In Focus


During the first half of the 17th century, the cabinet-on-stand became an important furniture form in Italy; it was soon imitated in both western and northern Europe. Not only were such cabinets useful for the storage of small personal articles and collectibles but they could be highly decorative. Italian examples were especially noteworthy because they were often covered with "pietre dure" marquetry. In this technique, hard stones selected for their color were shaped so that they could be assembled like a puzzle into decorative motifs and glued onto the surface of a piece of furniture. By the mid-17th century, clients in northern Europe were demanding furniture decorated in this fashion. While some Italian furniture with "pietre dure," as well as ready-made stone slabs, were imported, cabinetmakers in various parts of Europe created acceptable alternatives to the Italian prototypes.

Cabinets such as this played a prominent role within a fashionable nobleman’s home by serving not simply as personal storage but also as a theatrical stage for revealing the owner’s taste to honored guests. Each of the drawers and compartments may have held anything from important personal papers to rare medallions and other miniature works of art. The sumptuous floral marquetry designs in ivory, mother-of-pearl, shell, and various woods and the fine craftsmanship suggest the lavishness of the treasures once contained within—and the undoubtedly grand room in which the cabinet once resided.

Adapted from

  • "Cabinet on Stand (1985.R.573. A-C)," in _Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, _Bonnie Pitman, ed. (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012), 153.

  • Dallas Museum of Art. Decorative Arts Highlights from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection. (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1995), 47.

  • TMS data, label copy, 1985.R.573.A-C, n.d.

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