Origin : Hispanic work (Spain or Portugal)
Period : 17th century
Height : 190 cm
Length : 134 cm
Depth : 53 cm
The cabinet’s architectural facade opens with twelve drawers framing a portico adorned with carved ivory plates and ebony mouldings.
Upper left : Saint Anthony of Padua carrying the infant Jesus. In the centre a traditional depiction of Saint Francis of Assisi. On the right side Saint John of the Cross. Lower left : the woman carrying a lamb in her arms could be Saint Agnes. In the centre Saint Jerome holding a vanitas topped by putti holding the five Wounds of Christ. This iconography draws a link between Jerome and Francis of Assisi receiving the Stigmatas. Because he shared the same pain he was perceived as a second Christ. In the lower right corner Saint Clare of Assisi. The central door hides three red tortoiseshell and carved ivory drawers depicting hunting scenes.
Each side of the cabinet bears two pairs of twisted semi-column. On the upper part six ivory vases top an open-worked balustrade.
The richly carved cabinet’s base is adorned with godroons and a leaf-carved belt. This base is composed of five twisted columns linked by an H-shaped crossbar standing on turned wood feet.
Between the 15th and 18th century the growth and development of some European countries and cities was directly connected to the colonial politic of expansion based on the establishment of trading posts and the governance of distant lands. During thi period Spain was one of the most powerful European nations. With Flanders they virtually reigned over all the main seaways known. Of course this situation came from the discovery of the American continent during the late 15th century. It allowed Europe, and especially the Iberian Peninsula to start an extraordinary economic development.
This new land aroused the imagination like no other and for many centuries has been the theatre of European colonization. This colonization had the back up of the Roman Church eager to bring Christ to those pagan societies. This conquest, quite fast for the eastern and central parts of the continent, led to divisions of the land into provinces placed under a governor with a new society modeled after the European. A society where aristocrat, trader and craftmen settlers came to this New World to make a fortune. The many interactions between local cultures and Western culture is nowhere better expressed than through arts. Some pieces of furnitures speak to us about those crossed influences.
This is the case with the extraordinary cabinet we offer. The elaborate architectural composition is clearly inspired by Spanish, Italian or Flemmish models. The precision and the quality of the making and the materials used for inlays and decor such as ivory, ebony, tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl are particularly noteworthy.
Nowadays, among the very few other examples similar in date and style – but often less impressive – we can mention the mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell cabinet from the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston. Made in Lima, Peru during the last decades of the 17th century a central painted panel depicts Saint Anthony of Padua carying the infant Christ. A pair of Spanish cabinets showing an architectural composition from James de Rothschild’s former collection and another one – less refined in design – kept at the Museo de Historia Mexicana in Monterrey, Mexico can also be mentioned.
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