In the Southern Netherlands of the seventeenth century both the Fine Arts and the Decorative Arts blossomed. With well-established ports in the cities of Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent, the Low Counties became the most important transit region in Europe for the export of local works of art and artisan products and the import of luxury products and valuables. Especially desirable were the highly ornamental lacquer boxes and cabinets imported from the Orient, richly inlaid with rare woods and intricate mother-of-pearl motives1. As the demand for these sumptuous items increased, Flemish craftsmen – especially in the city of Antwerp – mastered the skills and techniques of lacquer work and created their own tradition, resulting in a unique form of Flemish lacquer Art. These artist didn't merely imitate the Oriental lacquer decoration, but designed a particular and unequalled lacquer style, of which the present cabinet-on-stand is a fine and rare example.
Preserved in an exceptional condition, this extraordinary and important cabinet-on-stand is veneered with ebony, tortoiseshell and inlaid lacquer, over a core and interior framework constructed out of oak and soft wood. The cabinet is placed on its original stand, made out of ebony veneered wood, tortoiseshell and lacquer. Both the cabinet and the stand are ornamented with polychrome lacquer composite known as laque incrusté, or as lacquer marquetry. In this typically Flemish type of ornamentation, tortoiseshell veneered cabinets are highlighted with a particular type of lacquer decoration, modelled after the above mentioned Oriental lacquer work, but also inspired by the Italian scagliola art2. The laque incrusté technique consists of applying a coloured substance of lacquer made out of a blend of bees' wax, shellac or other various colouring agents3 and tiny fragments of marble and mother-of-pearl4. When polished, the surface with its scattered chips of marble and mother-of-pearl imitates namban lacquer5, which was made in Japan for the export market.
The tortoiseshell veneers6 applied in the present cabinet are set over a red composition, with ivory and ebony stringing. The cabinet is applied with its original mouldings of refined gilded brass and strips of gilded copper. The rectangular upper-body of the cabinet incorporates two banks of five drawers to each side of an architectural aedicule7. The corpus of each drawer is constructed out of peltogyne wood, also known as amaranth. The drawer fronts are framed within an ebony ripple moulding and veneered with a tortoiseshell oval set against a red ground in its centre, flanked by lacquer decorations with scrolls of coloured marble composite and chips of mother-of-pearl. The centre of each drawer front is applied with a gilded brass ornamented lock plate. The shrine-shaped aedicule consists of two double doors and incorporates an upper- and a lower drawer, concealed by an overall architectural design. The upper draw features a fronton8, with in its centre an oval panel placed in a gilded brass cartouche with guirlandes at both sides, crowned by a broken tympanum or pediment9, flanked at eacht side by a gilded brass prancing Pegasus10. The doors are decorated with half-round pediments, each applied with a brass shell-shaped ornament, over an oval cartouche, flanked by two brass dolphins. Under the arch-shaped pattern of inlaid ivory, a large brass shall-ornament with symmetrical guirlandes is placed. In the middle and on either side of the doors stand impressive caryatides11 representing Atlantid hemi-figures of Tritons12, placed on square-cut baluster-shaped columns, embossed with gilded brass ornaments. On the lower register, these columns continue into three scrolling volutes-shaped consoles, the middle one containing the lock of the hidden drawer. In between the consoles two oval tortoiseshell high-relief cabochons are set in a rectangular gilded brass cartouche of scrolling foliage. The whole of the exterior of the upper-body is veneered in ebony and in tortoiseshell set against red composition, with mounts of gilded brass. Interestingly, the ornaments applied on the aedicule, featuring Pegasuses, shell-shaped ornaments, dolphins and Tritons, all fit within the same nautical narrative and even the employed materials such as tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl could be associated with this specific theme13.
The double doors of the aedicule open on gilded parliament hinges14 to reveal the so-called ‘perspective’, in contemporary sources referred to as ‘prospectiefke’15: a mirrored architectural interior with chequered floor, created to suggest the illusion of space. The inside of the each door is veneered with two square panels, displaying a rectangular geometric pattern in ebony and rosewood. This double-arched theatrical interior is flanked by two tortoiseshell veneered Corinthian pillars, adorned with elaborate gilded brass capitals, decorated with acanthus leaves and scrolls. In between the two pillars, a small inner drawer with ripple moulding – decorated in a similar manner to the outer drawers, yet inlaid with two octagon tortoiseshell plaques – forms the base of the floor of the ‘perspective’. Its arched mirror panels, which follow a relatively complex multi-faceted design allowing various viewpoints simultaneously16, are separated by gilded wooden columns.
The sides of the cabinet are veneered with two panels of square-shaped ornaments, against an ebony-veneered ground. Each square centres a vertically extended octagonal panel of red-backed tortoiseshell, outlined with ivory stringing and surrounded by four panels of laque incrusté scattered with chips of mother-of-pearl and multi-coloured marble. These spandrels are inlaid with composite of patterns of scrolling foliage and volutes, with four ornaments in the outer corners and two in the middle, in between the panels.
The lower-body of the piece is formed by its original stand, consisting of a frieze raised on eight leggs, and constructed out of ebony, oak and soft wood, with decorative veneers of tortoiseshell, ebony veneer and lacquer inlay. The upper-part of the stand consists of a frieze containing three drawers – which are decorated with the same ebony ripple moulding and veneer of tortoiseshell set against a red ground in its centre, flanked by lacquer decorations with with same patters as on the upper-body – separated by four volute-shaped consoles, applied with gilded brass mountings to the front, with two corresponding consoles at both sides, with two lacquer and tortoiseshell panels in between. The frieze is supported by eight legs, with four twisted legs standing on baluster feet in the front and four rectangular at the back. The four legs in the front – set off with a gilded brass cylinder mounting at the top and ending in a similar gilded brass base – follow the design of the so-called Solomonic column17, characterized by a spiralling twisting shaft. The legs are joined together by a horizontal sheet, applied with panels of marquetry in geometrical patterns.
12 000 €
Price : on request
Price : on request