fans of Gothic design elements such as fenestrage (tracery) and spires, this armoire is a
feast for the eyes. Made from solid
oak, the hand carving is magnificent and more finely detailed than one would
think possible for this hardwood transformed into furniture. It beckons the viewer to feel the finials,
trace the tracery, and ogle the ogives while marveling at the mastery of its
unnamed creator whose distinctive handwork is revealed on closest examination.
overall structure, we have called this an armoire because of its height but it
is also a cabinet because, unlike the typical armoire, the doors do not run the
full length of the piece. Regardless of
classification, it can be viewed as an ogive arch encased within a rectangle
framed by pilasters whose tops are crocketed finials.
crocketing on the gently sloping sides of the central arch is especially rich
in its carving, evoking the curled acanthus leaves that such ornaments were
deigned to mimic but that later became stylized bumps more like those on the
finials. At the culmination of the
arch, resting on its own tiny shelf is a large leaf, possibly an oak leaf to
symbolize the tree from which this cabinet is carved. On either side of the ogive are lancet arches supporting
quatrefoils, with the empty spaces between them packed by tiny floral motifs.
the ogive is a space devoid of ornamentation except for an angelot or cherub -
an angel's head with wings attached.
Instead of looking straight out at the viewer, as on other pieces we
have had in our collection, this angelot's gaze is downward and to its
right. We can only speculate, but this
may have been added later, having something to do with the location for which
the cabinet was made? Perhaps a
painting or statute was meant to be the focus of the room and the angel's
stare. In any event, the details of the
hair and wings are masterfully rendered, causing the eye to examine the angelot
closely and then to follow its gaze.
part of the cabinet below the central arch is comprised of two doors. At first glance, they appear to be identical
but for the placement of the knobs on the right or left side. Those knobs are uninteresting and appear to
be replacements employing a magnetic closure.
closer examination, the creator has fooled us and while the doors are clearly
based on the same design, there are distinctions. Perhaps this relates back to the medieval notion that no two
things could ever be identical because only God could make a perfect copy? Both door panels employ identical central
compositions based on an isosceles triangle.
At the halfway point of the sides of the triangle, straight lines emerge
and meet at the base, forming a diamond shape within the larger triangle and
two smaller triangles on either side.
Such a design based on angles, and specifically triangles, is very unusual
for fenestrage or tracery where curved shapes abound, including the mouchettes
(elliptical shapes incorporating two lobes) that fill the spaces within the
the uppermost part of the armoire, the door panels include an overall ogive
design. Where the two door panels
depart in design is the right panel's incorporation of an additional arch
within the ogive while the left panel simply incorporates two additional
mouchettes to fill the frame.
form the repeating decorative element on the two drawers that act like a belt
to separate upper and lower portions of the armoire. Each drawer has a decorative knob based on a flower, reflecting
the intricately carved circular frame within which it is mounted.
lower part of the armoire includes two doors, this time identical (challenging
medieval superstitions), and based on lancet arches from which the tracery
seems to rise in alternating patterns of mouchettes. Below this is the base moulding, also reflecting a repeating design
of mouchettes evoking that of the drawers.
this is a piece meant to be viewed and appreciated head-on is evidenced by the
lack of ornamentation on the sides.
Simple, rectangular insets are arranged to mirror the zones found on the
front. In their simplicity they invite
appreciation of the wood itself and its luscious patina, fully apparent in the
absence of ornamentation.
The photos reflect some cracking in thefenestrage, which we attribute to age and the possibility that it may be older
than the date attributed to it. There
has also been a repair to the left front foot, shown in the photo below. As the penultimate photo reflects, some
previous owner has thoughtfully finished the entire interior in red felt. We have not removed it, as we think it lends
an unexpected aura to a piece whose details merit close examination and