This by all means highly exceptional mirror cabinet was presumably made in Amsterdam around 1763. It is to be classified into a remarkable group of furniture that most certainly stems from one and the same workshop. Part of this group is, amongst others, the most famous mirror cabinet of the Netherlands, currently in the collection of the Rijksmuseum [BK-16431]. The cabinet discussed here has striking similarities.
This newly discovered mirror cabinet is rather unique. As regards its dimensions, it is comparable to more conventional cabinets, although the arched shape makes it appear less sizable. Furthermore, this cabinet has, in contrast to conventional models, not two but only one door at the front, fitted with a mirror. The three drawers in the lower part, then again, are in line with more conventional cabinets. On either side of the mirror, curved doors give access to a space with shelves in various sizes. Probably these doors were left open to display the delicate porcelain items that could be displayed on the shelves. On either side of the three drawers in the lower part smaller curved doors give access to little drawers with silver drawer handles. As a matter of fact, all the mounts are executed in silver, struck with hallmarks and maker’s mark, like the ones on the cabinet in the Rijksmuseum. Whereas the silver on the cabinet in the Rijksmuseum bears the date letter for 1764, the silver mounts on the cabinet here discussed, are marked 1763. However, the maker’s mark [DF] is the same on both objects. Dirk Froger was an Amsterdam silversmith, who mainly made small objects like tangle holders and buckles, but also mounts for furniture.
The similarities are obvious. The carving is from the same hand, the marquetry and trimming, atypically executed in tulipwood, is rather exceptional. Another extraordinary feature is the design and distribution of the surface decoration on the front of the drawers, with its scalloped sides and fanciful decorations. Another peculiar detail is the way the top of the clawed feet is decorated.
The use of silver mounts was not uncommon on Dutch colonial furniture from Indonesia or the Cape, but in Holland it was rather rare. Possibly the application of silver was derived from colonial examples. Due to the hallmarks on the silver mounts it is possible to pinpoint the rather exact date of manufacture as well as its origin. Truly remarkable is the fact that by now there are three objects known from this workshop with silver mounts by the same silversmith and made in successive years. Besides this cabinet and the cabinet in the Rijksmuseum, there is also a porcelain cabinet, auctioned by Christie’s in Laren, the Netherlands in 1979. This latter cabinet is mounted with silver struck with a date letter for 1766. On the basis of similarity in design, carving, and marquetry, another cabinet can be added to this group. This last piece of furniture, however, has no silver mounts.
There is a tasty anecdote concerning the acquisition of the mirror cabinet by the Rijksmuseum that cannot be left unmentioned. The famous antiques dealer Nijstad bought the object from Mr. Huyssen van Kattendijke esq. from the Hague who had possessed it for many years. It was placed in Nijstad’s gallery in Lochem. Saam Nijstad wrote the following: “The magnificent piece of furniture caught the attention of Meier Mossel, a visiting antiques dealer from Amsterdam. After asking about a number of different objects he haphazardly dropped the question: ‘And what about the price of the little cabinet?’ It was clear to anyone of us that the diminutive word used by him for describing this impressive piece of furniture was completely unjustified. Mossel, however, did obviously not indicate its size, but rather its value.
My father answered: ‘I am sorry for you, but it is not for sale.’ Two days later, the antiques dealer Lion Morpurgo used exactly the same qualification to refer to the cabinet, but again he was told it was not for sale. Nijstad decided to offer the cabinet to the Rijksmuseum and called the director, who visited the gallery two days later. From the moment David Roëll esq. entered the gallery he needed no more than two minutes to assess the object. He then said: ‘Mr. Nijstad you are perfectly right, this cabinet is indeed for the Rijksmuseum. I’m buying this, thank you very much, we need to go now’, and he immediately left the premises. Nijstad’s reaction was: ‘What a bastard, he didn’t even ask for the price. Now I am obliged to give him a fair deal’. Two years later Roëll once again returned to the matter. He said: ‘it was no use to ask you for the price, I had to buy it anyway and you knew that. By not asking the price I knew you would treat me in a fair way’.
R.J. Baarsen e.a., Rococo in Nederland, exhibition.cat. Rijksmuseum Amsterdam 2001-2002, Zwolle Waanders, 2001, pp. 284, 285.
Private collection, Europe
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