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The man who built a table out of human bodyparts

A newspaper illustration of Sagatti's table

One of the strangest pieces of furniture ever created was exhibited at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia in 1886. An artist named Giuseppe Sagatti spent several years constructing the macabre piece-- a table assembled from the bodyparts of over 100 corpses.

Sagatti's table featured a circular top resting upon a pedestal with four claw feet. The tabletop, which measured three feet in diameter, presented the appearance of marble though, in reality, was composed of human hearts, livers, muscles and intestines.

Sagatti never lived to see his bizarre table on display; he had been dead for fifty years prior to the table's arrival to Philadelphia. He committed suicide immediately after the table was completed. The table was then put on display at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, Italy.

The artist spent several years perfecting a secret method of petrification, a process that entailed embalming the human remains and immersing them in a silica bath. Sagatti obtained these corpses from a local hospital and began his bizarre project with the table's pedestal, by pressing intestines into shape and then petrifying them. The clawed feet were comprised of hearts, livers and lungs and made to retain the appearance of living flesh.

However, perhaps the most remarkable detail was Giuseppe Sagatti's use of ears and eyeballs for ornamentation. One hundred pairs of eyes and an equal number of ears were artistically arranged around the tabletop's edges. One particular set of eyes used in the creation of table later resulted in the strange death of the table's first owner.

The Curse of Sagatti's Table

Before the table found a place in the museum of the Palazzo Pitti, it was in the possession of an Italian nobleman named Giacomo Riccabocca, who used the table as the central piece of furniture in his drawing room, where it both delighted and horrified dozens of guests. One Christmas Day, Riccabocco invited several friends to his house and in the evening they all gathered around Sagatti's table to play card games.

According to legend, the nobleman played terribly that evening. He lost hand after hand, seemingly mesmerized by one particular pair of highly-polished eyeballs. Growing pale, he excused himself in order to collect his wits and returned to the table a few minutes later. But still his eyes were fixated upon the same pair of eyeballs and Riccabocca continued to lose money with each hand. At one point a guest even implored the nobleman to change his seat, claiming that it must be unlucky. Riccabocca refused.

When the guest attempted to cover the pair of eyes which had been mesmerizing Riccabocca, the nobleman grew irate and demanded that the guest uncover them. A short while later he stood up, declared that the eyeballs were driving him mad and went over to the wall to retrieve an antique dagger that he had hung up as a display. "I escape them at last!" he said, plunging the dagger into his chest. It was the nobleman's heirs who later donated the ghastly table to the Palazzo Pitti. 

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