CABINET in blackened wood, ebony veneer, poplar, marble and painted pietra paesina opening with eleven drawers resting on flattened ball feet. Architectural facade with central portico with pilasters and broken pediment, guilloche mouldings; gilded bronze side handles. The drawer fronts are all decorated with imaginary animals and creatures, except for the two small rectangular plaques above and below the central portico depicting Eve picking the apple from the Tree of Good and Evil and Adam and Eve driven out of Paradise. The subjects of the other drawers, most of which belong to the World of Curiosities, were inspired for the most part by engravings from books on emblems, cosmology, monsters, zoology or natural history.
Florence, mid 17th century
Height: 75.5 cm - Length: 125.7 cm - Depth: 36 cm
(small veneer restorations, some plates fractured)
This astonishing piece of furniture was to find its place in a Florentine amateur's cabinet of curiosities. The use of a variety of pietra paesina or picture stone, the one evoking landscapes dotted with trees with fine antlers, was particularly chosen to serve as a background for the representation of subjects inviting to dream. Many of these curiosities of nature were taken from the works of Ulisse Aldrovandi, an Italian scientist born in Bologna in 1532 and who died there in 1605. This character, who was accused of heresy at one point in his life and imprisoned for two years for it, ended his days surrounded by more than 18,000 pieces that made up his own cabinet of curiosities. He is the author of Monstrorum historia, a work abundantly illustrated with monstrosities created by nature, both human and animal. The painter drew his inspiration from his plates here, reproducing with great delicacy many subjects: the Hermaphrodite, the Six-headed Dragon, the Prickly Fish, the Sea Horse, the Triton and the Mermaid as well as the Turkey. He also used other works, written or illustrated by authors of very varied origins, Wenceslas Hollar (1607-1677), born in
Bohemia but working in London, John Jonston (1603-1675), Polish zoologist who used the German-Swiss engraver Matthäus Merian (1593-1650), Swiss naturalist
Conrad Gesner (1516-1565), German physician and alchemist Michael Maier (1568-1622) and even French explorer and geographer
André Thevet (1516-1590). The disparity of all these sources bears witness to the encyclopedic spirit of the patron.
From left to right and from top to bottom: Ouroboros (Michael Maier, fig.a), Phoenix (Matthäus Merian, fig.b), Centaur and Satyr,
Hermaphrodite (Ulisse Aldrovandi, fig.c), Six-headed dragon (Aldrovandi, fig.d), Fight between elephant and dragon (Maier, fig.e),
Basilisk (Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder, fig.f ), Wounded unicorn, Narval (André Thevet, fig.g), Fish bristling with quills (Aldrovandi, 1642, fig.h), Sea horse (Aldrovandi, fig.i), Triton and mermaid (Aldrovandi,fig.j), Harpies (Aldrovandi?, fig.k), Griffon (Wenceslas Hollar, fig.l), Pelican feeding its young (Matthäus Merian, fig.m), Peacock (Conrad Gesner, fig.n) and the Central Turkey (Aldrovandi, fig.o)
Results : Limited to subscribers
Location of the item France - 75116 Paris