Description & Technical information

This cabinet-on-stand is of ebony, with floral carvings and brass hinges and lock. On the doors of the cabinets, the flowers are arranged within arched panels on stems that emerge apparently randomly from the base. Above the arches, two slender snakes are carved at each corner of the cabinet door, facing towards each other. In Hindu and Buddhist mythology, snakes are often seen as special, magical beings in some cases, are said to protect places. It is possible that they have been carved on the cabinet to serve as protective symbols for the objects inside. According to Jan Veenendaal, "when snakes are carved facing each other, they are the work of an Indian craftsman. If they face away from each other, they have been fashioned by a Javanese wood carver." The stand contains unidentifiable flowers with cross-hatched centres, all connected through the stems to the central flower head. It has twisted legs and stretchers.

Veenendaal categorised Batavian carving into two types. The first type is inspired by Dutch flower designs, while the second type has rope mouldings, lotus flowers and oriental vases. This cabinet belongs to the first type. For an example with almost identical cabinet carving, see below (Veenendaal, 2014).

Ebony was obtained from the ebony tree (Diospyros ebenum), found in places like Mauritius, Sri Lanka and Buru. In the regions controlled by the Dutch V.O.C, these dark tropical hardwoods were extremely popular in the seventeenth century, as witness the various kinds of furniture made from them. The earliest of these Asian pieces are sometimes virtually exact copies of furniture made in Holland. Twist-turning became extremely fashionable in Europe from 1640 on. The twist-turned columns of the Baldacin in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome – constructred in 1633 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) – had a huge influence on architecture and furniture design in Europe. In Holland, the first twist-turned furniture appears around 1650 and twist-turning became common from around 1660. The twist-turned furniture began to be produced in Batavia from around 1650. 

Comparative material: 
Veenendaal, Jan. Asian Art and Dutch Taste. 1st ed. Waanders Uitgevers, 2014, p.25, ill.23.

Stock no.: A5377

Date:  1680-1720
Period:  17th century
Origin:  Batavia, Indonesia
Medium: Wood, Ebony, Brass
Dimensions: 146 x 108 x 67.5 cm (57¹/₂ x 42¹/₂ x 26⁵/₈ inches)
Categories: Furniture