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Cabinets made in the southern German town of Augsburg during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are famous for their showy decoration, which was typically executed in ebony veneer and ivory inlay. This exceptional example also includes lavish carved figures, bronze mounts, and narrative panels made from ivory and stained wood relief. The exquisite craftsmanship of this decoration is matched in inventiveness by the cabinet’s interior structure, which is part display case, part tool chest, and part safe-deposit box. Hidden compartments to the right of a built-in clock (a 1715 replacement of an earlier timepiece) contain a set of five medicine canisters and at least twenty-two other utensils, including hammers, scissors, and a mortar and pestle. These and the other compartments in the cabinet would often have housed jewelry, gems, and important papers as well. Thematically, the cabinet’s decoration ranges from pure patterns to hunting themes (especially related to the sport of falconry, which may have been a favorite pastime of the cabinet’s owner) and from specific mythological tales to the allegorical figure of the Christian virtue Charity, who crowns the whole piece.

Details

  • Title: Cabinet
  • Creator: Augsburg, Germany
  • Date: About 1660
  • Physical Dimensions: 160 × 110.5 cm (63 × 43 1/2 in.); diameter: 64.8 cm (25 1/2 in.)
  • Type: Furniture
  • External Link: The Art Institute of Chicago
  • Media: Ebony, ivory, various woods, brass, and iron implements
  • Credit Line: The Art Institute of Chicago, Anonymous Purchase Fund, 1970.404
  • Artist: Augsburg, Germany

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