When antiques dealer Matteo De Paolis of Navona Antiques in Los Angeles speaks of Italy, he summons up visions of a stunning countryside, sparkling seas and the freshest of food. But most arresting is his description of the history and craftsmanship of a handsome mid-nineteenth-century inlaid wood secretary he recently brought back to the United States.

De Paolis purchased the piece in Italy from a private collector living near Naples. The secretary had been in the collector’s family for generations, most likely the centerpiece of the family palazzo’s piano nobile, the main level used for entertaining by Italian nobility.

De Paolis, who was born in Rome, is clearly proud of his discovery: to find an original piece in such good condition is an extraordinary bit of luck, since today few Italian palaces still have their original furniture. “The country was hit hard by World War II, many areas are still recovering. So over the years the families have been selling their collections piece by piece. It’s very rare to find a palazzo in its original condition, never mind its contents. It’s expensive to maintain the properties, so often collections are sold off in auctions or dealers like myself.”…

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