French furniture enters an important phase of evolution just before the second half of the 16th century. This rebirth first appears on royal projects thriving under François I’s reign such as the château de Fontainebleau. There, are experimented new ideas, rich and innovative concepts. The greatests artists of the time and especially Italians work together. Their creations are broadcasting all through Europe thanks to engravings. Il Rosso, Niccolo dell’Abbate, Francesco Primaticcio create an appetite for Antiquity throughout France.
The structure of furniture changes, copying Greek and Roman architecture. The surfaces adopt a new decor inspired by Fontainebleau Mannerism and the study of antics. The ornaments follow shapes from Antiquity : palm leaf, scroll, acanthus, ova, pilaster, column, eagle, ram’s head…
This cabinet presents a strong structure and a rich and innovative decor. It testifies of the late 16th century’s production inspired by Italian’s influences but also Fontainebleau’s and Antiquity’s.
Two bodies cabinet with the upper one showing a slight recess. The two anterior feet are adorned with quill feathers motifs.
The lower body is adorned by a frieze alternating swans and palm leaves around a darkened wood inlay. The two door-leaves bear a decor showing a female figure dressed by a revealing drapery. The one on the right hand door-leaf holds a wreath of fruits and a palm while the other one holds a wheat sheaf. Both of them are framed with an oval shape standing upon a black marble veined with white cartouche console.
A flowery decor with foliated female sphinxes and eagle complete the panels’ ornamentation. Those recessed panels are set within a mitre-cut moulded frame. Choux bourguignons, flower and fruit garlands and marble inlays embellish the side and central posts.
Two drawers open in the belt. They are framed with three foliated modillions. On each drawer bloom vegetal stems and flowers around a fine lion mask.
Isolated from the lower body with an overlapping shelf, the upper body bears a frieze alternating flowers and choux bourguignons. It opens with two door-leaves showing an ornamentation similar to the lower body’s. Only the attributes held by both women change. A flame for the right-hand side female figure and a cup for the other one.
The lateral posts are flanked with narrow columns and are adorned with scrolls, foliages and marble inlays. The central post is identical to the lower body’s. The upper body is topped by a frieze with two winged female sphinxes framing a central palm leaf and marble cartouches.
The cabinet is crowned with a pediment garnished with flowers and an acanthus leaf. The central niche also ornated with acanthus leaves and flowers stands on a base carved with a lion’s head and drapes. On a pedestal an eagle spreads its wings.
The lateral sides of the cabinet show no ornamentation.
Patrons from the Second French Renaissance were particularly fond of the Four Seasons theme. Undoubtedly the seductive allure of the female figures might have been a strong point. These bare women, revealed by wet draperies and shown in dancing moves embody perfectly Mannerism. On this cabinet the four female figures matches Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia description of the four seasons. Spring holds a fruit garland (lower body, right hand side), Summer with wheat sheats (lower body, left hand side), Autumn with a cup in which she drinks wine (upper body, left hand side) and Winter holding a flame (upper body, right hand side).
This beautiful cabinet with its door-leaves enriched with allegorical figures of the four seasons presents a rich decor while maintaining a certain balance. Its rigorous structure is inspired by architecture from the Antiquity. The horizontal and vertical divisions marked by the posts and friezes are reconciled by the abundant decor. The ornaments ; acanthus leaves, palm leaves, lion masks, female allegories express the Italian and Fontainebleau influences.
This cabinet is a perfect testimony of the blending between Italian influence and French spirit during the Second Renaissance