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Tag Archives: Dutch Golden Age

Object of the Month: November 2023

Cabinet on Stand

Walnut

English, late 17th century

 

This William and Mary Cabinet on Stand came into the Museum & Gallery’s collection in 1970, through the generosity of a prominent Asheville physician, musician, author, and collector of art and antiques, Dr. Charles S. Norburn.  Dr. Norburn served as a Navy surgeon in World War I, then in Navy hospitals in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.  He was even appointed by the U.S. Surgeon General to serve as personal surgeon to President Warren Harding on a trip to Alaska. After leaving the Navy, Norburn returned to North Carolina in 1923 and established the cutting-edge Norburn Hospital Clinic in 1928. The Norburn Hospital’s second building, with 32 acres of property, stood on what is now part of the Mission Health campus, leaving a lasting legacy of care in Western North Carolina. His donation to M&G has left a lasting cultural legacy in the western Carolinas, as well.

Much from the period of William and Mary (1689-1702), including the furniture characteristic of that era, reflects the religious atmosphere of the day. While it would oversimplify the case to say that religion was the sole explanation for the furniture fashion of the day, most sources do note the significant influence religion had upon it. Indeed, there would not have been a “William and Mary” period, had it not been for the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688, which deposed James II from the English throne and made him notable for being the last Roman Catholic monarch of England.

James II had succeeded his elder brother, Charles II in 1685, when Charles died without a legitimate heir. Early in his reign, Charles II had urged his younger brother to rear his daughters as Protestants, despite the fact that James and his wife were Catholic. Thus, when Charles II died, the throne passed to James II and established his elder daughter, Mary (b. 1662), as heir apparent. Mary had married her cousin, William of Orange, in 1677, when she was just 15, and moved to the Protestant Netherlands with her husband.

From the start, James II’s overt Catholicism alienated the majority in England. That dissatisfaction was amplified in 1688 with two crises—the birth of a son to James, (raising fears of a Roman Catholic dynasty), and very public conflicts with the king over religious tolerance.

Seven highly placed Englishmen (an Anglican bishop and six prominent politicians) wrote to William of Orange, inviting him to come set right the country’s grievances. William sailed to England in November of 1688 with a force of 20,000 men, making his way to London with very little opposition. James II fled to France in December of that year, and Parliament—now cemented as the ruling body in England—pronounced William III and Mary II joint rulers in April 1689.

The “William and Mary style” developed within this religious and cultural milieu. With them, William and Mary brought Dutch craftsmen to England, popularizing a style that had first been seen under Charles II (1660-1685) throughout England and its colonies. The finely inlaid cabinet style of this era had originated in France, but some of the most influential craftsmen were Huguenots. These weavers, painters, joiners and carvers fled to England from France in order to escape the religious persecution that arose after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685). Their influence resulted in a more staid style than the flamboyance of Louis XIV’s court, while still exhibiting the highest craftsmanship and newest fabrication techniques.

The Museum & Gallery’s Cabinet on Stand evidences the traits distinctive to fine cabinetmaking in the William and Mary style. In place of the heavy, horizontal lines of domestic furniture, there was an emphasis on verticality, lifting cabinets on multiple, finely turned or barley-twisted legs. Indeed, the “high boy” and other specialized forms of domestic furniture owe their inception to William and Mary design.

Overall, there was a movement away from the excessive grandeur of the French court and the English Restoration period, but there was also intricacy and high design. Thin slices of highly figured woods (sometimes acacia, olive, or other exotic woods made possible by new East-West trade routes), ivory, and metal were affixed to flat surfaces like cabinet doors and sides, creating contrasting colors for geometric shapes, flowers, birds, and numerous other natural themes. Beneath these veneers, walnut superseded oak as the most frequently used wood species. Atop the veneers, surface treatments like lacquer and other fine polishes became vital to protect and highlight the designs.

In keeping with the above-mentioned traits of William and Mary cabinetmaking, M&G’s Cabinet on Stand features detailed walnut burl veneers and geometric maple inlay on three sides, over a yellow pine substrate.  An overhanging cornice rests at the very top, with two drawers and two flush, side-hinged doors beneath.  This top portion (the “cabinet” in the designation “cabinet-on-stand”) sits on a base containing two additional drawers and four sophisticated, tapering barley-twist front legs and three simpler turned rear legs. The barley-twist legs taper from being thinner at top and bottom to thick in the middle and demonstrate the cabinetmaker’s skill. A flat display platform sits at the very bottom, raised from the floor on turned bun feet.

Our cabinet is likely from the late 17th century or early 18th century (perhaps 1700-1725) and illustrates the departure from the continental style toward a more staid English and/or Protestant sensibility. It is a presentation cabinet that served for storage in some prominent place of a household, possibly holding linens in the 17th-century equivalent of a dining room. The top and base are flat for display and may have held Dutch majolica, other pottery, or even items from the Orient over the years, depending on the wealth of the owner.  This Cabinet on Stand is an important piece in the M&G collection for the history and artistry it brings to life.

 

Dr. Stephen B. Jones, volunteer

 

Sources:

David L’eglise, Village Antiques at Biltmore, Asheville, NC

Joseph Aronson, The Encyclopedia of Furniture

Judith Miller, Furniture

Judith Miller, Miller’s Antiques Encyclopedia

Encyclopaedia Britannica

MetMuseum.org

Tim Forrest, The Bulfinch Anatomy of Antique Furniture

Kay West, “Daughter publishes book by pioneering physician father decades after his death”

 

Picture Books of the Past: Unknown Dutch

Enjoy this series of segments highlighting Picture Books of the Past: Reading Old Master Paintings, a loan exhibition of 60+ works from the M&G collection. The exhibit has traveled to The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. and the Orlando Museum of Art in Florida.

As this compelling 17th-century work by an unknown painter illustrates, the Dutch were especially adept at still life painting. (Following your video viewing click HERE to access the additional information provided on the exhibition’s text panels.)

Rafael Govertsz. Camphuysen

Elijah Fed by the Ravens

Rafael Govertsz. Camphuysen

Below the image, click play to listen.

Whatsoever Things Are… Excellent: Mary Magdalene Turning from the World to Christ

 

Mary Magdalene is one of the most intriguing figures in Scripture, and her life story is as apropos today as it was when it was first recorded in Scripture.

 

Visit HERE for the next video to think on things that are Excellent.

Rembrandt van Rijn (school of): Head of Christ

In this moving work we see combined two of Rembrandt’s favorite subjects: portraiture and biblical history.

David de Haen: The Mocking of Christ

The story behind the acquisition of a work is often as fascinating as the story within the frame.

Jan Victors: Esther Accusing Haman

Esther Accusing Haman, considered one of Victor’s finest works, also gives us a fascinating look at actual samples of 17th-century table settings.

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (school of)

Head of Christ

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (school of)

Below the image, click play to listen.

 

Jan Hermansz. van Bijlert: Mary Magdalene Turning from the World to Christ

This arresting Mary Magdalene Turning from the World to Christ identifies Jan van Bijlert with the Utrecht Caravaggisti. The work is a beautiful blending of dramatic qualities of naturalism with the brilliant precision of classicism.

Object of the Month: April 2013

Joseph Interpreting the Dreams of Pharaoh’s Butler and Baker

Oil on canvas, signed and dated, 1643

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

Dutch, 1621–1674

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, the son of a goldsmith, studied with Rembrandt for five years (age 15-20) and was a “great friend” of the famous artist, according to his biographer. He also continued to imitate his teacher’s style throughout his career, especially in his religious paintings. His first signed painting is dated 1641 (age 20), which probably indicates the time he advanced from student to independent artist. Therefore the Museum & Gallery’s painting, dated 1643, was one of his earliest works. In addition to painting, he worked as an etcher and draughtsman. He never lost interest in his father’s work of goldsmithing, often including precisely painted metal objects in his paintings, as well as producing a book of patterns for ornamental designs for metalworkers. His family’s Mennonite faith influenced his preference for religious subject matter, although he was also known for portraiture and landscape painting.

The biblical story of Joseph is an inspiring one. After being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and being falsely accused of attempted rape in Egypt, the depicted scene shows him in prison. Because of his trustworthiness, he has been placed in a position of leadership within the prison (notice the keys hanging from his waist) and is interpreting the dreams of two of Pharaoh’s servants. The butler (or person who tasted the king’s wine to make sure it was not poisoned) is shown to the right in fancier clothes with a jug at his feet; he would be pardoned in three days. The baker, however, would be killed in three days. We can see the look of despondency on his face as he learns his fate. Although the butler promised to remember Joseph to Pharaoh, it wasn’t until two years later that a circumstance caused him to remember. After all of Joseph’s trials, he praised God and told his brothers, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

The provenance, or ownership history, of the painting begins with a sale in Amsterdam in 1762, just a little over 100 years after its creation. The Dundas family of Scotland purchased it, where it remained by family descent until 1953; it became part of the Collection in 1963.

 

Published in 2013