This large and attractive architectural piece is known as a pulpit canopy. Before the advent of microphones and speakers, orators would often address assemblies from elevated platforms known as “wine glass pulpits”. These podiums featured domed roofs called abat-voix, sometimes known as sounding boards, that would project sound outwards. Our walnut wood pulpit canopy is a fine example of such a device (see the sketch on the last photo for an example of an installed version).
Hand-carved and hand-painted in Italy in the 1700’s, our abat-voix is roughly octagonal in shape. Each of the sides have edges with luxuriously thick step molding, alternating between stained and gilded wood. Each of the corner cornices are adorned with gilded flower carvings, although some are missing. The interior of the canopy features a gilded open sun with sinuous rays emanating all around. Each of the sides are adorned with foliate margents surrounded by scrolls, again with some losses. All the edges are bordered with a thin layer of gilding.
Although our fascinating 18th century Italian walnut pulpit canopy was designed for a church pulpit, a more practical use would be to use as a bed crown. The top side has two iron hooks for easy installation on the ceiling, and in the center of the sun is an iron hook which could be used to hold fabric.
CONDITION: Good overall condition with wear commensurate to age and use; age separations and traces of old wood worm. Loss of motif and paint in some sections.