This splendid ebony cabinet displays 17th Century Florentine pietra dura panels from the Medici workshops. They were executed at the Opificio delle pietre dure, founded in 1588 by Grand Duke Ferdinando I de Medici. Pietra dura plaques incorporate a wide variety of semi-precious stones and rare marbles, such as lapis lazuli, pietra paesina and alabaster, while these leopard plaques are executed in a precious fern-patterned light yellow marble known as Tigrato or Dendrite dell'Arno. This marble was used in an exquisite small group of panels depicting sunflowers. One of these panels, in the Museo dell'Opificio Delle Pietre Dure in Florence, is signed to the reverse by a commesso named Girolamo della Valle and dated 1664 (A Giusti (ed.,) Splendori di Pietre Dure, Florence, 1988, pp. 156-157). Besides a further panel in the museum, there is another, virtually identical 'sunflower' panel, probably also executed by della Valle, incorporated in a Louis XVI meuble d'appui by Charles Claude Saunier (maître in 1752), which is illustrated in A. González-Palacios, Il Gusto dei Principi, Milan, 1993, vol. II, p. 32, fig. 25. Pietra dura plaques depicting exotic animals were considerably rarer than those decorated with indigenous birds or flowers and have always been highly prized. A closely related cabinet incorporating animal plaques was acquired in the 1830s by the Rev'd John Stanford (d.1855) from 'Signor Siries', director of the Florentine academy of pietra dura, which is now at Corsham Court, Wiltshire (A. Summer, 'The Clerical Connoisseur', The Antique Collector, 6 (1990), p. 129, fig. 7).