Discovering our collection piece by piece… #1 The Dutch Cabinet

There are many wonderful items in our collection here at Charlecote. In this post, chief House Elf

 Julie, takes a closer look at the Dutch Cabinet…

I wonder who made it?

This beautiful inlaid cabinet dates from c.1635-1733 and was made by one of the finest cabinet makers of the time, Jan van Mekeren. He was based inAmsterdamand asHollandwas a strong trading nation, he was able to buy all sorts of exotic woods for his work. Less than ten examples of van Mekeren’s work survive today making this an extra special piece of furniture.

Take a look inside the cabinet…

Hmmm, what is it made from?

The carcass of the cabinet is all of oak.  The woods used for the floral decoration include kingwood, tulipwood, ebony, rosewood, olive, holly, sycamore and mahogany.  This practice of veneering (or using thin layers of wood to make patterns on top of the main body of the furniture) allowed the cabinet maker to use small amounts of expensive materials for intricate designs.  It also allowed them to use more decorative woods that would have been too weak to use for the main body of the cabinet.

What was it used for?

A decorative cabinet on a stand like this one would have been a high status piece designed to show how wealthy the family were. It would have stood in a prominent position where it could be admired by guests to the house.

Some cabinets of this type would have housed rare or expensive objects. From the layout of the drawers in the piece at Charlecote we think that it stored the family’s linen such as tablecloths and napkins. Linen was an important part of a household and could be very expensive.

But how do we look after an object like this?

Detail on the cabinet

In order to look after this piece we dust the top of the cabinet each day with a lambswool duster.  We do not use feather dusters in NT houses as feathers can scratch delicate surfaces.  We don’t touch the decorative surface very often as it is easy to damage with a duster if a bit of veneer has lifted.

In the winter, as with the all of the items in the house, the cabinet has a careful indepth clean both inside and out, it is then covered with a fitted cotton sheet to protect it from light and dust.

We have kept the cabinet under the main staircase (the cabinet was recorded as standing here in 1891) as this position naturally limits the light falling on the decorative panels. This is why the cabinet retains its rich colours and remains such a beautiful piece.

 To discover more of Charlecote’s collection visit: www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk

Julie – Chief House Elf/House Steward

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