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Cabinet thumbnail 2
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Cabinet

ca. 1630 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

Spain's outstanding contribution to the development of European furniture is the cabinet. It was known as an escritorio from about 1550, and by its more usual name, vargueño, from about 1800. Such pieces of furniture had a fall front, at which the user could write, and a series of drawers in which to store documents. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, escritorios retained their simple box-like shape. But unlike equivalent pieces made in Naples, Antwerp and Augsburg they were not fitted with secret compartments. Nevertheless, they were highly prized. They were elaborately painted, gilded or veneered with tropical hardwoods and embellished with engraved ivory or bone plaques.


Object details
Categories
Object type
Parts
This object consists of 10 parts.

  • Cabinet
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
  • Cabinet Stand
Materials and techniques
Walnut, giltwood and bone, with iron locks, handles and ornaments on a red velvet backing
Brief description
Cabinet on stand, possibly Salamanca, Spain, ca. 1630
Physical description
Cabinet on stand. The stand is of carved walnut with wrought iron nails; the flap supports terminate in the form of inverted shells. The cabinet is also of walnut. It has the outside decorated with wrought and pierced iron handles, hinges, lock, catches and escutcheons (the latter with remains of velvet backing). The handles show traces of gilding and there are six shell-headed nails on the flap.

The inside comprises ten drawers (2 concealed behind a door) and two compartments with doors all carved (some with arcading and pediments), painted with red, black and white), gilt and inlaid with ivory and with wrought iron nails for handles.
Dimensions
  • Height: 145cm
  • Width: 115.5cm
  • Depth: 46cm
From catalogue (HWD): 4ft. 9 1/2in., 3ft. 6 1/2in., 1ft. 6in.
Credit line
Bequeathed by Sir Victor Wellesley, KCMG
Object history
Bequest from Sir Victor A. H. Wellesley. RF 54/3444C

"A Spanish walnut Vaquina, the fall down front inset with velvet panels with pierced iron mounts, and with wrought iron hinges and escutcheons, the interior with eight drawers and three cupboards of architectural design, decorated in red and gilt , on stand with spirally turned and fluted legs united by a stretcher designed as a screen - 42 in. wide"
Historical context
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, and M. Paz Aguiló Alonso, El mueble en España (Madrid: Ediciones Antiqvaría, 1993), pp. 107-10, 286ff.



Comparable cabinets

Escritorio c. 1620 (105 x 62 x 40cm), Inv. 1.174 in Museo de Artes Decorativas, Madrid (M. Paz Aguiló Alonso, El mueble en España (Madrid: Ediciones Antiqvaría, 1993), no. 215.)
Subjects depicted
Summary
Spain's outstanding contribution to the development of European furniture is the cabinet. It was known as an escritorio from about 1550, and by its more usual name, vargueño, from about 1800. Such pieces of furniture had a fall front, at which the user could write, and a series of drawers in which to store documents. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, escritorios retained their simple box-like shape. But unlike equivalent pieces made in Naples, Antwerp and Augsburg they were not fitted with secret compartments. Nevertheless, they were highly prized. They were elaborately painted, gilded or veneered with tropical hardwoods and embellished with engraved ivory or bone plaques.
Bibliographic reference
Wilk, Christopher, ed. . Western Furniture 1350 to the Present Day. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996. 230p., ill. ISBN 085667463X.
Collection
Accession number
CIRC.178:1 to 10-1955

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Record createdNovember 21, 2002
Record URL
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