Swiss, Probably Schaffhausen. Late Seventeenth Century.


Height of each panel: 100” (254cm)
Average width of each panel: 36” (91.5cm); Height of each door: 100” (254cm) Width of each door: 34” (86.5cm).
 Approximate dimensions of room: Width: 18’ 81/2” (5.7m); Depth: 17’ 101/2” (5.4m).


Retaining the original painted decoration. Comprising a series of sixteen panels, a coffered ceiling, dentiled cornice, pilasters and pair of doors. Each trompe l’oeil panel depicting a grisaille figure within an architectural niche. The room incorporating a later chimneypiece of faux oriental alabaster with shaped shelf and jambs of carved bolection mold. The giltwood mirror above replaced, but early eighteenth century. Incorporating a later shelved niche, glazed window sections and baseboards. The wide planked pine floor old but replaced. Restoration consistent with seventeenth century paneling.

Schloss Herblingen, near Schaffhausen, Switzerland. Removed by previous owner.

The present boiserie is a rare survival of a significant seventeenth century Swiss paneled room. It is an example of the central European tradition of Wandmalerei, or decorative wall painting, and comprises a series of trompe l’oeil painted panels, complete with coffered ceiling and doors. Each depicts a figure within an architectural niche representing a different concept, painted en grisaille in imitation of sculpture. Close examination of the figures and the meanings depicted in the scheme give a fascinating insight into the intellectual and political outlook of the seventeenth century Swiss patron who commissioned it.

The format of a figure within a niche can be traced to the traditional presentation of medieval religious sculpture and painting of saints in ecclesiastical settings. An architectural niche serves to “reinforce the figure’s physical presence and ennoble it.”1 Renaissance Humanism in Italy led to a rise in the popularity of showing ancient deities in niches, such as those composed by Giovanni Jacopo Caraglio (circa 1500-65) in the early-sixteenth century, a set of which can now be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (figure 1 available on request). The tradition of depicting figures representing a variety of concepts can be traced to older ideas of emblems in the later sixteenth century, and especially Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia, the first edition of which was published in 1593. Here was a series of concepts presented through the medium of the human form, with a number of related attributes or paraphernalia that furthered their meaning. In addition, the format of the allegorical figure in an architectural niche was the subject of various sets of engravings. A number of artists produced such works from the late sixteenth to the late seventeenth centuries that must have been a major influence on the present scheme, like the series produced by Hendrik Goltzius (1558-1617) of 1593 showing the vices and virtues (figure 2).

Full research report available on request.

Full research report available on request.