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Draw-leaf table

Unknowncirca 1620 - 1628

Centraal Museum

Centraal Museum
Utrecht, Netherlands

This remarkable table appears on a portrait painted by Joachim Wtewael in 1628 of his daughter Eva. It is clearly recognisable thanks to the ebony-inlaid panel of the table leg that just peeps from under the table cloth. The model of the table, which can be extended on two sides, is not uncommon. In 1621 the engraver Crispijn van de Passe II published a series of design prints for tables in Utrecht. Many of these tables have a similar undercarriage with baluster legs. The table stands out for its luxurious decoration, however. Only two other pieces of furniture with comparable decoration have been preserved: a room panelling from Dordrecht and a cupboard in a castle in Gelderland. The table was probably built especially for Wtewael. The Utrecht artist had a keen interest in applied art. Trained as a glass painter, he designed stained glass and also made the design for a new type of salt cellar, for example. Wtewael may well have contributed to the design of this table as well. The table is likely the “large draw-leaf table” mentioned in the 1669 inventory of the house of Jacob and Aletta Martens at Janskerkhof in Utrecht. Aletta Martens, born Pater, was the granddaughter of Joachim Wtewael. Through her the table came into possession of the Martens family, and it was ultimately donated to the museum by the family Martens van Sevenhoven. The oakwood cupboard decorated with ebony, walnut and pear wood derives from the same estate. The cupboard and table both have a scale pattern frieze with glued-on droplets of ebony. Nevertheless, they were not built as an ensemble. After a long journey through Italy and France, Wtewael settled in Utrecht in 1592. It seems that he had his house at the Oude Gracht (now no. 58), purchased in 1596, splendidly decorated using the wealth he earned through the flax trade. It is exceptional to know so much about the owner, the dating and the place of manufacture of early seventeenth-century furniture from the civilian domain. Their relatively unscathed condition, their beauty and the precious materials make these top items all the more admirable.

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