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Antique Cabinets - Item 4154A
Gothic Dressoir Cabinet (Pair with 4154B)

4154a-gothic-cabient

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Item 4154A Gothic Dressoir Cabinet with Fenestrage or Tracery
Dimensions

Width 48; Height 65½; Depth 21¾   (in inches)

Wood Solid oak
Country France
Date Circa 1890
Description

This Gothic style cabinet, and its near twin (4154b) represent the height of 19th century enthusiasm for Gothic design focused on architectural elements evoking cathedrals and their stained glass windows.  Cabinets of this type, known as dressoirs derive from the medieval practice of making a cabinet by mounting a chest on legs, or on a table, and adding a shelf below, known as a pot board.  As the dressoir evolved into a single piece of furniture, with drawers added below the case, it took on many subtle variations such as in the number of doors and the addition of a decorative panel between them.
The fenestrage (from the French word fenêtre, meaning window) carving on the three doors of this cabinet is remarkable for it virtuosity and vitality, as well as its extraordinary detail and excellent condition. Fenestrage in Gothic furniture mimics the window patterns in cathedrals with their pointed arches and rosace designs. The left door includes a fleur-de-lys and the left and right doors feature traditionally carved heart patterns, suggesting the love of family members for each other, and their relationship with a loving God while generations of the same family gathered in the dining room.
Although not stemming from the architecture of Gothic cathedrals, the fleur-de-lys was a popular motif in Gothic furniture symbolic of the Holy Trinity, frequently hidden within the intricacy of the fenestrage or displayed prominently as in the left and right doors of this cabinet.
The cabinet has 3 doors on the front with each panel being carved differently Each door is 11 1/4" x 20 1/8", and inside each doored compartment is 17" deep, 13" wide and 20" high. Each door has its original iron hinges and key escutcheon, but only the right hand door has a functioning lock and key, the other locks, long lost.
The sides of the top are carved linen fold (plis-de-serviette) panels, and acting as corbels are multiple rosettes that appear to support the very top and the box structure of the top as well. Extending downward from the top structure are what resemble the tops of Gothic arches, that are carved so that where they meet, they become
  fleurs-de-lys. Many of these were broken, but not missing, when we bought the piece, but after many  hours of work have yielded a beautiful restoration of this exceptional detail.
There are two eight-sided columns supporting the top and there are finely detailed chain carvings up three of the sides and a kind of overlapping scale pattern (entrelacs) up two more of the sides. Only the back three sides have no carving.
The four panels at the back of the pot board depict a rare variation of the linen-fold (plis-de serviette) design used exclusively in northeastern France (Flanders).
  Each panel includes Gothic arches at top (inverted) and bottom with stylized leaves of ivy emanating from central shape. Symbolic of rebirth and eternal life, the ivy is another design motif that the 19th century creators and users of this furniture would have understood and enjoyed.  It is possible that these panels are much older, from another piece of furniture, but  integrated artfully into this cabinet. The panels on the ends, additionally have carvings of what appear to be crossed hoes, along with other unrecognizable utensils or symbols.  Perhaps these symbols relate to the occupation of the person who commissioned the piece or the area where the panels were carved.
Unusual in originals from the Gothic period, this cabinet has yet more fenestrage covering the bottom apron near the floor.
  The quatrefoils differ from those used elsewhere on the piece and are set within a pleasing, undulating framework.
 

Reference

Boccador, Jacqueline, Le Mobilier Français du Moyen Age à la Renaissance, Editions d'Art Monelle Hayot (Saint-Just-en-Chaussée, 1988); Thirion, Jacques, Le Mobilier du Moyen Age et de la Renaissance en France (Editions Faton, Dijon, 1998); Viollet-le-Duc, Eugène, Le Mobilier Médiéval (Georges Bernage, editor) (Editions Heimdal, 2003)
 

Uses

 This cabinet and its very similar #4154B are beautiful in every way, including carving quality, condition, color and size that would be an extraordinary addition to any area deserving exuberance and style, such as an office, living room or dining room. Useful for storage out of sight, in the top, the cabinet's pot board is an ideal place for a trophies, whether athletic or decorative.
 

 
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