Batavian Brass-Mounted Carved Ebony Cabinet on Stand
This cabinet-on-stand is of ebony, with floral carvings and brass hinges and lock. On the doors of the cabinets, the flowers are arranged within arched panels on stems that emerge seemingly randomly from the base. Above the arches, two slender snakes are carved at each corner of the cabinet door, facing towards each other. In Hindu and Buddhist mythology, snakes are often seen as special, magical beings. And in some cases, they are considered to possess protective powers. It is possible that they have been carved on the cabinet to serve as guardians for the objects inside. According to Jan Veenendaal, "when snakes are carved facing each other, they are the work of an Indian craftsman. If they face away from each other, they have been fashioned by a Javanese wood carver." The stand with twisted legs and stretchers contains stylised flowers with cross-hatched centres, all connected through the stems to the central flower head.
Veenendaal categorised Batavian carving into two types. The first type is inspired by Dutch flower designs, while the second type has rope mouldings, lotus flowers and oriental vases. This cabinet belongs to the first type. For an example with almost identical cabinet carving, see below (Veenendaal, 2014).
Ebony was obtained from the ebony tree (Diospyros ebenum), found in places like Mauritius, Sri Lanka and Buru. In the regions controlled by the Dutch V.O.C, these dark tropical hardwoods were extremely popular in the seventeenth century, as evidenced by the various kinds of furniture made from them. Sometimes, the earliest of these Asian examples are virtually exact copies of their Dutch counterparts. Twist-turned columns had a huge influence on architecture and furniture design in Europe. In Holland, the first twist-turned furniture appears around 1650 and the technique became common from around 1660. In Batavia, this design was also incorporated in furniture from around 1650 onwards.
Veenendaal, Jan. Asian Art and Dutch Taste. 1st ed. Waanders Uitgevers, 2014, p.25, ill.23.