The son of Gilardo Maggiolini and Caterina Cavalleri, Giuseppe worked alongside his father, a forester, for the Cistercian monks at the monastery of Sant’Ambrogio della Vittoria and was then apprenticed to a carpenter. Having opened his first shop next to the church of Santi Gervasio e Protasio some year later, he married Antonia Vignati in 1757. Francesco, their only child, was born in 1758.
According both to Giuseppe Maggiolini’s biographer and to Don Giacomo Antonio Mezzanzanica, who inherited his business, the painter Giuseppe Levati discovered the highly talented carpenter by chance in 1765 while strolling through Parabiago in the company of Count Pompeo Litta. Maggiolini was commissioned on the spot to make a chest of drawers to drawings by the painter for Villa Litta, the Count’s mansion at Lainate. The finished work proved far superior in terms of craftsmanship to the initial design.
On the occasion of the wedding of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, son of the Empress Maria Theresa, to Maria Beatrice d’Este, Giuseppe Piermarini commissioned Maggiolini in 1771 to create precious inlaid floors for the royal palace within the framework of a project to renovate all of the archducal residences in Lombardy and bring them into line with the “modern” Louis XVI style imported from France. While the floors have unfortunately been lost, the skill displayed by Maggiolini was such that the Archduke made him the official wood carver of the Habsburg court.
It was again for the Austrian rulers that he produced the floors and decorations as well as some of the furniture for the Villa Reale in Monza in 1777.
Now famous, he worked for the most important Milanese families and most of the European courts, specialising in Neoclassical furnishings characterised by a particular form of inlaid decoration obtained by combining at least 86 different types of wood and designs for mythological and allegorical subjects or chinoiserie provided by the leading artists of the time, including Lavati, Appiani, Cantaluppi and Gerli.
Despite his fame and success, Maggiolini always kept up his shop in Parabiago.
His patron the Archduke Ferdinand was ousted in 1796 by French revolutionaries and the Neoclassical vogue gave way with the advent of Napoleon to the new Empire style characterised by the abundant use of gilded bronze and mahogany in furnishing. Though reluctant, Maggiolini found himself obliged to adapt his firm’s production to the new French fashion. In connection with Napoleon’s coronation in Milan, he was commissioned in 1805 to produce a desk for the imperial chamber in just eight days. The new emperor was so impressed by the skill of the cabinetmaker from Parabiago that he invited him to go and work for the Bonaparte family. This arrangement lasted until 1809, when he left the court of his own volition due to his increasing aversion to the French regime. Giuseppe Maggiolini died at the age of 76, leaving the firm in the hands of his son Francesco and his pupil Cherubino Mezzanzanica.