Curiosity Cabinet

Spain, late 17th century


Tortoishell, rosewood, boxwood and bronze
17 1/5 H by 14 3/4 D by 32 3/8 W  inches
Also called bargueño, this is the typical Spanish cabinet from the 16 and 17th century. Richly decorated in noble and exotic materials, it has the architectural design of a Baroque Palace. The piece is divided in three perfectly symmetrical vertical sections.

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The middle section depicts a temple with two pairs of Salomonic columns flanking the figure of Hercules killing the lion of Nemea. With a hidden lock, this temple opens up to three secret drawers. Each of the other two sections has three drawers with individual locks and keys. The cabinet is a work of art embodied in a useful piece of furniture. A place to keep important papers or other valuable items, the bargueños were the most important piece of furniture in the house. This cabinet has handles on each side, which made for easy transportation, keeping in mind the luxury of the materials, the individual locks and keys for each drawer, and the important belongings were kept inside, it was the first furniture to take in the event of urgency.