Work Armoire said to be by Hugues Sambin
Department of Decorative Arts: Renaissance
© 2011 Musée du Louvre / Philippe Fuzeau
The decorations on this highly architectural piece of furniture include bas-reliefs, scupture in the round, and painted panels. It has often been compared to the work of the architect and ornamentalist Hugues Sambin (circa 1520-1601). Although some features do seem to be inspired by his architectural style, other sources, in particular those of Fontainebleau, have contributed to the creation of this armoire, which is very representative of sixteenth-century furniture.
A sixteenth-century armoire
This armoire was originally in two pieces, as was usually the case in the sixteenth century. It was altered at some unknown date and now forms a single piece, but marks showing the way it was formerly put together can still be found. Three terminal figures are placed at key points to emphasize the structure of the front. The one in the center is a half-figure of a woman whose plinth is ornamented with a chute of flowers and fruit while to either side of her are two male figures on cylindrical plinths carved with scrolls of formalized leaves and flowers. The three terminal figures are topped by capitals in the form of baskets of flowers. They serve to separate the two doors of the upper section in which niches have been carved containing Hercules on the left, and Venus and Cupid on the right. Two scenes have been painted on the doors of the lower half: The Creation of Man and The Murder of Abel by Cain. The very compartmentalized structure of this piece, with carvings highlighting the differences in relief and the painted panels contributing a variety of color tones, makes it characteristic of late sixteenth- century furniture and of Renaissance furniture in general.
Comparison with the work of Hugues Sambin
This armoire has been compared to the work of the famous Dijon architect and ornamentalist, Hugues Sambin (circa 1520-1601). Sambin was also a master cabinetmaker and published a collection entitled The Diversity of Terminal Figures used in Architecture (Lyon, 1572). The three terminal figures on this piece are very similar to the engravings in his collection and to the decorations carried out by Sambin for the Palais de Justice in Dijon (1582-1583). Despite these similarities, we cannot with certainty attribute the Louvre armoire to this artist. Furthermore, the painted panels were the work of a Dijon glass painter, Évrard Bredin, who worked with Hugues Sambin. It has been possible to attribute these by comparing them with two signed panels in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon and a series of paintings decorating a dresser dated 1581, which is preserved in the Musée du Palais de Granvelle at Besançon.
The Fontainebleau influence
Another influence is detectable in this armoire: that of the first school of Fontainebleau, where Sambin stayed in 1544. The figure of Hercules, set in a niche on the left-hand door, derives from the Vulcan of the Gods in Niches series, after the painter Rosso Fiorentino. This was engraved by Caraglio in 1526, reproduced in 1530 by Bink, and again by Androuet du Cerceau after 1540. These illustrations were much used in the decorative arts, particularly during the last third of the sixteenth century.
BibliographyExposition Parures d'or et de pourpre : le mobilier à la cour des Valois, Blois, 2002, pp. 132-135.
Thirion Jacques, Le mobilier du Moyen Âge et de la Renaissance en France, Dijon, Editions Faton, 1998, pp. 94-95.
Alcouffe Daniel, Dion-Tenenbaum Anne, Lefébure Amaury, Le mobilier du musée du Louvre, t. 1, Dijon, Editions Faton, 1993, pp. 34-37.
France (c. 1580)
Walnut and oak, partially gilded and painted
H. 2.06 m; W. 1.50 m; D. 0.60 m
Gift of Marquise Arconati Visconti, 1916 , 1916
The Louvre is open every day (except Tuesday) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.