This dressoir is based on designs by Jacques Androuet Du Cerceau I (d. after 1584) of circa 1560. The overall shape, with the main facade of four fluted columns on square pilasters before a shelf with a further four baluster supports, corresponds to his design for a dressoir (S. Jervis, Printed Furniture Designs Before 1650, Leeds, 1974, fig. 71). The broken pediment above an ornamental panel and flanked by arcaded recesses is again based on another of his designs for a closed armoire (Jervis, op. cit., fig. 61).
The Huguenot Du Cerceau's importance to the decorative arts is as a disseminator of Renaissance and Mannerist decoration through his books and prints of perspective, architecture, ornament, metalwork, furniture etc. He was probably in Rome in the 1540s and established himself in Orlans, his family's place of origin, in 1549. It is here that his only architectural structure is recorded in the triumphal arch that he designed for the entry of Henri II into that city. His patrons included the Duke and Duchess of Ferrara and Catherine de' Medici, to whom he dedicated his main books, the Livre de Grotesques of 1566 and Les Plus Excellents Bastiments de France of 1576 and 1579.
The overall design of this dressoir relates futher to an unattributed design in the cole nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris, which has the paired column supports and the broken pediment (J. Thirion, Le Mobilier du Moyen Age et de la Renaissance en France, Dijon, 1998, p. 115).
Dressoirs of a similar structure, including the two pairs of columns to the front and a central cabinet with a recessed shelf on baluster column supports, are in the Muse des Arts Dcoratifs, Paris (Thirion, op. cit., p. 114), and in a private collection (J. Boccador, Le Mobilier Franais du moyen Age a la Renaissance, Saint-Just-en-Chausse, 1988, p. 186, fig. 138). Another of very similar form, albeit with a central arch and generally less decorated, sold at Ader Tajan, Paris, 6 April 1992, lot 39, has a central door with flat carving that compares closely with the Rothschild example . A further dressoir with similar pediment and very closely related overall appearance was in the collection of Georges Hoentschel (A. Prate and G. Brire, Collections Georges Hoentschel, Paris, 1908, plate LVIII). Many of the details of that cabinet, including the fluted pilasters surmounted by figure-heads, the capitals of the main columns, the lion-headed drawer and its apron, suggest that they may have been executed in the same workshop.
The Interpretation of the Ornament
This cabinet, celebrating Peace and Concord, is surmounted by a bas-relief of Love's Triumph, with Mars attending Venus's couch, derived from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Its triumphal open-pedimented frame is supported by paired Doric columns and buttressed by satyr-headed acanthus scrolls, while cherubim heads surmount the wall niches, and accompany the veil-festooned and embossed cartouches at the base.
The cabinet, encrusted with marble plaques, also celebrates 'Civic wisdom' with its buffet-door displaying a bas-relief of Minerva attending a peace trophy of arms and armour laid aside. Yet more trophies embellish its cornice, which is supported by antique fluted Composite pilasters. The buffet is recessed between a triumphal screen of paired Ionic columns, that are enriched with vine-scrolls and surmounted by reclining water-deities. More deities frame a festive lion-mask in the frieze of its buffet-table, which is supported by turned tapering columns and embellished with an apron of acanthus-enriched ribbon scrolls.