View full screen - View 1 of Lot 17. A Dutch ebony and pressed baleen casket, Amsterdam, mid-17th century.
17

A Dutch ebony and pressed baleen casket, Amsterdam, mid-17th century

A Dutch ebony and pressed baleen casket, Amsterdam, mid-17th century

A Dutch ebony and pressed baleen casket, Amsterdam, mid-17th century

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A Dutch ebony and pressed baleen casket, Amsterdam, mid-17th century


the panelled and moulded casket veneered on oak, the hinged lid with brass carrying handle and hinges, the front mounted with a later silver armorial mount with engraved text De Staten van Holland en West Vriesland 1648 between two raised decorative panels, the lid, sides and back each with one panel, all panels inset with ebonised pressed baleen plaques in ‘kwab’ style depicting a putto with dolphins, a flower or various animals within foliage, the right side with a sliding panel enclosing a small hidden drawer

14cm. high, 17.8cm. wide, 12cm. deep, 5½in., 7in., 4¾in.

The present lot is in very good restored condition and it is ready to be placed. The interior walls are protected with later balsa wood sheets lined with fabric, which are easily removable. It shows signs of a former lock (seen from the front and back). The back panels with some wear and several cracks. The later ball feet with marks and indentations, one with losses filled with resin.


The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colors and shades which are different to the lot's actual color and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation. The condition report is a statement of opinion only. For that reason, the condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE/BUSINESS APPLICABLE TO THE RESPECTIVE SALE.

This lot contains endangered species. Sotheby's recommends that buyers check with their own government regarding any importation requirements prior to placing a bid. For example, US regulations restrict or prohibit the import of certain items to protect wildlife conservation. Please note that Sotheby's will not assist buyers with the shipment of this lot to the US. A buyer's inability to export or import these lots cannot justify a delay in payment or sale cancellation.
Collection de Boer-Steunenberg, Netherlands
Breebaart, I., G. van Gerwen, Pressed baleen and fan-shaped ripple mouldings by Herman Doomer, in: Eleventh international Symposium on Wood and Furniture Conservation, Amsterdam 9-10 November 2012, p. 65, ill. 12.

RELATED LITERATURE


Baarsen, R. Nederlandse Meubelen 1600-1800, Amsterdam, 1993, pp. 36-39.

Baarsen, R. Herman Doomer en de Amsterdamse ebbenhoutwerkers, in: Wonen in de Gouden Eeuw, Amsterdam, 2007, pp. 80-109.

Van Thiel, P., Kops Bruyn, Johannes Cornelis, Framing in the Golden Age: Picture and Frame in 17th-century Holland, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 1995.

Breebaart, I., G. van Gerwen, Pressed baleen and fan-shaped ripple mouldings by Herman Doomer, in: Eleventh international Symposium on Wood and Furniture Conservation, Amsterdam 9-10 November 2012, pp. 62-74.


This fascinating casket is a rare example of the use of pressed baleen work, a quintessential Dutch Golden Age technique. The Dutch develop a profitable fishing trade of Greenland right whale, used for its fat that could be turned into oil. Baleen are the fringed plates hanging in right whales' mouths used to strain seawater for food and the Dutch quickly realized this by-product could have a use.


The Englishman John Osborn, an ivory and horn worker active in Amsterdam, was the first to have a patent to prepare baleen in 1618 and, 23 years later, the celebrated cabinet-maker Herman Doomer and his son Matheus were also granted a pattern to press this material.


Baleen’s dark colour and polished sheen were a perfect match for ebony, which since the early 17th century was becoming widely available in Amsterdam through the expansion of the Dutch Indies Company (VOC) activities, resulting in luxury pieces of furniture and objects.


The present lot hence demonstrates this fine pairing with ebony veneers and mouldings framing six small sections of pressed baleen; with motif choice quite aleatory – squirrel, a putto with dolphins, a flower or various animals within foliage – which somehow reveal its scarcity and how prized these were.


One other comparable casket, with similar dimensions and configuration, was sold from Ashdown House, Sotheby’s London, 27 October 2010, lot 137 (published Breebart and van Gerven, p.65, fig.11).


Interestingly, a mirror frame attributed to Herman Doomer (c.1640-1655) in the Rijksmuseum collections (BK1978-188) has a pressed baleen inner border with some of the motifs seen in the present lot, copied from prints after kwab designs by Hans Janssen. Although it is likely that several copies were made from the same mould, it seems also that “it was very time-consuming to prepare the baleen and to produce the moulds. This may explain the limited amount of objects which are known to be made from pressed baleen (Breebaart and van Gerwen, p.72)