M. Markley Antiques
Antique Cabinets - Item 5132
down for additional photos -- difficulties of photographing
with flash have accounted for the variation in hues, but
the photo above most accurately reflects the color)
Cabinet or Argenterie
Width 45½, Height 79, Depth
We love cabinets
in this design, the dressoir, with their breadth and their assertiveness. With a case for storage as the central part,
there is display space above and occasionally that comes with a highly
decorated back, such as this one has.
There is always display space below, comprised of the “pot-board” with
decorative plis-de-serviette panels as the theme of the carving at the
design, this dressoir is somewhat shorter in terms of the top of the case and
the distance between the bottom of the case and the pot-board. The height of the top of the case gives this
cabinet some resemblance to a dessert, the marble-topped cabinet used to
display (and keep cool) desserts in the dining room, but this time with a much
taller back. Given the beauty of the
Gothic fenestrage or tracery, the dressoir heritage remains intact but the
dimensions make it more practical for modern dining practices.
What made this
dressoir stand out for us was the beauty of the wood and the masterful
carving. Most dressoirs we run across
from the second half of the 19th century are made of oak, like their medieval
forebears up until the late or flamboyant Gothic period). And while the patina is unfailingly luscious,
the carving is never as detailed and exquisite as when the cabinet is of
walnut. Less hard than oak, walnut lends
itself to ornate and highly detailed carving that compels the eye to inspect
every delicious detail. This cabinet is
a veritable banquet of tracery, including on the high back above the case and
even on the sides which, in the spirit of time and money, were often left
The tracery on
the two doors of the cabinet is meant to be the focus of attention. Each is based on two broad arches in the
S-shaped ogive design characteristic of the flamboyant Gothic, complete with
stylized flame (from which the term flamboyant was derived) that has morphed
into an oak leaf at the culmination of the arch. Filling in the gaps between the tops of the
arches is a combination of intricately carved mouchettes (elliptical designs)
and abbreviated lancet arches.
enigma about this design is why the artist has placed three acorns inside each
of the four arches on the front doors, just at the point where the sides of the
arch swoop upward toward the pinnacle.
Why the symbol of the oak tree on a cabinet made of walnut? Other oak themes abound elsewhere (as
mentioned in the previous paragraph) including the crocketing on either side of
each ogive arch.
theme is the blossom or flower found in quatrefoils on the doors, just below
the acorns, and uniting the tops of the lancet arches in the lower part of each
ogive arch. A variation on this
blossom-in-quatrefoil-above-lancet-arch theme provides the decoration for the
back of the upper part of the cabinet and for the sides of the case. The quatrefoil also plays a role in the
decoration of the two drawers above the cabinet’s doors, echoed in the bands on
the sides of the cabinet.
The top of the
cabinet is crowned by rhythmic shapes of open tracery that is mimicked in the
hardware adorning the top and bottom of the two doors. Finials in the form of pilasters complete the
decoration of the case, and frame either side of the pair of doors. Free-standing finials, complete with
crocketing, stand like sentinels atop the back of the cabinet.
adorned, the lower part of the cabinet is no slouch. Intricately carved diagonal designs grace the
pilasters forming the front support for the case. Ornamenting the top corners of the pot-board
are triangular shapes in open tracery.
The horizontal surface
comprising the top of the case is a richly grained walnut. A circular mark and a small dark spot are
shown in the photos below. We maintain
such evidences of use as is, leaving it up to the buyer to decide if they add
character or if efforts should be made to alter them.
Over all, this is a
magnificent example of the furniture maker’s zeal for Gothic decoration and a
feast for the eyes both in terms of the magnificent carving and the rich patina
of the walnut.
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).
This cabinet is an ideal piece for a dining room or kitchen. With its rail on the top for displaying
plates (but, please don’t obscure the fenestrage!) and the pot-board below for
vases and bowls, it is ideal for showing off collections while also providing a
horizontal surface for dishes from which guests can help themselves and get a
closer look at the magnificent walnut and the carving.