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Department of Decorative Arts: Renaissance
© 1995 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet
Dressers first appeared in Europe during the fifteenth century, and were used for arranging and displaying tableware: pewter, copper and earthenware in more modest households, gold and silver in wealthier homes, where the furniture was also more elaborately carved. The dresser retained its original form throughout the first half of the sixteenth century while at the same time beginning to incorporate new designs emerging from Italy, as seen here.
A design inherited from the fifteenth century
The dresser comprises upper and lower sections with a flat front and truncated corners. The structure is punctuated by small columns encrusted with shell. The upper section of the dresser is divided horizontally into two parts: at the top are two doors decorated with ornamental hinges, while the lower part has a single, centrally-placed door, also with ornamental hinges, flanked by carved panels. The hinges are highlighted against a setting of oak with reddish highlights. The lower section of the dresser is open, and features three arches with simple moldings, for the display of choice pieces of tableware or other decorative items. This two-part structure originated in the fifteenth century and remained in use during the early sixteenth century. A dresser of the same design, with Gothic ornamentation and bearing the arms of Louis XII and Anne de Bretagne, is preserved in the Dobrée Museum in Nantes, in western France.
Traditional and innovative decoration
The doors on the upper section of the dresser are carved in slight relief with elaborate foliate scrolls; in the center of these are oval medallions framing two female profiles. The lower door is carved with scrolls of leaves and the head of an angel; the adjoining panels and truncated corners are exquisitely ornamented with Italianate grotesques of a type common to both furniture and ceramics. However, the sides of the dresser feature linenfold decoration, characteristic of the fifteenth century. The piece features an interesting mix of typical late fifteenth-century decoration (hinges, colonnettes, linenfolds) and newer syles (grotesques, medallions with profiles). Another, similar dresser, bearing the date 1524 and preserved in the French Musée Nationale de la Renaissance at Écouen, confirms this gradual assimilation of Italianate decorative styles.
BibliographyAlcouffe Daniel, Dion-Tenenbaum Anne, Lefébure Amaury, Le mobilier du musée du Louvre, t. 1, Dijon, Editions Faton, 1993, pp. 24-25.
France (early 16th century)
H. 1.42 m; W. 1.16 m; D. 0.48 m
Gift of Marquise Arconati Visconti, 1916
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