The 19th century vogue for ebony and ebonised furniture, particularly in the form of Renaissance revival side cabinets, (see Christie's London, 1 November 2001, p. 32 for a related note) was widespread. Profusely carved cabinets, encrusted with a wealth of hardstones and inlaid with ivory, proliferated across Europe in varying degrees of quality. Indeed, one only has to peruse any of the major mid-century exhibition catalogues to see variations on the theme produced in every country from Austria and Italy to England and France.
The present cabinet is an example of the highest end of the genre. Although apparently unsigned, its execution, with deeply carved detailing against an oak carcass, is on a par with those produced by the finest of French ébénistes. Slightly different in style, the present cabinet has attributes in common with two other late 17th century inspired cabinets produced by the celebrated Parisian firm of Fourdinois, one in ebony for the London International Exhibition of 1862, and one in walnut for the Paris Exposition universelle of 1867. The tops of the three are adorned with the same scrolled broken pediment and are surmounted by similar recumbent figures. The cabinets incorporate the same type of rectangular lapis inlay, along with decorative concave niches containing delicately carved full-length figures.