Oak five-door cabinet

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Friesland, Netherlands
Ca. 1630 - 1650
210 cm
146 cm
63 cm

L. van Aalst & A. Hofstede, Noord-Nederlandse meubelen van renaissance tot vroege barok 1550-1670, Houten 2011, p. 240.


Private collection J.R. Ritman, Amsterdam

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This type of cabinet was made in the area of Friesland and is called an ‘Amelander cabinet’ after the island in the north of the Netherlands. It has a profiled top that leans over a completely smooth surface frieze. The colossal fluted columns placed in front of the side pilasters are crowned by an Ionic capital and end in a ribbed shaft, just like the pilasters in the upper cabinet. The top cabinet consists of two doors with characteristic Frisian arches: hexagonal blocks cut from the solid wood. The doors are flanked on both sides by riled columns. In the center, two columns border a niche with a particularly beautiful carved vase with flowers, topped by a shell. This panel is a ‘secreetje’, a secret box that can only be opened from the inside.

Cabinets with this flower vase motif were initially called Amelander cabinets because the motif occurs on the pulpit of the village Ballum on the Frisian island Ameland. We now know that this carving originated on the Frisian mainland since the Ballum pulpit was made in Harlingen in 1604 and brought to the island in 1771. The pulpits in the churches of Marssum and Engelum are decorated with the same beautiful motif and it is a regularly recurring subject on (painted folk art) furniture in West Friesland (North-Holland). In the seventeenth century, this type of still life with a vase of flowers was called blompot. The vase with flowers is a theme on which artists and publishers have varied endlessly, and which sometimes portrayed the transience of life.
The door panels of the lower cabinet are decorated with the same arches as the upper cabinet, only the pilasters end in a pedestal with pipes. The key entrances are hidden behind the pilasters, which can be pushed to the side. 
A striking feature of this type of Frisian cupboard is the profiled line between the top and bottom cupboard with two small consoles in the middle, on which the columns of the niche seem to rest. The unadorned plinth does not have a drawer, but in the interior, there is a sort of container in which hats and caps could be stored. The plinth consists of three strongly shrinking bases. The sides are divided into four panels by profiled posts.

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