credenza or buffet cabinet is massive and imposing. Its overall design stems from the 15th century in Florence where
the term credenza is believed to stem from the Italian for
"belief." Back then, the
credenza was a substantial cabinet into which food was locked for safe keeping
- not from thieves or vermin, but from murderers whose weapon of choice was
poison. The cabinet represented the
owner's "belief" that the food was safe. For more about poisoning and a link to Florence, see our article
in the Quarterly Newsletter of the Wine Society of Texas (Greater Houston
This type of sturdy cabinet swept Florence in a wave of fashion, displacing its
predecessor in the form of brightly colored and painted furniture more flimsy
and less likely to discourage poisoners.
Rather, the emphasis was on the beauty of the wood itself, especially
walnut, and the intricate carving that became the preferred adornment. Owing its overall design to architecture and
the innovations sweeping Tuscany around the same time, the credenza was
characterized by column supports and pilasters as well as broad mouldings.
In height, just above waist-level, this cabinet is typical of the 15th century
design objective that a richly woven cloth cover the top for use in formal
dining occasions where the serving vessels and utensils would be set out. When not in use, these utensils would be
stored in the drawers forming the band just below the top of the cabinet. The drawers are elaborately textured with a
mosaic-like motif that is repeated on the base, just below the pot-board.
The case part of the credenza is made up of four doors, each ornamented with a
square moulding. Separating the outer
doors from the two central doors is a narrow, vertical panel based on a design
of overlapping circles. Uniting the
vertical members are stylized flowers in a rectangular frame at the top and as
part of the base for the columns supporting the case and rising from the pot-board.
horizontal surfaces such as the top and the pot-board display the magnificence
of the walnut grain and add a warmth and humanizing element to this heavy,
architectural piece. Due to age, the
pot-board, which is approximately 3/16" in thickness, has curved slightly
in its frame.
The hardware is original and the cabinet door comes with a key.