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Important ebony cabinet with Seven Virtues
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Sur demande € (port +300€)
Cabinets, Louis XIII, XVII

We present here a summary description of this piece. We strongly encourage the reader to consult the complete file with many photos and details by clicking on the following link:

Presentation of the Seven Virtues ebony cabinet

This important ebony cabinet is the most emblematic French piece of furniture from the first half of the 17th century. This type of piece is notably present in the Château d'Ambleville, but also at the Château de Fontainebleau and the Louvre. These few exceptional productions kept at the Château du Serrant, in England or in Amsterdam are at the root of the term "cabinetmaker". Indeed, in the 17th century carpenters from the Netherlands and sculpting ebony, this exotic and very expensive wood, settled in France.

The cabinet we are presenting comes from the Château de la Treyne, which dates back to the 14th century. The castle notably had Pierre de La Ramière as lord, to whom the victory of La Roche-l'Abeille in 1562 is attributed. It was during this battle that Henry of Navarre made his debut and where a friendship was born between King of France and Lord of La Treyne.

This cabinet, by its exceptional dimensions, its detailed sculptures of original themes, its lively and neat theater, its original base partly veneered with ebony, its prestigious provenance as well as its excellent condition, is a particularly rare piece.

The first cabinet order contracts mention dimensions of 6 feet high by 5 feet wide. The "King's foot" being equivalent to 32.48 cm, we are talking about a height of 195 cm by 162 cm in width. The cabinet that we present measuring 204 cm in height by 179 cm in width, it is part of and slightly exceeds the greatest Parisian productions.

The scene on the left panel shows Amphitrite, wife of Poseidon and goddess of the sea, on her chariot. She is surrounded by fantastic animals, seahorses, Nereids, which form her procession. The iconography of Amphitrite is not widespread in Greek art but it becomes a very popular figure in classical times from the seventeenth century.

The right leaf is an allegory of the Seven Virtues. They are composed of the four cardinal virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude, Justice. The other three virtues are the theological virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity. The virtues are generally represented allegorically in the guise of women.

From left to right at the bottom:
- Justice holds a scale
- Fortitude wields a sword
- Temperance holds an urn, she is generally represented pouring a liquid from one vase to another. This must be understood as a gesture intended to cut the wine with water or to balance the levels
- Prudence holds a mirror in order to see itself there but also to look at the dangers coming from the back

Above and from left to right:
- The Charity is surrounded by two children whom it welcomes
- Hope seems to be holding a cup in which a flame burns
- Faith holds a chalice containing the consecrated host

Above the two leaves we find some of the Seven Virtues: Justice, Faith but also Temperance which, in addition to its urn, holds a bridle. Charity is this time represented holding a pomegranate, symbol of the flaming heart of Jesus.
Below, four trumpeted cherubs support the two sculptures in an allegory of Fame.

The two large upper drawers are carved with aquatic scenes of men struggling with sea monsters, sea horses and Nereids which form the procession of Poseidon and echo the leaf of Amphitrite. This fantastic ocean ornamentation is inspired by the engravings of Michel Dorigny.

The original base rests on six twisted legs. The columns are finely carved with leaves, vine branches and bunches of grapes. The central apron with a grimacing face recalls the four satyrs of each panel. The two ebony veneered drawers are carved with single flowers and intersecting flowers.

Theater :
The theater strikes us with the liveliness of its tones, its marquetry and its successful effect of perspective.

The floor is inlaid with bottomless cubes called “Oeben”. The five mirrors that make up the interior allow you to admire the four paintings on wood in all their aspects, as well as the small perspective ceiling of geometric shapes and wind roses at the back of the theatre. The whole is enhanced with gilded wood in the form of twisted columns with Corinthian capitals but also two winged putti. Each of these cherubim discovers a secret drawer.

In height, the balustrade in gilded wood is made in trompe l'oeil and hides four small drawers. Hidden behind the two painted sliding panels, eight drawers of a quality of cabinetmaking bordering on goldsmithery are hidden from the visitor in the pure tradition of cabinets of curiosities.

The interior face of the two small doors is decorated with alternating light and dark marquetry as well as a beautiful ivory inlay. This material is engraved with many natural motifs on the columns forming an architectural ensemble with a landscape in the center and a face of fauna at the top.

The four figures painted on wood represent some of the gods of Olympus. These mythological paintings are reminiscent of the painted representations of the Greek Gods, notably present in a cabinet kept at Arundel Castle (West Sussex) and on the cabinet of the Museum of Fine Arts in Troyes.

Facing us on the left: Apollo, God of Beauty in motion, following the work of Apollo and Daphne visible in the Louvre Museum.
On the side: Dionysos, God of wine draped in red and in his simplest device inspired by Guido Reni's painting "Bacchus and Ariadne".

On the right facing us: Athena, Goddess of wisdom with her usual attributes of spear and helmet.
On the side: Aphrodite, Goddess of beauty, painted from behind.

The Seven Virtues cabinet presents the interior characteristics of the first phase of creation of ebony cabinets because it is adorned with painted decoration with its four Olympian gods. It also has the carved decorations that characterize the second phase with the allegories surrounding the scenes of the main leaves. We can then assess its date of manufacture according to these criteria around 1640.

To continue:
A cabinet in homage to Catherine de Medici? As well as the similarities with the Windsor Castle cabinet…
To find out more, we invite you to discover the complete file by clicking on the link available in the description.
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