An exceptionally fine example of an early 17th Century Spanish renaissance walnut vargueno / bargueno escritorio writing desk on trestle stand.
Spain, Salamanca circa 1600-1630.
This wonderful vargueno is one of the finest we have seen retaining its original cut velvet, gilt iron metal work and key, housed on an early 19th century trestle stand possibly having earlier elements.
The vargueno or bargueno is so called because it was thought to have originated in the village of Bargas in the province of Toledo. It is the earliest form of a writing desk known and was conceived to show the expertise of the Spanish craftsman having such an opulent carved and gilded interior. Spain’s outstanding contribution to the development of European furniture is this cabinet.
Although extremely heavy they were used as a travelling desk within the Spanish global empire and were highly prized as an object of status within the Spanish Courts.
The rectangular walnut cabinet, constructed with fine cuts of dense walnut, having a fall front with velvet-lined pierced and gilt wrought-iron handles, hinges and an elaborate lock and hasp, enclosing a fitted interior with an arrangement of drawers, secret drawers and doors with elaborate parcel-gilt, painted, carved and twisted bone columns, medallions and architectural decoration. The whole housed on an early 19th Century or possibly late 18th century stand or puente with an arcade, ropetwist and baluster uprights above carved sledge feet, the shell carved pulls slide out to support the writing leaf.
It is extremely rare to find a Vargueno retaining areas of the original gilt to the exterior iron work and velvet in such good condition and colour, making this one of finest you will see.
The original shaped iron key locks the central elaborate double hasp which is attached to the top is lifted to stand vertical when in use. There are two sliding bolts to each side housed within pierced metal mounts having decorative lions, which are used to secure the fall front when unlocked and a further two swinging catches to the top. The sides are fitted with carrying handles within hexagon pierced metal mounts.
Similar pieces can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) below…
Also in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts accession number 1990.614a
Images shown are of a Vargueno in Domenech & Perez Bueno publication Antique Spanish Furniture.
Many varguenos in these books are in private collections or museums.
Width 41 inches – 104cm
Height 56 inches – 142cm
Depth 18 inches – 46cm