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Enquiry from Online Galleries regarding "An Important Early Charles II Breakfront Walnut Cabinet on Stand"
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The two central doors and pilasters in Solomonic form (barley twist) with Corinthian capitals are surrounded by four drawers on either side with long-grain “scratch” edge mouldings typical of the earliest form of English veneered cabinet, with a further drawer above and two below all in breakfront form to conform to the pilasters, the doors opening to reveal a walnut veneered niche and three further small drawers.
The flat-fronted stand consists of a single drawer with an apron below which is also in typical English early Restoration form (with possibly later bottom finials). It is raised on legs in Solomonic form united by a straight stretcher which is again typical of cabinets of this very early period and bearing raised diamond motifs conforming to the mouldings at either side of the lower drawer of the cabinet section. The bun feet appear to be original.
Much of the metalwork appears original, including the escutcheons in the form of two facing birds, the iron drawer locks some of which retain the original rosehead nails, the hinges and door bolts which are in characteristic English patterns.
The cabinet and the stand are of pine (deal) and veneered with walnut, as are the backboards. The drawer linings are of walnut which is not unknown for cabinets from this period. The banding to each side and the top is noticeably broad and cut along the grain, as are all of the mouldings with the exception of cross-grain half-round sections to either side of the cabinet.
Height: 54 ¾ in (139.5 cm)
Width: 33 in (84 cm) at the top
Width: 35 ½ in (90 cm) at the waist moulding
Depth: 17 ½ in (44.5 cm)
* This is one of the earliest veneered cabinets on stand identifiable as of English origin. It marks the transition between a group of seven cabinets, all but two in public collections, which are all veneered either in kingwood or cocuswood. This piece is very rare being veneered in walnut at such an early date and it only later bec0ame the veneer of preference.
The best known of the group is a cocuswood cabinet in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle which bears the cypher of Queen Henrietta Maria, widow of Charles I and mother of Charles II, which was made for her after her return from exile, probably c.1662. Others are in collections at Lyme Park, Powis Castle, Coughton Court and Leeds City Museum.
All the earliest group of cabinets have small mitre joints in the drawer bases as the present cabinet does, a practice which died out fairly quickly, presumably in the interests of greater speed of construction.
In each case the bandings and mouldings are cut along the grain. Cocuswood and kingwood are both hard and dense and are much more easily worked along the grain, with a shaped blade (a “scratch stock”) used to cut the drawer edge mouldings. Walnut and olive are much softer woods.
With time, as the use of walnut and olivewood became more commonplace, both mouldings and bandings came to be cut across the grain, even when cocuswood or kingwood were employed. At first the new form of cross-grain half-round moulding was placed on the drawer edges, and then on the face of the drawer divides, remaining unchanged in this form until the early eighteenth century. This cabinet pre-dates all of these changes.
It shares other features in common with members of the earliest group of seven, including the almost embryonic apron which bears close similarity with the apron of a cocuswood cabinet at Powis Castle , and the twin central doors in breakfront form with Solomonic pilasters which are in similar form to those of a large cocuswood cabinet now at Leeds City Museum.
A small kingwood cabinet at Lyme Park has raised diamond motifs to the cabinet, the stand and the stretcher. The Powis Castle cabinet and a similar cabinet in private hands have “bulls nose” mouldings to the top which conform closely to the equivalent moulding of this cabinet. The rather pronounced profile of the waist moulding is reminiscent of the kingwood cabinet at Coughton Court and another in a private collection.
All of the group of seven have stretchers in straight form, and like the present cabinet, none were originally fitted with drop handles which became ubiquitous in later seventeenth century English cabinet work, nor do they have the pulvinated frieze drawers which are typical of later English cabinets on stand.
Drop handles came into use around 1670, and by analogy with contemporary clock cases, we can assume that the use of Solomonic form pilasters and legs, and the use of walnut for veneering, all became fashionable around the beginning of the 1670s. Given all the above and the constructional similarities with the earliest architectural longcases of the late 1660s and early 1770s we can date this cabinet with a high degree of accuracy.
We are not aware of another walnut cabinet in this early form or of one of such small size.
Howard Walwyn Ltd Fine Antique Clocks
123 Kensington Church Street
Saturday by appointment