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Hieronymus Bosch vs. Lombard Master

Between the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century, an anonymous and eccentric painter worked in Lombardy, known to experts for several decades under the fascinating name of Master of the Fertility of the Egg. An undoubtedly bizarre and in some ways unique artist in Italy whose name is due to the frequent but not exclusive presence of hatching eggs in his paintings and whose canvases are – just like the one we are presenting here – always clearly recognisable and distinguishable for the singular extravagance of the compositions populated by animals, dwarf figures, deformed characters and domestic objects typical of Po Valley culture.

The dominant subject of the Master of the Fertility of the Egg is certainly connected to the ancient thread that links classical painting to dwarf painting. In ancient Egypt, Bes, a dwarf God with crooked legs, a large tongue and a deformed face, was associated with fertility and was believed to propitiate marriages and protect pregnancies. And in Rome too, the fertility of nature was extolled in gardens where Priapus and Pan, dwarfs, nymphs and maenads reigned, so as to became a central theme in painting and sculpture.

A limited number of works are known by the Master of the Fertility of the Egg, most of which have been surveyed and identified in public and private collections, and anyone observing his imaginative compositions cannot help but think that in some way the painter saw or was inspired by those of an illustrious predecessor, the Dutch Hieronymus Bosch.

Bosch is the famous Dutch painter that everyone knows and who lived and worked between the end of the 15th century and the first half of the 16th century – i.e. two centuries before our Lombard Master – whose great value is essentially that he revolutionised the representation of classical Renaissance themes in his time, influencing entire generations of artists from different parts of Europe and from various subsequent ages, starting with a number of Renaissance painters and engravers, up to more modern and contemporary artistic currents such as 19th century Symbolism, early 20th century German Expressionism and Surrealism.

The artistic legacy of Hieronymus Bosch was certainly widespread in northern Europe while his influence on southern European artists is less well known. This is precisely the topic of the current  exhibition in Palazzo Reale, in Milan, open until 12 March, investigating the specific influence of Hieronymus Bosch’s art on Italian and Spanish culture, where you have the opportunity to admire some of his masterpieces – from museum institutions such as the Prado and the Museo Lázaro Galdiano in Madrid, the Uffizi Galleries, the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice and the Museu Nacional de arte Antiga in Lisbon – compared with paintings and engravings by southern European artists.

Returning to our Lombard painting (Grotesque Scene with Drummer Cat), the extravagant and extremely whimsical spirit of the painting’s almost theatrical representation clearly reveals a painterly will akin to Bosch’s, even if the figurative universe of departure is very different: while the great Dutch artist took inspiration from 14th and 15th century miniatures, drawing extensively on the typical symbols of medieval culture, the Master of the Fertility of the Egg represents in his compositions characters, animals and objects typical of northern Italian culture. Both artists, on the other hand, have a common and meticulous interest in details and satirical depictions of vices that lead them to conceive and paint strong and powerful images, albeit with very often elusive and mysterious meanings


Master of the Fertility of the Egg

(active late 17th – early 18th century)

Grotesque Scene with Drummer Cat

Oil on canvas

Italy, Lombardy

Late 17th century

Cm 91 x 140

AMART 2022: Special Mention

Once again this year the Cesati Gallery took part in AMART, the art and antiques exhibition held at the Museo della Permanente in Milan, last October. Cesati’s stand was widely appreciated for its display elegance and the quality of the works exhibited, so much that it was awarded for its set-up by a jury made up of three well-known architects: Clara Bona, Michele Piva and Laura Ragazzola.

Ph: Fabrizio Stipari

During the set-up days of the exhibition, the jury selected the stands with the best exhibition focus and was impressed by Cesati Gallery’s presentation, which deserved a special mention “for the harmony and atmosphere of the works of art that together create a perfect mix (I loved the Sicilian coral tree),” as architect Clara Bona posted on her social channels

According to the Gallery’s tradition, the exhibit booth was enlivened by sculptures and art objects from the 15th to the 20th century, including a Renaissance stone Head of St. Paul’s , a rare Italian Safe from the late 17th century, a gilded iron Floor Lamp signed by the famous 20th century artist Carlo Rizzarda, and finally the aforementioned very curious Coral Tree with rock crystal leaves.

We thank all those who visited us at AMART and invite those who did not have the opportunity to see the exhibition to come and visit us at our gallery in Milan, via San Giovanni Sul Muro 3, where you can admire the works exhibited at AMART 2022 along with many other pieces our exclusive collection.

Alessandro Cesati at the 32nd BIAF in Florence


From 24 September to 2 October 2022, in the luxurious venue of Palazzo Corsini, the 32nd edition of BIAF – Biennale Internazionale dell’Antiquariato di Firenze – will open its doors to the public.
Italy’s oldest and most prestigious fair of Italian Art will gather 75 internationally renowned antique dealers that are ready to seduce, with their works, collectors, connoisseurs, museum directors and curators from all over the world.

Alessandro Cesati gallery will participate with a curated selection of important sculptures and rare works of art, displayed in booth 44, located on the ground floor.

Among the most important works, the public will admire a charismatic Head of a Man in bas-relief, recently rediscovered by scholars, achieved by Giovanni di Balduccio da Pisa, who carved it from Candoglia marble during his Milanese phase, around 1330-1350.

The Gallery will also present a rare and fascinating polychrome sculpture depicting the Archangel Michael, attributed to the Master of Spoleto Cathedral: a significant evidence of the most refined Central Italian late Gothic sculpture.


In addition to other sculptures, among which visitors will admire examples of the Apulian Middle Ages, and also the Lombard and French Renaissance, the stand will also feature some precious collectors’ objects, such as a rare gilded Reliquary in the shape of a Book and some sought-after iron objects, witnessing the Gallery’s ancient tradition, such as a particularly fascinating Processional Cross from the 16th century: a perfect example of the unmistakable talent of Spanish iron artists.


We look forward to meeting you in Florence!

Stand 44

Biennale Internazionale dell’Antiquariato di Firenze
Florence, Palazzo Corsini
September 24 – October 2, 2022

For more information, go to: 

Tefaf Maastricht 2022: in presence, again!


The Dutch appointment comes back in presence! Alessandro Cesati Gallery is taking part in the next edition of this unmissable International Art Fair (25-30 June 2022) with a refined selection of important Sculptures and Works of Art, set up in a stand with two rooms.
The largest one will be dedicated to 17th and 18th centuries, the smallest one to Middle Ages and Renaissance and to rare Collector Items.


The stand center will feature a refined marble sculpture by the Bolognese Giuseppe Maria Mazza representing David with the Head of Goliath. Furthermore, collectors will admire an important bronze sculpture from the 17th century, depicting Hercules slaying the Nemean Lion, a unique Pair of large polychromed wax high-reliefs, still in their original cases, and a spectacular Masterpiece Strongbox from Strasbourg.

Among the small-scale works of art, the Gallery will present a tiny and precious French 17th century Carnet de Poche – a one-of-a-kind iron masterpiece – and a rare and charming pair of large rococò Bolognese gilded bronze Doorknockers.


We look forward to seeing you in Maastricht!

TEFAF Maastricht – Stand 144
MECC, Maastricht, 25-30 June
For more information go to

A Refined Goldsmith Scale


This rare and extraordinarily elegant measuring instrument stands out for its the exclusive fineness: a precision scale with moulded steel shears, steel equal arms beam with swan neck finials; circular embossed silver plate pans are hung to the beam through stirrup shaped silver threads; an elegant cover plate to the shears in finely pierced, engraved and gilded brass, showing a typical and elegant rococo design, encloses a circular quadrant highlighting a very subtitle steel needle-shaped pointer.


Precision scale (or grain-scale; Ger: Probierwaage) considered the forerunner of the analytical balance scale, is a specific and particularly sensitive kind of instrument used to assay small quantities of silver and gold, through a complex method called ‘cupellation’. This method is based on two consecutive and correlated weighings: the reliability of the result depends on the accuracy of the weighings and thereby, ultimately on the accuracy of the scale.


Left: Wenzel Jamnitzer, Goldsmith Scale, 16th century, Stuttgart, Landesmuseum Württemberg. Right: J. W. Meil “Die Waagen: Probierwaage, Goldwaage, gemeine Waage und Schnellwaage”, engraving from “Spectaculum Naturae et Artium” (1761).

The oldest example of equal arms balance known to us has been found in the Naqada site, in Southern Egypt and dates to the Neolithic period, around 7000 years ago. The need to assay precious metals originated with the use of currency, to fight the phenomenon of counterfeiting. The first corporative laws regulating the quality of the metal and the practice of assaying and hallmarking appeared in the Middle Ages. Precision balances similar to ours have been used to perform this operation, on jewelry or other silver or gold objects, since the first half of the 16th century. These instruments became more and more refined over the centuries, together with scientific and technological progress, until the invention, by J. Hyacinth de Magellan around 1780, of a new type of precision balance with more sophisticated technical and formal features.

Precision balances for goldsmiths and those for money changers were already distinct and specialized in the 18th century: our example certainly belongs to the first category. Given the high sensitivity to stress of these instruments (even dust particles on the weighing plates can make a difference), weighing plates were suspended by means of metal thread, as in our case, or even with horsehair or platinum wires, so as to prevent dirt from adhering to the suspensions. Rarely have these elements been preserved over time: most museum-level goldsmith’s scales feature cotton, linen, or wool thread strings. Moreover, in order to guarantee the precision of the operation, the weighing took place inside small showcases, to prevent possible drafts or variations in humidity and temperature from affecting the result.


From a stylistic point of view, our example can be dated to the second quarter of the 18th century, as confirmed by the refined asymmetrical design of the plate, recalling the peaks of European decoration from the time of Louis XV.
The remarkable refinement of engravings and fretwork of the gilded brass plate, leads us to believe that it may have been made by a very fine court goldsmith: the style and the elements of the decoration are fully comparable with the highest achievements of goldworking, cabinetmaking, bronzing and quadratura of the time.


Precision Scale, Freiberg 1725-1750, Leipzig, Stadtgeschichtliches Museum (with detail).

From a technical as well as formal point of view, our scale finds direct correspondences with other scales manufactured in the Saxon area between Dresden, Leipzig or Freiberg; this last city is well known for an intense activity of silver extraction documented over the centuries. A very similar scale to the one presented here, but less articulated in the plate, is preserved at the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum in Leipzig; another example belongs to the collections of the Landesmuseum Württemberg, in Stuttgart.


Precision Goldsmith Scale
Pierced, engraved and gilded brass; drawn and embossed silver.
Saxony (Germany)
Cm 21,5 x 37h.

An Important Italian Renaissance Chest


This exceptional chest, made by assembling thick walnut boards with meticulous dovetail joints, represents the perfect combination of security and elegance. Its external surface is richly adorned on the front with a set of five chased thin ironwork decorative handles – bolted through lozenge shaped, pierced and engraved backplates – ; at the center top, the chest features an elegant moraillon lock with four quadrangular pierced ironwork rosettes stepping from its corners; the pierced and engraved iron lock is opened by a first key, releasing the proper moraillon and thus revealing the access to another internal lock operated by a second key. Both keys show typical Venetian rosette handles.
The chest sides are fitted with two large wrought and engraved iron carrying handles, equipped with the same kind of pierced and engraved backplates.


The big flat lid features on both ends a pair of solid security cleats carved at their forward end with a lion head; the internal surface of the lid is adorned with a rich wooden inlaid banding in a pattern of geometrical knots with an oriental taste, matching the contemporary textile motifs, well documented in the paintings of the same period; the lid is joined to the chest body through large strap hinges, with fine pierced, engraved and embossed decoration.

The external and internal iron mounts are set over contrast coloured textile, following a hispano-moresque tradition documented on Venetian furniture already around mid-15th century.

The inside is equipped on three sides with three chests of drawers with lifting lid. On the left the lid hides a compartment with a false drawers side, secured by a lock operated by a further key with Venetian rosette handle; to the long and the right side are two banks of 8 and 4 drawers with wooden inlay and small lathed bone studs.

These kind of Cassoni are among the spearheads in the history of late Gothic North Italian furniture and they are well documented in Lombardy and Veneto area: 16th century inventories describe them as Casse alla veneziana. Built by craftsmen active between the mid-15th and the beginning of the 16th century, these chests typically show refined and very specific ironwork details, very probably made in the Northern Veneto area; the most prestigious examples are furthermore enriched on their internal surfaces by a particularly accurate ‘alla certosina’ inlay, making them emblematic witnesses of the most refined cabinet-making of the time.

This sophisticated and successful model of Cassone has been made in various different sizes: from small containers a few dozens of centimeters wide to the monumental chests like the one presented here, standing out for the particular richness of the inlaid decoration, the numerous and refined iron mounts as well as for its very good state of conservation.

Left: Chest (London, Victoria and Albert Museum); Right, Chest (Milano, Castello Sforzesco).

This kind of elaborated chests were luxury furniture showpieces denoting the prestige of important and wealthy families, who generally commissionied them for the display in the main room of their dwelling. Various examples belong today to Museum collections (Milan, Castello Sforzesco; Palazzo Madama in Turin; Castello di Moneslice – Cini Collection; Padua, Palazzo di Ezzelino; London, Victoria and Albert Museum), while other chests are still preserved and bequeathed by Italian noble families.

Walnut wood with inlay in various woods; wrought, pierced, embossed and engraved iron.
Northern Italy
Early 16th century
cm 148 x 64 x 65 h
Provenance: Italy, noble family

References: C. Alberici, Il mobile lombardo, Milano, 1969, p. 34; E. Colle, Museo d’Arti Applicate. Mobili e intagli lignei, Milano 1996, pp. 155-157 n. 212; AA.VV., Oltre la Porta. Serrature, chiavi e forzieri dalla preistoria all’età moderna nelle Alpi orientali, exh. catalogue Trento, 1996, p. 192, n. 99 .

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