A Rare and Unusual Queen Anne Black-Japanned and Gilt Bureau Cabinet

CIRCA 1710

Height: 83.5" Width: 41" Depth: 23.25"

Inventory Number 8299-55





The double-dome cornice over two arched doors inset with beveled mirrors with the reverse decorated with Commedia dell'Arte figures of a harlequin to the left and a musician to the right, opening to a fully-fitted interior incorporating valanced pigeon holes over central incurved prospect doors with the figures of Inamorato and Inamorata set between marbilized Doric columns and folio slides above banks of drawers, set above two candle slides; the lower part with a slanted fall-front decorated with a hunting scene and opening to a velvet-lined writing surface and well below an arched prospect door with a gentleman holding a wine glass between columns and drawers concealing secret compartments, over two short and two long graduated drawers, on later bracket feet.



Additional Information

The bureau cabinet was one of the most important articles of household furniture during the 18th century. Often constructed with choice veneers or decorated lavishly, it was designed to impress and confer status on its owner. The present example was japanned with motifs inspired by the extremely fashionable lacquer imported to Europe from China and Japan.

However, extremely unusual decoration featuring characters from the Commedia dell’arte enrich the interior of this cabinet and must have been specially commissioned by a client with a passion for the theater. The Commedia dell’arte was a form of improvisational theater which flourished in Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries. Troupes traveled all over the country performing situational comedies on temporary stages in city streets, or, for the most renowned of companies, in palaces. Stock characters, such as the harlequin, were used in every production and easily recognizable by their costumes. The Inamorato, or “the lover”, was the only male character to not wear a mask, and the union with his Inamorata was the happy culmination of each presentation.