Renaissance façade cabinet
Augsburg, ca 1600
Veneer: ebony, padouk, Macassar ebony; drawers: elm, oak; theatre: ash, in part stained, fruitwood; carcass: conifer, elm, oak, ash; fittings: brass, etched and fire-gilt; fire-gilt bronze Height 45.5 cm, width 115.5 cm, depth 47.5 cm
Published in: Laue, G.: The Kunstkammer. Wonders are Collectable. Kunstkammer Edition, Vol. 1, Munich 2016, pp. 8-9, 68-69, p. 118, Cat. No. 35, Fig. 47
The remarkable width of its façade at 115 cm and its unique opening mechanisms reveal this façade cabinet to be a court collector's item of the first water, beyond all doubt one of the finest pieces of Augsburg cabinet-making from about 1600. The first unique feature of this façade cabinet is that all the doors are articulated in two panels each in front view and the panels are fitted with double hinges, hence can be opened towards the front or the back. Typical of Augsburg cabinets is the beautifully worked ebony veneer, which is decorated on the outside with simple marquetry of dark exotic woods as well as cartouches in relief and inside is designed with architectural motifs. However, the sophisticated double hinges and the consummately wrought, etched and fire-gilt fittings are characteristic of the quality attained in Augsburg luxury wares. Noteworthy in this connection are the leonine masks that serve as drawer pulls and are encountered on comparable Augsburg furniture from ca 1600. The four folding doors open to reveal a broad façade of drawers with aediculae arranged at regular intervals, curved pediments, round-arched alcoves and pilasters that transform the cabinet into a model of palace architecture. The secret drawers and compartments hidden in several unsuspected spots are another typical Augsburg feature. The central door of the drawer façade opens to reveal a miniature theatre, decorated with simple intarsia in geometric patterns. Two secret doors are concealed behind each of the four round-arched alcoves that articulate the drawer fronts: when the drawer to the left of the alcove is pulled out to its full extent, the alcove wall can be pushed aside to permit access to secret compartments stacked one above the other.
Comparable strongly architecturally articulated cabinets with ebony veneer that were made in Augsburg ca 1600 are in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum in Munich, the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm and the Olbricht Collection in Essen/Berlin. None of those cabinets, however, boasts the unusual proportions and sophisticated opening mechanisms that make this large façade cabinet a peerless piece of Renaissance Kunstkammer furniture.