[help] Identifying a piece of furniture, part 2

Thank you very much to everyone who made comments and suggestions on yesterday’s post about the curio cabinet belonging to calendula_witch’s family [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ].

As a followup, calendula_witch’s mother has provided more detail and additional photos.

This cabinet has been in our family since at least 1940. It came with a 2nd husband (aged about 50 at that time)of my grandmother. He had inherited it from his wealthy New England family. They originally came to this country from Germany, and his father became a naturalized US citizen in 1885.

The decorations are painted, not inlay or decal. The design on the top includes a lyre on top of a scroll of sheet music. It seems mostly solid wood, except for the top surface, which is veneer. The gold accents are metal, tack-nailed on. There is no label or mark we can find. There are 2 metal keys. The shelves are thick glass, with a mirror on the back inside wall. There is no light in the cabinet.

The curved glass has no distortion. The solid pieces of wood are butted, and probably joined with dowels that can’t be seen.

A while back I found something similar on eBay that was French from about 1850, so this may be the same or a later reproduction. It would be nice to know. It is about 4’8″ tall. Also, there are some screws on the bottom, holding things together, but the curved wooden pieces are solid. My husband thinks the wood might be ash.

Also, it was mentioned elsewhere that the wiring visible in some of the photos is incidental to a lamp. The cabinet itself is not wired for electricity.

And the photos…










Photos © 2010 K. Salonen, reproduced with permission.

3 thoughts on “[help] Identifying a piece of furniture, part 2

  1. Cora says:

    The paintwork still looks like “Bauernmalerei” to me, particularly when seen close-up. If the original owners came from Germany, it makes sense that they brought their folk art style with them. Is it known where in Germany the owners were from? That might provide a clue, as “Bauernmalerei” was most common in Southern Germany. Specialists could probably tell the region of origin from the choice of design.

    I suspect that this is a commercially manufactured cabinet and that the paintwork was later added by hand, probably by the owners themselves. “Bauernmalerei” is folk art, and I suspect that the immigrant owners touched up their cabinet with some folk art from the old country (New England winters are long). That also explains why paintwork and cabinet don’t quite match stylistically.

    Looking just at the cabinet itself, the style looks transitional between the lighter Regency/Biedermeier pieces and the heavier late Victorian/Gründerzeit pieces. The gilded decorations look more Neo-Renaissance than Neo-Baroque to me and the Renaissance revival style was most popular in the 1870s and early 1880s. Of course, older styles remained in fashion alongside newer ones, so it could also be made later. And if the cabinet itself was made in the US (given the logistic issues of shipping furniture, that’s certainly a possibility), the manufacturer might well have lagged behind the latest fashions in interior design (fashion and design in the US tend to lag a few years behind Europe well into the 20th century).

    So as a rough estimate, I’d say second half of the 19th century with folk art paintwork later added by hand.

  2. Cora says:

    BTW, the instrument in the paintwork is a lute or a mandoline, not a lyre. Which would put us in the 19th century again, when lutes and mandolines were popular instruments, before their popularity was usurped by the guitar.

  3. MLR says:

    Found another curio that looks like calendula_witch’s, except it has a metallic finish. Similar music and flowers motif, but the auction house doesn’t give a provenance.


    So these curios are apparently called “vitrines.” You might look near the lock or on the top for a stamp by Francois Linke, French cabinet maker (1855-1946). I’m going to guess it’s not an orignal Linke, but perhaps an American imitation. The true French ones appear to have scenes painted on them.


Comments are closed.