Friday, July 27, 2012


Vargueño: Spanish, XVIth century Museum of the Hispanic Society, New York

Trolling for good news from anywhere (it isn’t easy to find these days), I uncovered this description of the marvelous Spanish sixteenth century inlaid cabinet shown above:

“VARGUEÑO cabinets exemplified the highest attainments of the Spanish cabinet makers.  In skilful construction and in mastery of the art of decoration, they are distinctly characteristic of Spanish furniture, which, in this art, reached the highest point of excellence.

     These pieces were habitually made of walnut, a wood which lent itself to ornate turning and carving.  At times, inlay, as well as color, was added to heighten the effect.

   The vargueño consists of a chest, which rests upon a stand made expressly made for this cabinet, but which was treated in a decorative manner quite different from the cabinet it supported.

     In this special example, the stand is made up of three legs at each end, which rise from a runner foot and support above a heavy cross rail upon which the cabinet rests.  From these block rail braces, two massive supports pull out to hold the drop front when the latter is lowered.  These sides are ornamented on their exposed ends with the cockle shell motif, carved in high relief.  An arcaded stretcher, richly turned, connects the center leg supports.

A different Vargueño, also Spanish XVIth century

      The exterior of the chest itself is of the simplest nature, depending for decorative effect upon the handsome and intricate designs of the applied ironwork.  In Spain metal trimmings were developed to an extraordinary degree and far excelled this craft in other parts of Europe.


Living, breathing cockles 

From Verna Cook Salomonsky, Masterpieces of Furniture in Photographs and Measured Drawings, Grand Rapids, Periodical Publishing Company, 1931.

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