Prized for their grandiose display, such magnificent cabinets were highly valued in the second half of the 17th century and considered status symbols, with their impressive architectural form dominating the largest of rooms.
Ebony and tortoiseshell cabinets-on-stands (Stipo) with panels of reverse painted glass or verre eglomisé were often made in pairs, and while many of these cabinets are found in Spain- including a number of these on the island of Mallorca – such cabinets were produced in Naples, which was under Spanish rule until 1647.
Related Balearic examples include a pair in the collection of the Marquese de Campo-Franco, Palma de Mallorca (L. Feduchi, Estilos del Mueble Espanol, Madrid, 1966, fgs. 296 & 297); a pair of cabinets at Son Veri, Mallorca (L. Feduchi, op. cit., fg. 299; a cabinet in Can Vivot, Palma de Mallorca (L. Feduchi, ibid., fg. 301; and R. Schezen, Spanish Splendor, New York, 1992, p. 243); and a cabinet at Son Sarri, Mallorca, which has the breakfront format and arrangement of panels (R. Schezen, ibid, p. 273).
As early as 1635, records show that an artist called Vittorio Billa charged 60 ducats for supplying panels for two cabinets, and in 1679,
a bill dated 22 October refers to a payment to a Giovanni Battista Tara for a pair of ebony-veneered cabinets mounted with reverse
painted glass panels (A. González-Palacios, Il Tempio del Gusto. Le arti decorative in Italia fra classicism e barocco. Roma e il Regno delle due Sicilie, vol. I, Milan, 1984, pp. 222-224, 231).
Artists from Zurich who specialised in painting under glass such as Hans Jakob Sprüngli, and master craftsmen, 'WBL' and 'VBL' were drawn to Naples; a cabinet for prince Barberini, now in the musée Stibert, Florence was decorated by 'VBL'. Dutch artists were also working in Naples and together with Italian artists like Vincenzo Gesualdo (active between 1650-60) quickly adopted the art form. By the third quarter of the 17th century, as the art of verre eglomisé was perfected important artists including Luca Giordano (and his studio) renowned for the use of pale pastel colours, Carlo Garofalo and Andrea Vincenti added painting under glass to their repertoire. In addition to producing panels for cabinets they also produced larger panels to decorate walls of palazzi; two paintings under glass signed and dated Luca Giordano 1688 are conserved in the palais de La Granja de San Ildefonso (Adoration des mages and Adoration des bergers) (J. Geyssant, Peintures sous verre de l'antiquité à nos jours, Paris, 2008, pp.55-62). However, Alvar González-Palacios records that Mina Gregori and Federico Zeri have attributed panels on one cabinet to the Florentine artist, Pietro Dandini, suggesting that the panels may have also been supplied from Florence (Tempio del Gusto, vol. I, Milan, 1984, p. 283 and pl. XXXVI).
Two pairs of related cabinets-on-stands listed in the Demidoff sale of the Palais de San Donato, Florence in 1880, lots 993 and 1025 in the Grande Galerie de Canova are described as similarly decorated in subjects taken from the Old Testament, painted by Luca Giordano, while lots 1004 and 1011 (pair) have mythological scenes by the same artist (Palais de San Donato catalogue des Objets D'Art et d'Ameublement..., held by M. Charles Pillet on 15 March 1880 and following days, pp. 195-200). The present cabinets-on-stands are closely related to an example in the palace of Perelada, Girona, which has a virtually identical stand. and another from the Palazzo Barberini, Rome (Il Tempio del Gusto, vol. II, fig. 384). A further related cabinet with panels attributed to Luca Giordano (one of a pair) is illustrated in J. Geyssant, op. cit., p. 56. Interestingly, the stands of this pair incorporate the Habsburg insignia of the crowned double-headed eagle suggesting they were destined for Emperor Charles II. It is known that Luca Giordano went to Spain at the invitation of Charles II, staying there for ten years until 1702 when he returned to Naples following Charles' death.