission.

The Meissen armorial coffee and tea service once belonged to Marquis Emanuele Tapparelli d'Azeglio. Marquis Emanuele Tapparelli d'Azeglio (1817-1890) was a leading figure in the history of the Museo Civico di Torino. His diplomatic career took him to the most important capitals of Europe, where he came into contact with international antiques dealers, connoisseurs and collectors. From 1848 to 1868 he lived in London, which was then at the heart of the cultural debate about the decorative arts. His association with the great collectors and scholars of his time gave him a passion for collecting objects. Under his direction (1879-1890), the Museo Civico of Turin expanded its collection of the applied arts, following the example of the V&A in London. Upon d'Azeglio's return to Turin, he donated his entire collection of Italian majolica and porcelain, to which his collection of engraved gold glassware and painted glass was added after his death. The armorial service however remained in his family on his request, and was sold at auction in 1903.

That d'Azeglio wanted to keep the Meissen Coffee service within the family shows the keen personal interest he took in it. The exquisite pieces were actually initially something of a mystery to the Marquis, who was intrigued by the porcelain when a famous relative, the statesman and political reformer, Massimo d'Azeglio, painted it as part of a still-life. Emanuele d'Azeglio began to investigate how it had come into the family's possession, and went to great lengths in his research, making several trips around Europe in aid of this.

The curator at the Palazzo, Dr Cristina Maritano found that the service was most likely ordered as a gift for Carlo Francesco Taparelli (†1779), Comte di Lagnasco. He was abbot of the Abbey of Saint Michel du Trèport in Normandie, and from 1732 Minister Plenipotentiary of the Court of Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland at the Papal court in Rome. When he died, his possessions went to his relations in Turin. This legacy included the Meissen coffee service to be auctioned at Bonhams April Sale.

Nette Megens, specialist of European Ceramics at Bonhams says: "To our knowledge this is the first case of An Italian museum using crowd funding to fund acquisitions. We love taking objects back to the where they belong, and for this Meissen service, with its connection to the Tapparelli d'Azeglio family, the Palazzo Madama seems like home."

Palazzo Madama


NOTES FOR EDITORS

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com

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