11071 AN EXQUISITE TRANSITIONAL PERIOD TWO DOOR COLLECTION CABINET ON STAND, INLAID WITH EXOTIC WOODS AND SET WITH GILT BRONZE MOUNTS Almost certainly Vienna. Third Quarter Of The Eighteenth Century. Measurements: Height 52 3/4″ (1.29 m) Width 36 3/4″ (93 cm) Depth 17″ (43 cm).
Of kingwood, tulipwood, and boxwood with inlaid ebonized detailing, top of statuary marble. The two front doors and sides decorated with elaborate marquetry consisting of a border of interlocking rings each surrounding a rhombus-shaped “diamond box” arrangement of veneer, the border surrounding a larger, inner panel of “diamond box” veneer, with a twisting rosette at its center. Uppermost and lowermost frieze around sides and front inlaid with opposing Vitruvian scrolls, both centered on gilt bronze bosses, with further gilt bronze bosses on corners and on back edge, those on upper frieze issuing foliage. Central restored spring lock-bearing panel, rounded corners and pilasters along back edge with an inlaid overlapping “scale” pattern flowing from top to bottom, each with gilt bronze mount at the halfway point in the form of an oval with an elaborately draped laurel wreath surround, the center one forming the lockplate and flanking four in the form of medals with male heads. The whole exterior design compartmentalized with ebonized detailing. The original stand with cushion-molded frieze from which issue four cabriole legs with elaborate gilt bronze detailing on the feet and knees. Doors open to revea of el seven interior tiers, the lower drawer occupying the whole width of the cabinet, four tiers above with two drawers, with two open shelves above. Each drawer front with elaborate diamond-box veneers surrounded by inverted diamond box veneers of cedar wood, each with gilt bronze penny-ring handles. Interiors of doors with interior panel of veneer surrounded by a narrow border of ebony.
There are a number of points that confirm the present cabinet is of an Austrian origin. One of the most compelling is its similarity to pieces of furniture owned by the Austrian princely family of Hohenlohe Schillingsfürst. This family is among the oldest and most influential in the German-speaking world, having provided nineteenth century Prime Ministers to both Bavaria and Austria.1
Several pieces formerly at the family home of Schloss Baumgarten, just west of Vienna, bear a resemblance to the present cabinet, especially a secrétaire à abattant which is very much analogous to it, so much so that one may even speculate with confidence that both were the product of a single workshop (figure 1). The Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst piece is probably just a few years later in date but it still shares transitional design references, such as the escutcheon mounts, which have leaf forms derived from rococo ornament. Further shared features include the use of sumptuous exotic wood veneers laid in chevron pattern, intensely conceived boxwood engraved foliate inlaid motifs, distinctly rendered in a fashion redolent of North Italian marqueteurs such as Guiseppe Maggiolini, gilt bronze laurel mounts of extremely similar character and execution, profile relief miniature plaques in gilt bronze, pressure point mechanisms that act as a secret release for the concealed keyhole covers of the escutcheon mounts, the sparing subtle use of thin fillets of ebonized moldings, internal drawers mounted with penny ring handles in the English taste and the use of cedar wood as a veneer for the internal drawer fronts. These shared features combine to render the possibility of coincidence unlikely and the features are so distinctive as to be out of the realm of the generic.
Furthermore, the mounts on the present cabinet bear profile reliefs of perhaps the most famous Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II (1552-1612) (figure 2), and possibly that of his brother Matthias (1557-1619) (figure 3), who ruled directly after him. Rudolph II is widely recognized as the greatest collector of his time; his image on the cabinet may not only refer to the Austrian origin, but also as an external clue as to the function of the cabinet, being a repository of precious collectibles. An exquisite Viennese marquetry oval table in the German art trade has gilt bronze mounts of unmistakably similar character to those found on the above pieces (figure 4). Its mounts are attributed to the Vienna silversmith, Josef Ignaz Würth. A further comparison between table and the cabinet is the use of ‘end grain’ moldings, found on the corners of each leg of the table and undulating around the apron and legs of the cabinet’s stand.
Such is the exquisite quality and individual design of the cabinet that it may well have been made for a member of the House of Habsburg, or at the very least one of their supporters such as the Princes of Liechtenstein, Esterhazy, or Kinsky. It was indeed the case that collecting was extremely popular among the Viennese elite during the last decades of the 18th century and was encouraged by the activities of the emperor Francis I himself, who was painted in his collection room surrounded by his samples of mineral and fossils (figure 5). Because of other known examples of collector’s cabinets (some of which interestingly equate to the form of the present piece; a two door cabinet raised on a short cabriole leg stand), it is possible to speculate that like these it may have been one of a series. Two such examples are the set of cabinets designed by architect Carl Harman for Queen Louisa Ulrika of Sweden in the early 1750s (figure 6) and a further set by Luigi Valadier for the Museo Profano, still in the Vatican.2 As in the case of most important private libraries, the fixtures and furniture for a room designed for the containment and display of a collection would certainly have fallen within the remit of the architect. The Austrian architect whose style is perhaps most in line with the present cabinet is Franz Anton Hillebrandt (1719-1797) who was made architect of the imperial court of Vienna in 1772. He undertook major renovations through the empire and his light interpretation of neoclassicism still contains aspects of the rococo as can be witnessed an engraved wall elevation from Schloss Hof, north east of Bratislava.
Considering Vienna’s importance in the 18th century, it is an interesting aspect of its courtly furniture that very little is known as to its makers. However, a possible contender as maker of the present and the Hohenlohe Schillingsfürst pieces is Augustin Haunold, who held the post of cabinetmaker to the Viennese court from 1758-1806. Although his furniture bears no mark, his output for the court and its circle must have been large; Hainauld’s probate inventory confirms that his workshop in Vienna’s Jägerzeile was equipped with fifty workbenches. Further to this he ran three smaller workshops: in the Hofburg Palace, Schönbrunn and Laxenburg Castle.3 Part of his remit was apparently also to create the sumptuous inlaid wood floors for the palaces. Items of the caliber of the present and Hohenlohe Schillingsfürst pieces could only have been undertaken by a workshop operating at the highest level, with access to extremely expensive exotic woods and costly gilt bronze mounts.
As previously alluded to, there exist interesting similarities between the present piece and the aforementioned Hartman and Valadier cabinets. It is conceivable that the form of a long bodied cabinet raised on a short cabriole leg stand emanates from France. In Diderot and d’Alembert’s influential Encyclopédie published between 1751 and 1770, an illustration showing the processes used in medal making also depicts a cabinet of this form (figure 7). Given the rapprochement between Austria and France during the Seven Years War, and the marriage of Marie Theresa’s second-youngest child Maria Antonia to the future Louis XVI, it was inevitable that some form of Gallic design would permeate the applied arts. In the case of the cabinet this ingredient is to be found in the use of tropical wood veneer and the complex pattern, laid in a four-part chevron design. However, beyond this, the cabinet displays singular originality in being something of a harmonious synthesis of design influences that has allusions to Italy and England. The marquetry whorls that center the doors and sides are very much in the manner of Giuseppe Maggiolini, and the prominent inlaid interlocking rings recall the inlaid specimen lava stone tops made in Naples in the 18th century and ascribed to the workshops of Guiseppe Canart.4 (It is interesting to note that a number of marquetry floors in the Viennese palaces, created by Thonet in the 19th century also have interlocking circle motif patterning.) The Vitruvian inlaid decoration of the frieze of the cabinet has strong echoes of that which is found on the furniture by the superb English cabinet maker John Linnell, examples of which can be seen at Osterley Park, home of the Earl of Jersey. Following on from this anglophile feature, the gilded handles that operate the interior drawers are of the pennyring type, so peculiar to English early 18th century furniture.
1. See The Collection of the Princely Family zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, September 25th 2001,
2. Alvar Gonzales-Palacios, Il Tempio del Gusto, Milan 1984, p. 70
3. Franz Windisch-Graetz, ‘Wiener Möbel des Klassizismus’ in Alte und Moderne Kunst XVII 1972, Heft 124/125, p. 85
4. See Carlton Hobbs LLC 9963: A Giltwood And Faux Bronze Neoclassical Octagonal Center Table With Specimen Marble Top