Late 16th-early 17th c.
Walnut, marble, brass
223.5 x 104.5 x 43 cm
Gift of Mrs. Charles F. Martin, inv. 1956.Df.6a-e
Decorative Arts and Design
Two-tiered cabinets illustrate the flowering of the French Renaissance in the decorative arts. Their form reflects the architecture of the period in the incorporation of pediments, cornices, friezes, consoles and columns. Many such pieces originated in sixteenth-century Parisian workshops on the Île-de-France. The strong Italian influence, evident in the design of works from the School of Fontainebleau region in the early sixteenth century, is still to be found in the decoration of this later example, with its inlaid marble plaques and panels elaborately carved in low relief. The wood used is walnut, as was common for quality furniture of that time. Walnut is easy to carve, and its grain, colour and sheen when polished are pleasing to the eye. The front of this piece is a display of allegorical sculpture, characteristic of sixteenth-century French cabinets. The female figures of the upper door panels symbolize Summer and Autumn. The lower panels' depictions of the elements Water and Fire are based on engravings by Hendrick Goltzius from 1586. The smaller panels are finely carved with animal motifs, masks, reclining nymphs, sphinxes and other fantastic creatures. This model of cabinet remained in fashion into the first years of the seventeenth century.