richly sculpted Italian cabinet, along with the table it accompanies (Item
3308) fit perfectly with the recent trend for executives to opt for a table and
"credenza" in their office rather than a desk with drawers, in the
traditional sense. But even if
purchased separately, the cabinet is a beauty in its own right and would work
well in any setting.
Its origins are in the Renaissance cabinet called a credenza because people locked
away precious food in it with confidence (credere meaning "to
believe" or "trust"). It
is typically a low cabinet (waist high) with a drawer (or two) in the frieze
and one or two doors below. The
credenza should not be mistaken for the French adaptation called a crédence,
involving a design derived from a cupboard atop a table and
eventually unified as one piece (also called a dressoir) with a pot board as an open shelf at the bottom.
keeping with Italian Renaissance tradition, this cabinet is made of walnut,
although some parts are impiallacciatura.
We hesitate to call it "veneer" because it is far thicker than
in the modern sense and is used sparingly on the unadorned horizontal and
vertical surfaces. Like solid wood, it
boasts a warm and pleasing patina.
This cabinet offers a cornucopia of Renaissance design motifs such as the acanthus
leaf, palmette, scroll, rosette, and fruit garland. What initially attracted us to this cabinet was the intricately
carved cascade of fruits. Popularized
by Northern Italian Renaissance artists such as Carlo Crivelli with his
enormous decorative vocabulary and used as a visual effect to separate the
viewer from the picture plane, the cascade is particularly pleasing because it
draws the eye from top to bottom, to focus on the virtuosity of the
carving. It is also a reminder of the
agricultural bounty of the countryside from which the design of this credenza
Although a bit more elaborate in its decoration, this cabinet reminded us of the
magnificent 16th century credenza we saw in the Sitting Room during our visit
in 2005 to Bernard Berenson's Villa I Tatti outside Florence, just as he was
photographed with it in 1903 (as shown on the cover of Ernest Samuels' Bernard
Berenson -- The Making of a Connoisseur).
As its Renaissance forebears did, this cabinet locks with a key (of which we have two)
in order to give the modern owner a credenza that whatever is inside is safely