Bonhams will sell an extraordinary kunstkammer cabinet made in Augsburg, Germany as part of its European Furniture, Sculpture and Works of Art sale on December 5 in London.
The striking tabletop cabinet is one of a small group made in the city at a time when its creative output surpassed much of Europe. Produced circa 1660, it is estimated to sell for up to £600,000 ($969,000).
Kunstkammer, otherwise known as cabinets of curiosities, were produced as a display of wealth and social standing, using some of the finest materials known at the time. This example is made with ebony, silver and stunning pietre-dure panels produced by the Florentine grand ducal workshops.
"The impact of the vibrantly colourful pietre-dure panels depicting birds and flowers inset in the ebony carcass, and mounted with rich silver-gilt mounts, is truly mesmerising," commented Bonhams' Francois Le Brun, director of European furniture.
"A rare opportunity, this beautiful survival from the grand ducal workshops will attract international interest and draw collectors, institutions and dealers from around the world to Bonhams London."
The cabinet would have been used to house various "curiosities", an assortment of natural and man-made objects that the owner considered valuable, such as precious stones, fossils, scientific instruments and shells.
This example boasts more than 40 compartments, with the current owner recently discovering a new drawer with his grandchildren.
A signature in pencil on the underside reads "Elias Boscher gemacht" and the cabinet also bears the hallmark of Augsburg silversmith Johann Spitzmacher on the gilt mounts.
Such artistic attribution is rarely found on these pieces, and the cabinet has furthered knowledge of the small group known to have survived, which Bonhams states "represent a zenith in continental decorative furniture making."
The kunstkammer is in outstanding condition, having been housed in the private collection of Ireland's Ballyfin House in County Laois. It was purchased for the house by Sir Charles Henry Coote, 9th Baronet in the early 19th century and remained in the collection until 2006.
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