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Cabinet

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    1861-1867 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hilaire (designer)
    Pasti (designer)
    Néviller (designer)
    Firm of Henri-Auguste Fourdinois (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Ebony, partly veneered on oak, with inlay and carved decoration in box, lime, holly, pear, walnut, mahogany and hardstones, and marble plaques

  • Museum number:

    721:1 to 25-1869

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The firm of Fourdinois first exhibited this cabinet at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1867. Several reviews hailed it as the masterpiece of the exhibition, and it was awarded the Grand Prix. The newly founded South Kensington Museum (later the V&A) bought the cabinet for £2,750. This was a much higher price than the curators had paid for most other antique pieces. What attracted them was its exceptional craftsmanship. They hoped it would inspire British designers and makers. The makers used a new type of inlay on this cabinet, where the inlaid wood was also finely carved.

Physical description

Cabinet on stand, veneered in ebony and inlaid with carved panels of box, limewood, holly, pear, walnut and mahogany and with panels of hardstone, and set with carved figures in box

Place of Origin

Paris (made)

Date

1861-1867 (made)

Artist/maker

Hilaire (designer)
Pasti (designer)
Néviller (designer)
Firm of Henri-Auguste Fourdinois (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Ebony, partly veneered on oak, with inlay and carved decoration in box, lime, holly, pear, walnut, mahogany and hardstones, and marble plaques

Dimensions

Height: 249 cm, Width: 155 cm, Depth: 52 cm

Object history note

Purchased from the 1867 Paris Exhibition, where it had won the Grand Prix of the exhibition. The purchase price was £2,800, which contrasts with the price paid for the 17th-century ebony cabinet (inv. no. 1651-1856) in the following year, which cost £132. Henri-Auguste Fourdinois, of 46 rue Amelot, Paris, had patented his new form of inlay in 1864. The wood to be inlaid was cut thicker than the wood panel into which it was to be inlaid, so that the recess for it was cut right through the ground panel, which meant that the inlaid work could not move with changes in heat and humidity. The extra thickness was then carved with further detail, rather than the engraving that was used for inlays or marquetry of veneers.

A blotter cover of closely similar design is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum, New York (inv. 1997.274). Another panel is in the collections of the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapesth.

Descriptive line

Cabinet on stand, ebony, partly veneered on oak with carved and inlaid decoration, made by the firm of Henri-Auguste Fourdinois, Paris, 1861-7

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

Wilk, Christopher, ed. . Western Furniture 1350 to the Present Day. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996. 230p., ill. ISBN 085667463X.
Adamson G., “The Labor of Division: Cabinetmaking and the Production of Knowledge”, in Cook H.J. – Meyers A.R.W. – Smith P.H. (eds.), Ways of Making and Knowing: The Material Culture of Empirical Knowledge (Ann Arbor: 2014) 243–279, fig. 18
Maison, Marc, in collabortin with Emmanuelle Arnauld, Masterpieces of Marquetry in the 19th Century. Patents (Dijon: Editions Faton, 2012), pp. 46-59, this cabinet illustrated on pp. 54-5 and the sample panel on p.52. The book publishes the full text of Fourdinois's patents, but these are not translated from the French.
Art & Design in Europe and America 1800-1900. Introduction by Simon Jervis (London: The Herbert Press, 1987), pp. 110-11
Baker, Malcolm, and Brenda Richardson (eds.), A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications, 1999.

Labels and date

Europe and America 1800-1900, room 101

CABINET ON STAND
1861-7
Shown at the International Exhibition, Paris, 1867

Fourdinois invented a new inlay technique, in which different woods extended right through the panels so they could be deeply carved. In recognition of its technical excellence, this cabinet was given the Grand Prix. It cost the Museum an enormous sum, much more than any antique exhibit at the time.

France, Paris; designed and made in the workshops of Henri-Auguste Fourdinois; figures designed by Hilaire and Pasti; ornaments designed by Nevilller
Ebony, with solid inlay of various woods; plaques of marble

Bought at the exhibition for £2750
[05/08/2015]
CABINET

Manufacturer: Henri-Auguste Fourdinois (1830-1907)
Paris: 1861-1867
Ebony with solid inlay of box, lime, holly, pear, walnut, mahogany and marble plaques

721-1869

'American and European Art and Design 1800-1900'

This extraordinary cabinet was purchased from the Paris 1867 Exhibition for £2,750. Henri-Auguste Fourdinois, who took over his father's celebrated firm in that year, developed the technique of solid inlay in which the carved ornaments are not applied but extend throught the full thickness of their ebony background. The figures were designed by Hilaire and Pasti, the ornaments by Neviller. The cabinet was awarded the Grand Prix of the Exhibition. [1987-2006]
Europe and America 1800-1900, room 101

CABINET ON STAND
1861-7
Shown at the International Exhibition, Paris, 1867

France, Paris; designed and made in the workshops of Henri-Auguste Fourdinois; figures designed by Hilaire and Pasti; ornaments designed by Neviller

Ebony, with solid inlay of box, lime, holly, pear, walnut and mahogany; plaques of marble

Bought at the exhibition for £2750
Museum no. 721-1869

The exhibition jury awarded this cabinet the Grand Prix, in recognition of its superlative technical quality. Henri-Auguste Fourdinois had invented a new inlay technique, in which different woods extended right through the panels so they could be deeply carved. The Museum paid an enormous sum for the cabinet, much more than it had yet paid for any antique exhibit. [2006]

Materials

Oak; Ebony; Boxwood; Limewood; Holly; Pearwood; Walnut; Mahogany; Marble

Techniques

Carving; Inlaid; Veneered

Categories

Furniture; Black History

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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