This kingwood cabinet is an exquisite piece of antique French furniture, which is decorated with beautiful vernis Martin panels. Vernis Martin is a type of imitation lacquer, which first became fashionable in the 18th Century. The technique was perfected by the Martin family—French lacquerware artists active in the Louis XV period—hence the name ‘vernis Martin’ (Martin varnish). The Vernis Martin method was inspired by the lacquerware that was imported into France in the 18th Century from East Asia.
The cabinet is covered by a variegated white and red marble top. Its body features a bombé (curved) front, typical of Louis XV style furniture. The cabinet’s frieze accommodates a drawer, the front of which is mounted with a vernis Martin depiction of cherubs in flight. The sides of the frieze feature vernis Martin images of musical instruments. Gilt bronze (ormolu) espagnolette (female bust) sculptures are mounted onto the upper corners of the cabinet’s front.
The middle of the cabinet contains a compartment with two shelves, which is kept behind a door decorated with a vernis Martin panel. This portrays a courtship scene—or ‘fetes galantes’—featuring a young shepherdess and lamb and a couple playing music together in an Arcadian landscape. Vernis Martin panels depicting extended views of this idealised landscape decorate the sides of the cabinet’s body. These panels are framed by gilt bronze reed-and-leaf borders. They are indistinctly signed.
The cabinet stands on four short and slightly flared legs which are linked by a wavy apron. The apron is decorated on its front with a gilt bronze foliate motif. The legs terminate in gilt bronze (ormolu) leafy scrolled feet.