This extraodinary cupboard falls into a well documented group of cupboards known as 'Beeldenkast' or statue cupboard, because of the caryatids flanking and dividing the doors of the superstructure and in some cases also applied to the base. These cupboards were mainly made in the second quarter of the seventeenth century in the province of Holland. The earliest known example is one which is dated 1622. This cupboard was in the collection of William Randolph Hearst, before it was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum, New York. These costly cupboards were probably intended as dowry pieces or wedding gifts. They would be used to store valuable household linen and in most cases they would be the most important piece of furniture in the household. Typically the figural decorations were allegorical not only of religious virtues Faith, Hope and Love, but also refer to typical male and female virtues, such as Temperance and Industry. The Rijksmuseum owns a typical example, dating from circa 1630-1650, another very similar to the Rijksmuseum example was with Salomon Stodel Antiquites in 2000. Both of these cupboards are dated circa1630-50, and show a marked difference to the present lot which is dated 1650. The present cupboard, which shares the classic proportions and basic monumental architectonic design, also displays auricular decoration to the cartouches on the doors, and the acanthus brackets below the cornice.
The anti-classical, fantastical auricular style was developed in the early 17th century by the Utrecht gold and silversmiths, Paulus (c. 1570-1613) and Adam (1568/69-1627) van Vianen. In the 1630's the great Amsterdam silversmith Johannes Lutma began working in this style. A large number of designs for precious objects by Adam van Vianen was published by his son Christiaen around 1650. Shortly thereafter a series of prints after Johannes Lutma and Gerbrand van den Eeckhout (1621-1674) were published in Amsterdam, these prints took the auricular style first used on silver objects and applied it on furniture designs such as tables, stands and cartouches.
The carved frieze ornaments and figures of this imposing cupboard were not the work of a cabinet maker but the work of a sculptor. The figures of the present cupboard are comparable to figures on the oak pulpit in the Nieuwe Kerk, in Amsterdam. This pulpit was made by the sculptor Albert Vinckenbrinck (b Spaarndam, c. 1604; d Amsterdam, after 20 Aug 1664, before 12 Feb 1665) in 1648-1649. The figures on the pulpit like those on the present cupboard are boldly executed on aa large scale and very three dimensional, the ionic capitals are pressed back behind the heads of the figures and are borne on their shoulders. Especially the figure of charity; a female figure with a todler on her right and a baby on her arm, has been executed to the same design as the comparable figure by Vinckenbrink.
Interestingly Joseph Estie notes that these cupboards were mainly produced in Amsterdam and Hoorn, the present cupboard displays the coats of arms of both towns possibly referring to the union between a couple from both of these towns.
R. Baarsen, Twee meubelen uit 1622, Antiek, 1993.
R. Baarsen, Dutch Furniture 1600-1800, Zwolle 1993, pp. 24-25, 34-35 & 40-41.
J. Estie, The Splendour of the Dutch Interior 1600-1800, Zwolle, 2000, pp. 30-33.