small cabinet, made of oak in a simple six-sided design, is a masterpiece of
flamboyant Gothic decoration displaying a rare combination of intricacy of
design with open tracery or fenestrage.
In ourbusiness, we see cabinets of all shapes and sizes but rarely one that evokes
such appreciation for High Gothic architecture and its influence on 19th
century craftsmen such as Camille ALBERT, to whom this piece is
attributed. While exuberant in
decoration, it is by no means overdone.
Similarly, the absence of linen-fold panels on the sides - nice
decoration but often a cliché and a simpler way to fill space - are notable for
their absence. We cannot overemphasize
how intricate and fine the carving is on this piece, taking the basics of the
Gothic vocabulary of arches, rosettes, lancets, soufflets and quatrefoils to the
nth degree of beauty and refinement.
Thefront of the cabinet is comprised of two doors, each of which closes with its
own latch. The left door is wider owing
to the central lancets, which divide the front visually, being part of that
door. Each door's design consists of a pointed
arch divided into two sub-arches, which are each filled by two open lancet
arches. Above the main arch of each
door panel is a large circular carving resembling a cathedral's rose window in
intricacy of detail, again in an openwork treatment. In accordance with medieval tradition that no two things could be
identical because only God was capable of such perfection, the two circular
designs are quite distinct. In their
richness of detail, they represent the most intricate carving we have ever encountered
on a piece of furniture. We cannot even
begin to imagine what tools were used to accomplish it and how long it must
Separatingthe front from the side panels and the side panels from one another, as well as
from the back panel, are tall pilasters topped by finials. Below the top, and crowning each of the
finials, is a frieze based on rounded, crocketed arches and clustered balls,
Theside panels, both those perpendicular to the front and those at an angle,
incorporate more tracery motifs of flowers inside soufflets and shapes
reminiscent of the boteh found in Persian rugs, all punctuated with bits of
vegetation or crockets, possibly stylized grape leaves. Again, each side panel is different from all
The top of this cabinet brings us to a mystery and possibly a unifying theme for this
piece along with the table and chairs acquired with it - the wood. The top is characterized by dark, dense oak
with splits and large knots in it.
These are not defects of recent origin but rather part and parcel of the
cabinet dating back to when it was made.
Why make such a magnificently carved cabinet out of wood with knots -
something a furniture maker would discard or use for backs and drawers? The answer, we think, lies with a special
tree. Given that we acquired all these
pieces in a city in northern France, an area prone to cyclonic windstorms
swooping off the Atlantic, our speculation is that the pieces were commissioned
from a treasured oak tree felled in one of these massive blows and preserved by
its owners, for all time, in this magnificent furniture.
Collection Bruno Perrier Haute Epoque (Catalog for Sale at Auction on April 6,
1992 at the Hôtel Drouot, Paris); 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).