Lot 19
  • 19

An Italian gilt-bronze mounted ebony and ebonised pietre dure and mother-of-pearl inlaid cabinet on stand the cabinet part 18th century, the panels circa 1700, the stand late 19th century

30,000 - 50,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Ebony, mother-of-pearl, gilt-bronze, marble
  • the cabinet: 76cm. high, 100cm. wide, 37cm. deep; the stand: 86cm. high, 111cm. wide, 42.5cm. deep;
the architectural front with ten drawers, each inset with two pietra dura panels with fruiting stems, tulips and vases, the central compartment with a door with a pietra dura panel depicting Venus, flanked by alabaster columns and with mother-of-pearl inlaid panels, the top with vase finials and associated gilt-bronze armorial crest, on a breakfront ebonised and carved giltwood stand

Catalogue Note

Splendid ebony cabinets, elaborately conceived to display costly Florenine pietre dure panels from the Medici workshops, were mainly produced in Florence and Rome, and favoured by a growing, and increasingly international, range of wealthy patrons. The precious mosaics of marbles and hard stones on the present example well represent the princely magnificence stemming from the Opificio delle pietre dure, founded in 1588 by Grand Duke Ferdinand I de' Medici (1549-1609), the flowers evoking the Arcadian concept of Ver perpetuum, or perpetual spring.  The present cabinet is unusual not only in combining pietra dura with mother-of-pearl, but also in focusing on fruit, instead of the more common perched birds, or flowers. The generous employ of mother-of-pearl would appear to suggest a Northern European origin.

In the upper tier of drawers this cabinet also incorporates two pietra dure panels with (Dutch) tulips. One of the most interesting and remarkable legacies of the "Tulip Mania", the astonishing speculation in tulip bulbs which swept Holland in the 1630s are the so-called "Tulip Books", albums of watercolours solely or mainly depicting tulips.  Originally, these tulip books were made as stock catalogues for bulb dealers or sale catalogues for bulb auctions, but even after the dramatic collapse in bulb prices in early 1637, after which the expense of making such a lavish album of watercolours for those purposes could no longer be justified, they remained popular. The collapse of the market for tulips didn’t diminish the Dutch and also international appetite for tulips – in art, at least.  Indeed, many of the most popular prototypes from the 1630s continued to be copied well into the 18th century and the present panels seem to derive from one of these Dutch examples.