Prized for their grandeur, such magnificent cabinets as this were regarded as a mark of rank and status, with their impressive architectural form creating a jewel-like focal point in Europe's most fashionable interiors.
The cabinet on stand, with all its many variants, gained popularity throughout Europe from the early 16th-Century, reaching its Zenith in the late 17th-Century. During this period the scale, magnificence and intricacy of the cabinets produced also grew. They were conceived as vehicles for the display of the most exotic materials and elaborate workmanship and this cabinet is the ultimate expression of this. Popular throughout Europe, there were a great many regional variants of the collector’s cabinet, such as the related ebony cabinets with their bas-relief panels being produced in Paris or the examples being produced at Florence with exuberant pietra dure panels from the Medici workshops. However, the design of this cabinet, with its rich ormolu mounts and tortoiseshell veneers set in contrast with dark ebony mouldings, is typical of the work being produced in Naples. In terms of materials it has much in common with its counterparts being produced in other places under the influence of Spanish rule, which had access to exotic materials, such as tortoiseshell, being imported from Spain’s colonies or via her trade routes.
However, its ambitious design eloquently draws on the classical architecture of Italy’s past rather than that of her Mediterranean neighbour. The form can be related to the architectural table cabinets and cabinets on stands produced at various Italian centres from the 16th century onwards, such as Venice, Florence and Rome (see W. Koeppe and A. Giusti, exhibition catalogue, Art of the Royal Court, Treasures in Pietra Dure from the Palaces of Europe, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008, p. 143, no. 21 and S. Jervis and D. Dodd, Roman Splendour/English Arcadia, The English taste for Pietre Dure and the Sixtus Cabinet at Stourhead, London 2015, pp. 13, 15 & 62).
A related Neapolitan tortoiseshell-mounted cabinet of slightly earlier type, but also of striking architectural form, displaying similar balustraded pediment and tortoiseshell-lined niches flanked by columns, is illustrated in A. González-Palacios, Il Gusto Dei Principi, Arte di Corte del XVII e del XVIII Secolo, Milan, 1993, vol. II, p. 120, pl. 207.