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Cabinet

  • Place of origin:

    Spain (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1630 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Walnut, giltwood and ivory (with inked decorations), the iron locks, handles and ornaments on red velvet panels.

  • Museum number:

    1073:1, 2-1871

  • Gallery location:

    Ironwork, Room 114e, case 19N []

Physical description

Cabinet with fall front ornamented with pierced iron plates, containing a central door of architectural design concealing nine inner drawerss, and twelve other drawers, the fronts of which are arcaded and decorated with raised diaper ornament of ivory (with inked decoration), panelled in moresque style, coloured and gilt. The locks, handles and clamps of pierced and wrought iron.

Acquired with an ensuite lower part consisting of a cupboard and two drawers carved in a similar way (deaccessioned).

Place of Origin

Spain (made)

Date

ca. 1630 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Walnut, giltwood and ivory (with inked decorations), the iron locks, handles and ornaments on red velvet panels.

Dimensions

Height: 150 cm, Width: 113 cm, Depth: 54 cm

Object history note

Acquired for £20 from Senor Riano, per Weisweiller & Bauer, Madrid. The base 1073A-1871 was deaccessioned, RP/1966/3207.

Historical context note

On the development of this type of cabinet see Mª Paz Aguiló Alonso, Escritorios y bargueños españoles - Spanish bargueños and writing chests (Ministerio de Economia y Empresa, 2018) [bilingual edition], pp.49-54

Descriptive line

Cabinet, walnut, giltwood and ivory with iron mounts on velvet backing, four metal keys, Spain, around 1630

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Eric Mercer, The Social History of the Decorative Arts - Furniture 700-1700 (London, 1969), plate 119
Ancient and Modern Furniture & Woodwork in the South Kensington Museum, described with an introduction by John Hungerford Pollen, (London, 1874), pp. 73-74.

Cabinet. Walnut wood, in two parts, the upper with falling front, ornamented with pierced iron plates, the interior containing a central door of architectural design, concealing nine inner drawers, and twelve other drawers, the fronts of which are arcaded and decorated with raised ornament of ivory, panelled in Moresque style, coloured and gilt after the manner known as “Vargueño " (from the village of Vargas, in the province of Toledo); the lock, handles, and clamps of wrought and pierced iron. The lower part, with a cupboard and two drawers, is carved with similar forms.

Spanish (Vargas). 16th century.

Upper part, H. 2 ft. 2 in., L. 3 ft. 7 in., W. 17 3/8 in.

Lower part, H. 2 ft. 7 ¼ in., L. 3 ft. 7 ½ in., W. 17 ½ in.

Bought, 20l.

The upper portion of this curious cabinet is a plain box the front of which falls and rests on pieces drawn out of the lower part. It is mounted with nine pierced arabesque iron plates, in which a lion can be traced, and with raised borders which are fastened down with red cloth by ornamental nails. The central plate is hexagonal and contains the lock scutcheon into which fits a heavy hasp with two loops. The hasp is decorated with massive balusters, and four plates form scutcheons for four bolts to the sides. The hasps and bolts are similar to those on Museum No. 244-1864. Five square plates surround the central lock piece. The whole front is more or less covered in this way. Hooks and eyes at the top angles complete the fastenings, and wrought swing handles, mounted on pierced plates like those of the front, are fastened to the sides of both the upper and the lower part.

Inside there is a central door with projecting columns on brackets and a pedimental top. Another inner door has a similar front, but smaller. The twelve larger drawers have two small arches on the end of each front on twisted ivory columns that are in complete relief from the front itself.
The ornamental panels between these are in the form of a lozenge with projecting cusps or half-circles between the points, and the lozenge is subdivided into nine small parts alternately prominent and sunk. Little painted flowers and leaves on ivory plates decorate these subdivisions. The space behind the tiny colonnades is ornamented with bold zig-zag indentations and solidly gilt.

The flowers are in gay colours on the ivory ground, and the whole effect is bright and lively, like the Tudor colour ornamentation in our own country. The drawer handles are scallop shells in iron. The metal has been gilt, but the gold remains only in small portions.

Pl.30, p.7
Gardner, John Starkie. Ironwork. Part 2: Continental ironwork of the renaissance and later periods. London, 1896.
Juan F. Riaño, Classified and Descriptive Catalogue of the Art Objects of Spanish Production in the South Kensington Museum. (London, 1872), xii.
“Those [cabinets, “bufetes,” of such varied forms and materials which were so much the fashion in the 16th and 17th centuries] most characteristic of Spain are such as are called “Varguenos,” which follow the tradition of the school to which the reliquary above mentioned belongs. These cabinets are decorated outside with fine ironwork, and inside with columns of bone painted and gilt. At Kensington there is a good specimen of one of these cabinets, No. 1073 (p.5).”

P.5 "Cabinet. Walnut wood, in two parts, the upper with falling front, ornamented with pierced iron plates, the interior containing a central door of architectural design, concealing nine inner drawers, and twelve other drawers, the fronts of which are arcaded and decorated with raised diaper ornament of ivory, panelled in Moresque style, coloured and gilt, after the manner known as “Vargueño " (from the village of Vargas, in the province of Toledo); the lock, handles, and clamps of wrought and pierced iron. The lower part, with a cupboard and two drawers, is carved in a similar way.
Spanish (Vargas), 16th centy. [dims.]
South Kensington Museum, John Charles Robinson, J. C Robinson, and R. Clay, Sons and Taylor. 1881. Catalogue of the Special Loan Exhibition of Spanish and Portuguese Ornamental Art: South Kensington Museum, 1881. London: Chapman & Hall, p.121
Champeaux, Alfred De: Le Meuble. II. XVIIe, XVIIIe et XIXe Siècles. Paris: Societé Français d'Editions d'Art, 1885, illustrated as fig.2, p. 11

Labels and date

CABINET (VARGUENO)
Walnut, giltwood and ivory, iron mounts on a velvet backing
Spain; around 1630, the stand around 1850

The cabinet served as a writing desk, with drawers for papers and implements. Although they were known to have originally had 'feet', almost all surviving varguenos, including this one, have stands that were made in the 19th century. The iron locks, handles and ornaments are shown off against panels of red velvet. The inside is gilded and decorated with ivory patterned with Indian ink.

Museum No. 1073&A-1871 [07/1994]

Materials

Walnut; Giltwood; Iron; Velvet; Ivory; Indian ink

Categories

Woodwork; Metalwork; Ironwork; Furniture; Containers; Medieval and renaissance

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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