Antique Cabinets and Credenzas - Furniture


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1870 Secretaire Cabinet of superb quality.




A very variable piece of furniture made in numerous forms and for many purposes throughout the 18th and 19thC. Preceded by the prestigious cabinet on stand. 

In the late 16thC and the 17thC the richest people kept their curios in cabinets containing numerous small drawers. Many of these cabinets were imported from the Continent - particularly from Italy and Southern Germany - and were 
valuable and decorative objects in themselves, being made from exotic materials such as ebony, ivory and tortoise shell with plaques of inlaid marbles or precious gemstones. Chinese and Japanese lacquer cabinets Were especially prized - particularly after about 1670 - as were those of fine Dutch marquetry after about 1680. 

Most were mounted on English-made stands - sometimes with a matching cresting; these could be quite simple, with turned supports linked by turned or shaped stretchers very elaborate with bold, gilded carving. 

The practice of storing and displaying, precious objects in glazed antique cabinets dates from the first half of the 18thC when wealthy people began collecting fine porcelain and books on a large scale. Fine pieces were designed solely for display (although designs were published in popular pattern books), but usually formed the upper part of a chest, cupboard, bureau or secretaire. 

During the second half of the 19thC free-standing glazed display cabinets were made in revived 18thC styles, some of Chinese Chippendale type, others rather loose interpretations of Sheraton designs. The majority are in mahogany and glazed on three sides, raised from the floor on tall, narrow, straight legs. 'Chippendale' pieces are sometimes highly carved, while those in Sheraton style are delicate and often inlaid with stringing, fans and shells Sometimes a 
paneled or cupboard area beneath the shelves is painted with flowers or landscape scenes. The glazing bars on these are invariably applied to a single sheet of glass; they do not enclose a number of small pane's cut to shape as they would on an 18thC piece. 

Straightforward side cabinets (and chiffoniers) are often expensive because of their small and useful size as well as their simple and usually elegant appearance. Rosewood rather than mahogany, brass inlay and lattice grille doors (if originally intended) are all indicators that a higher price may have to be paid. All but the cheapest quality Victorian pieces are priced in three figures, even if they are 'converted' Regency. 

Music and other small Victorian antique cabinets may fetch least; so also elaborate ebonised 'aesthetic' cabinets - despite high quality because ebonised furniture has never been popular. 

CREDENZAS 1850 to 1800's
Though their name means sideboard in Italian, in Britain credenzas were drawing-room rather than dining-room pieces, distinguished from chiffoniers and simpler side cabinets by their extensive decoration and their shaped (usually curving) outline. The best show strong French or Italian influence. 

Style is generally a central, straight-fronted section with one or two paneled doors, flanked by curved end sections containing display shelves, either open, or enclosed by glazed doors. Inner shelves polished or covered in velvet. Can 
be more complex serpentine shape, or, straightforward breakfront form.

Central door panels may be fully veneered or fretted, mirrored or glazed (and have often been altered at a later date). Plinth base (plain or I with decorative 
aprons) or plinth supported on small turned feet. Uprights flanking central cupboard often faced with carved columns. polished (occasionally marble) top above decorated frieze; cheapest versions with dullish-gray / white marble, but other colors on best quality. 

Tremendous variation in price depending on quality and extent of decoration. Boulle or a fine marquetry at a premium; ebonised pieces never much liked. Almost all in four figures, the best edging into five. 





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