cabinet was purchased with 5112A as part of a set of dining room
furniture. Although it is exuberant in
its tracery and heraldry, it does not appear to have been made by the same
artist as 5112A. That is not to say
that it is not equally brilliant and unique - just smaller and different. If there is a theme uniting the pieces and giving a clue to their provenance,
it could be animals - dogs on 5112A and roosters on this piece. Perhaps the pieces came from a country
estate where the owners lived closer to nature than their citified counterparts.
Inoverall shape, the cabinet is a dressoir - a central case above an open pot
board -- but more compact and narrow
than the typical dressoir. The central
case is hexagonal in shape, following the late Gothic design favoring more
angles and patterns rather than the squared-off box design from an earlier
period when the dressoir first evolved from a chest placed on a table.
Theornamentation of the lone door is striking for the elaborate nature of the
carving, the heraldry, and, most of all, the shape of the carved panel. In Gothic design it is highly unusual to
find asymmetry. Balance and equivalence
were central to belief as well as artistry.
So to find a panel extending out to the left over the door's closure and
a separate, tiny panel below the closure, is unprecedented in pieces we have
offered. The central ogive arch is also
distinctive in that it is short and squat with crockets on either side which
are much larger than the proportions seen on typical arches. The point of the arch terminates in a leaf
pattern, mimicking the crocketing. It
extends out from the plane of the tracery panel in what is also a highly
Anintriguing aspect of this central door is the heraldry - a crest with two
roosters. The rooster is not uncommon
in heraldry, but should not be confused with other fowl, such as chickens, in
general, or hens. Traditionally,
roosters are associated with dawn but also with fighting to the death. They are symbols of courage and
perseverance, combative and stalwart members of the animal kingdom accorded
mystical powers to ward off disease and renowned for fearless confrontations
with serpents and lions. In medieval
lore, the cock's crow was believed to force the demons of the night back into
the shadows and rooster became symbolic of the Resurrection. Roosters were depicted in a number of French
Gothic religious buildings, including a lively and richly detailed carving of a
cock over the north door of the Cathedral at Metz (see photo, below).
In this crest, it is evident that the fowl are roosters, owing to the cock's comb and
the elaborate feathers. They stand on a
chevron, derived from the French for "rafter," a heraldic symbol of
protection derived from the pointed shape of roofs. Above the roosters is a large five-pointed star. In heraldry, the star can be the symbol of
the third son in a family or can reflect, more generally, honor and
achievement. The roosters are facing
each other and appear to be in combat mode - their beaks open and their feet
touching - or are they engaged in some elaborate dance under Venus, the Morning
Star, as they prepare to announce the sun's arrival and the start of a new
day? We can only speculate. While we found a crest incorporating the
three elements of rooster, star, and chevron, connected with a family from
central France, it did not involve two roosters and the lay-out was
different. Nevertheless, this crest
remains an enchanting aspect of this cabinet.
Thehardware is original and the door closure is particularly ornate, adding a
grand gesture to the unusual and captivating panels comprising the door.
Abovethe central case is an open shelf backed by three panels of fenestrage or
tracery. The two outer ones are
identical and the middle panel incorporates another crest, but one whose
symbolism we have yet to decipher. As
in the door panel, the crocketing on the arches is unusually large but graceful
in its depiction of foliage. The base of
lancet arches is repeated in the background above the top of the arches. Crowning the cabinet is a rail of open
tracery based on interlocking half-moon shapes divided into elliptical
subsets. The two finials, framing and
projecting above the rail, have been replaced. Overall, the carving is finely detailed and deftly executed despite
the wood being hard, solid oak rather than the somewhat more receptive walnut
preferred for the elaborate tracery of Flamboyant Gothic furniture.
Thesmall drawer below the central case is intricately carved in a remarkable
pattern involving alternating ellipses of tracery within curved rather than
perpendicular shapes. Other elaborate
patterns of tracery are included on the side panels of the central case,
including a panel incorporating a fleur-de-lys. That the sides are so elaborately and uniquely executed is
further proof that the cabinet was an important commission for the
cabinet-maker who could otherwise have taken short-cuts using less elaborate
designs for the sides and top.
Justbelow the central case, framing the pot board, are two poignés or fist-shaped
clusters of acanthus leaves. They
incorporate the motifs of the leaves that form the crocketing on the arches and
lend a unifying theme to the overall ornamentation. The pot board itself is unadorned save for two tall and elegant
plis-de-serviette panels comprising the back of the board.
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).