This beautifully-carved bench is a fine example of baroque work executed by Dutch sculptors. These sculptors concentrated on decorative work, they designed and executed ornamental stonework and carving on buildings, and excelled in the production of spectacular panelling, buffet cupboards, console tables and other adornments for the interior. (R. Baarsen, Beeldhouwers, beeldsnijders en meubelmakers, in R. Baarsen (ed.), exh. cat. Rococo in Nederland, 2001-2002, pp. 178-213).
The fashion for impressive carved hall benches undoubtedly reflects the changes in planning and arrangement of Dutch houses. This was also influenced by Daniel Marot (1661-1752) who included floor plans for town houses inspired by the Parisian Htels in his Livres. In these plans the hall gained greater prominence. Hall benches were created as decorative elements rather than seat-furniture. They were designed to harmonise with the stucco wall decoration, possibly as an echo for embellishments elsewhere. Unlike auricular tables, hall benches rarely incorporate any deeper symbolism.
Although halls and therefore hall benches rarely appear on contemporary genre paintings, information is fortunately provided by several doll's houses, which have survived more or less intact since they were executed. These dolls' houses were incorporated in a cabinet and were not intended as children's toys, but as costly collector's cabinets. Some of these dolls' houses contains hall benches, for example the one made for Sara Roth which is now in the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem.
For further information about Dutch hall benches see the article by Drs. Amjad Rauf in The Schermerhorn Collection, Important Dutch Furniture and Sculpture, Christie's Amsterdam, 29 September 1999, p. 8-14.
For further information about dolls' houses see J. Pijzel-Dommisse, Het Poppenhuis van het Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, 1988 and J. Pijzel-Dommisse, The 17th Century Doll's Houses of the Rijksmuseum, Wormer 1994.