Augsburg cabinet, ca 1650

Augsburg cabinet, ca 1650

Cabinet by Adam Eck, Augsburg, 1640-60. Ebony, ivory, various woods, brass, and iron.  Dimensions (doors open): 155 × 179.8 × 60.4 cm. Location: The Art Institute, Chicago, reference number 1970.404.

Augsburg's tradition of crafting fine cabinets continued after the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648. This outstanding example, executed in ebony veneer and ivory inlay, includes delicately 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, among other precious items. The animation below provides a good impression of the intricate system of compartments within compartments which characterised Augsburg's famous cabinets also in the earlier period.

A black box with a red inside

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Thematically, the cabinet’s decoration ranges from pure ornament to hunting themes (especially related to the sport of falconry, which may have been a favorite pastime of the cabinet’s owner) and from mythological tales to the allegorical figure of the Christian virtue Charity, who crowns the object.

Further information and images available from The Art Institute, Chicago.

Commentary primarily ladapted fromThe Art Institute, Chicago