Thomas Dennis eat your heart out, THIS is oak furniture

Dutch cupboard at MFA


A few weeks ago, Maureen & I were at the MFA to see the Durer prints; and while wandering afterwards, saw this cupboard on loan…today when I delivered my cupboard, I took some time to shoot some photos. (no tripod, no lights; so less-than-ideal; but the cupboard makes up for it…)

I forget what date they gave it, but I figure early 17th century about nails it. The carving of course is out of this world; but the joinery is quite nice too, and the moldings are many, and crisp…the whole thing is made of the best-quality oak you’d want. Accented here & there with ebony it seems. It’s about 7 feet tall. Thus it won’t fit in my house, really.

The patterns and handling of this piece are reminiscent of the best work done in Exeter, Devon about the same time.  That work is seen in a church in Totnes, Devon today…also similar work appears in the Bromley-by-Bow room at the V&A. I have examples of both of those on the blog… I think this Netherlandish stuff is the source for those English works.

So here are a bunch of photos. I have little to add to the pictures. click them to enlarge. A little grainy, but worth it. I hope to see it in detail some day.

side freize


carving, "strapwork" under cornice


carving under cornice again


Figures, upper case, proper left


figures, upper case, proper right


And here’s Abraham & Isaac out on highway 61:

abraham & isaac


And just in case the Rembrandts and other Dutch master paintings aren’t enough in this room, from the same collection is a great draw table, also oak & ebony. If you are not familiar with these tables, the bottom layers of this top “draw” out each end, and what is now the top section drops down between them to give you a table top twice as long as it is now…they can be pretty big. You don’t want to move them much. See the iron bolts to dis-assemble the frame.

draw table


draw table detail

21 thoughts on “Thomas Dennis eat your heart out, THIS is oak furniture

  1. These pieces from the Low Countries are fantastic aren’t they. Personally I also prefer ‘plainer’ work, but it is always a pleasure to see virtuoso craftsmanship and work like this is a useful reminder as to just how good the work at the upper end of the scale was.

    The common design inspiration between the decorative work on pieces like these and English work of the type you mention is fascinating isn’t it. The shared sources and influences are undeniable. The aspect I find intriguing is that pieces like the ones you show are clearly Continental from just a glance, and the English work, invariably, clearly English, which raises some interesting questions as to how the stylistic inspiration travelled.

    On the subject of virtuoso work, did you get any shots that show more of the marquetry cabinet on top of the table? It looks stunning, particularly the perspective work.


  2. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could go back in time and sit in a corner of the shop where that cabinet was made and watch the carvers work? Absoulutely mind boggling!

  3. I remember Tom Michie the Curator of EDA saying these were coming. They are outstanding, and right up my alley. The quality of workmanship and wood selection is overwhelming, even if they weren’t carved.

    • Trent: Maybe Michie will show it to us in detail some day…I would love to get good photos of it. The draw table & cabinet on it, too. but I run towards fanatacism.

      Your right about the stock & joinery; overshadowed by the decoration, but equally impressive.

  4. Thanks for posting these peter. Increadeble. I was studying the pics and understand most of the joinery. could you venture a guess as to how the tall carved figures making up the post/colums may have been attached.

  5. Oh God said to Abraham ‘kill me a son’
    Abe said ‘man you must be puttin me on’
    God said ‘no’, Abe said ‘what’
    God say ‘you can do what you wanna but
    the next time you see me comin man you better run’
    Well Abe said ‘where d’you want this killin done’
    God said ‘out on Highway 61’

  6. This type of stuff is so overwhelming. I have learned to appreciate it, but the key word is learned.

    I think the reason why it has such a bipolar reaction is because of what it represents. To me, I cannot help of thinking of the wealthy, high culture so far removed from the experiences of the early colonies or colonists. And yet, the way I have learned to appreciate such high work is to think of the craftsman/artisan and how they would approach such work. I guess it helps to think of their excitement knowing they were going to get a chance to eat well…while also truly contributing to that very nature of the baroque; the spectacle of humanism somehow listed nearly to the divine, that gothic had been unable (in the “protestant sense”) to do.

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