A native of Steinbach, Germany, Charles-Guillaume Diehl (d. 1885) settled in Paris in 1840. He established a large atelier at 39, rue Saint-Sébastien, where by 1870 he employed no less than 600 craftsmen. Diehl simultaneously manufactured all kinds of coffrets - liquor cabinets, games boxes, jewellery caskets - as well as small furnishings - lady's work tables, games tables and meubles de mariage. His production included both ordinary pieces and deluxe objects, among them those executed especially for the various international exhibitions.
An example of the present fine cabinet, conceived in a highly individualistic style, borrowing and adapting Egyptian motifs, formed part of Diehl's medal-winning stand at the 1867 Paris Exposition Universelle. Diehl's exhibit featured two other important pieces of furniture: the first, an exuberant silvered-bronze-mounted marquetry-inlaid medal cabinet, with central bas-relief by Emmanuel Frémiet and described as "Merovingian in style" (purchased by the Louvre in 1973 and now on display in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris); the second, a large centre table with Etruscan-style marquetry by E. Varlot (see 1867 Art Journal engraving above; now in a private collection). All three pieces exhibit the collaboration between Diehl, Kowalewski, his chief ébéniste, and the industrial designer Jean Brandely. Described as "a bold, strange artist...an enterprising man with spontaneity" (Auguste Luchet in L'Art Industrielle à l'Exposition Universelle de 1867: Mobilier, vêtement, aliments, Paris, 1868), Brandely provided plans for furniture and designs for both marquetry and bronze applications. He would therefore have been responsible for the distinctive and identical mounts replicated on both the Etruscan centre table and this cabinet. Additionally, just as Diehl collaborated with the sculptor Emmanuel Frémiet for the silvered bronze bas-relief of his medal cabinet, here he employs the new technique of galvinoplastie to reproduce in copper an early design by the celebrated sculptor Emile-Coriolan-Hippolyte Guillemin (d. 1907).
Another example of this cabinet by Diehl, identical but for an opposing figure of Juno on the Guillemin plaque, is in the collection of the Musée d'Orsay, Paris. Acquired in 1985, the cabinet had previously sold Sotheby's Belgravia, 2 November 1977, lot 182 (£12,650; illustrated D. Ledoux-Lebard, Le Mobilier Français du XIXe Siècle, Paris, 1984, p. 165).