The Borghese-Windsor Cabinet

Object Details

Title:

The Borghese-Windsor Cabinet

Artist/Maker:

Unknown

Culture:

Italian (cabinet); French (stand)

Place:

Italy (Place created)

Date:

cabinet about 1620; stand before 1821

Medium:

Cabinet: Fir walnut and chestnut veneered with various tropical hard woods, set with lapis lazuli, jasper, agate, amethyst, and other hard stones ('pietre dure' in Italian); gilt bronze; silver and silver gilt; Stand: Beech, mahogany and oak ebonized and veneered with ebony; ebony columns; lacquered brass; mirrored glass

Object Number:

2016.66

Dimensions:

178 × 126 × 54 cm (70 1/16 × 49 5/8 × 21 1/4 in.)

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This piece of furniture is a specific kind of display cabinet called 'stipo' or 'studiolo' in Italian. Made in Rome, it belonged to Pope Paul V Borghese (ruled 1605-21), whose coat of arms (the eagle and the dragon) is featured above the central niche. Already in an English private collection by 1821 when it was offered for sale with its stand in London, the cabinet was then acquired by King George IV (ruled 1820-30). It remained in the British Royal Collection until 1959, when it was sold with the collection of Queen Mary. Such showpiece cabinets–brilliantly colored in their use of precious materials, but also intriguing with their multiple drawers–were the most prestigious display furniture in Europe from the late sixteenth to early eighteenth century. They were used to store such treasures as medals, gems, and small bronzes or ivories, as well as private documents. Designed to resemble the façade of a Baroque church, the Borghese-Windsor Cabinet is exceptional in its large size and sumptuous decoration. Expensive and difficult to cut and polish, the numerous hard stones ('pietre dure' in Italian) covering the front in elaborate geometrical and chromatic patterns demonstrate the rarity of this piece. The statuettes, with draperies in gilt bronze and with heads, hands, and legs in silver, add to its luxuriousness. The stand on which the cabinet sits was created for it in the 1820s, and is an impressive architectural piece of furniture in its own right. Its shape elegantly follows that of the cabinet, the front breaking forward in the center to conform to its footprint. With a mirrored backboard, it is composed of a sober podium on top of which twenty-four fluted Ionic columns in solid ebony support the upper table adorned with a frieze of lacquered brass foliated scrolls.

Art + Ideas Podcast: In the Galleries: Borghese-Windsor Cabinet and Bust of Pope Paul V

Provenance
about 1620 - 1621

Camillo Borghese, later Pope Paul V, 1550 - 1621, by inheritance within the Borghese family.

1621 - about 1800

Borghese Family, Italian

- 1821

possibly W. Kent [unsold, A Catalogue of the Remaining Very Superb and Costly Ornamental Furniture of a Collector of Taste, Christie's, London, July 4, 1821, lot 89.]
Source: The stand was already existent: "It is supported upon an open portico of Ionick fluted columns of ebony, with brass capitals—the back of the lower part is looking-glass.”

- 1827

Edwards Holmes Baldock, English, 1777 - 1845, sold to George IV, 1827.

1827 - 1830

King George IV of England, English, 1762 - 1830, by inheritance within The Royal Collection, 1830.

1830 - 1959

The Royal Collection [sold by order of H. M. Queen Elizabeth II, Christie's, London, October 2, 1959, lot 184B, to Aladar de Zellinger Balkany.]
Source: Although the sale is entitled "Property of H. M. Queen Mary from Marlborough House," the cabinet was not the property of Queen Mary, but of the Royal Collection.

1959 - 1984

Aladar Zellinger de Balkany, Romanian, 1899 - 1984, by inheritance to Robert Zellinger de Balkany.

1984 - 2015

Robert Zellinger de Balkany, French, 1931 - 2015, by inheritance to his heirs, 2015.

2015 - 2016

Zellinger de Balkany Family [sold, Robert de Balkany, Rue de Varenne, Paris - Evening Sale, Sotheby's, Paris, September 20, 2016, lot 56, sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum.]

Bibliography

Roberts, Hugh. For the King's Pleasure: The Furnishing and Decoration of George IV's Apartments at Windsor Castle (London: Royal COllection, 2001), pp. 244 & 248, acc. no. 750, p. 269, fig. 346, ill.

Cordier, Sylvain. Bellangé, ébénistes: une histoire du gout au XIXe siècle (Paris: Mare & Martin, 2012), p. 620, fig. LFB 26.

Jervis, Simon and Dudley Dodd. Roman Splendour, English Arcadia: The English Taste for Pietre Dure and the Sixtus Cabinet at Stourhead (London: Philip Wilson Publishers, 2015), pp. 55-56, 59, fig. 65, ill.