GERRIT JENSEN - 'ROYAL CABBINET MAKER'
The intricate arabesque, seaweed or 'filigree' marquetry of this magnificent cabinet-on-stand was introduced during the reign of William and Mary (1689-1702), under which there was a cross-cultural exchange of ideas and labour between Holland, France and England.
The density of its all-over highly stylised foliate and scrollwork ornamentation, of the finest quality, usually denotes the piece as English and in particular associates it with Gerrit Jensen (d.1715). As 'Cabbinet [sic] maker in Ordinary' to the Crown, Jensen's name appears frequently in the Royal accounts; in a 1697 inventory of the Queen's possessions at Kensington Palace, London, tables, glasses and stands inlaid with metal that'came in after her death from [sic] Mr Johnson' are mentioned. Jensen had a close relationship with Pierre Gole, cabinetmaker to Louis XIV (active in France circa 1620-1684) and was strongly influenced by the work of Daniel Marot (d.1752), Gole's brother-in-law. Consequently, Jensen's furniture reflects the fashionable French court styles, and he was the only cabinetmaker working in England at this period known to have used metal inlays in his work. In this he was undoubtedly inspired by the French ébéniste, André Charles Boulle (d.1732) who perfected the art of inlaying brass and tortoiseshell. Jensen also employed elaborate marquetry, his bills refer to 'markatree' to distinguish arabesque from floral or 'flower'd' marquetry (A. Bowett, English Furniture 1660 -1714 From Charles II to Queen Anne, Woodbridge, 2002, p. 201).
Jensen is attributed as the maker of a pair of closely related cabinets with similar arabesque marquetry of holly inlaid on a walnut ground in the Duke of Devonshire's collection at Chatsworth, Derbyshire where he was recorded as being involved with furnishing between 1688 and 1698. Another closely related cabinet-on-stand, which probably entered the Bankes collection in the 19th century is at Kingston Lacy, Dorset. This example is inscribed with the cabinet-makers' names I. Hoogeboom and Jan Roohals, suggesting it has an unusual Dutch origin (National Trust 1254596). The similarity of the present cabinet to others and the undoubted quality of the marquetry work certainly place it in the same canon as those attributed to Jensen.
The marquetry decoration is remarkable for the inclusion of ovals depicting almost comical dancing figures that may be inspired by the characters in drawings and engravings by Jacques Callot (d.1635), a Baroque printmaker and draftsman from the Duchy of Lorraine. Callot chronicled the life of the period excelling in the depiction of soldiers, clowns, drunkards, gypsies and beggars, as well as court life. Hunchback figures derived from Callot's illustrations also feature on a floral marquetry cabinet-on-stand formerly at Denston Hall, Newmarket.
The present cabinet-on-stand is part of a small number of pieces entirely decorated with arabesque marquetry; more commonly furniture is composed of oval and shaped reserves on a walnut ground filled with small-scale scrollwork. A princes wood cabinet-on-stand of this type is at Fairfax House, York (A. Bowett, Woods in British Furniture-Making 1400-1900, Kew, 2012, p. 194, P30).
The comparative cabinets above are also very similar in form to the present example, with its frieze drawer above panelled doors and a long drawer in the stand. However, the present cabinet-on-stand has pillar legs which superseded scrolled legs, as found on the Chatsworth and Kingston Lacy examples, from circa 1690 onwards.