Dutch Baroque Cabinet
From the Portuguese barroco and the Spanish barrueco meaning “rough or imperfect pearl,” baroque refers to an elaborate style of architectural decoration. The Baroque style evolved from the Catholic Church’s adoption of art as a means of making an emotional and sensory appeal to the faithful. The style is also influenced by the use of elaborate decorative elements by the aristocracy as a means of displaying power and grandeur.
Originating in Rome, Italian Baroque was commissioned by the Catholic Church and contained religious imagery. As the style migrated to Protestant areas of Europe, secular depictions prevailed over the religious imagery common in Italian Baroque.
Adopted in the Low Countries of Europe in the 1620s, the style was migrated to the Netherlands around 1640. Early Dutch Baroque pieces are simpler and have molded panels over carved ornamentation. Later designs incorporate inlay and veneer into the furniture surface.
By the end of the 17th century, trade with East Asia and India, especially by the Portuguese, Dutch, and English, influenced the Baroque style, incorporating lacquer and heavy tropical woods imported onto the continent.
This piece was once owned by William Randolph Hearst. It is made of ebonized wood and depicts four scenes of the four outer cabinet doors – Samson fighting the lion, Samson and Delilah, the Nativity of Jesus, and the Circumcision of Christ. Comprised of two separate pieces, the lower portion contains shelves for storage while the upper portion contains intricate marquetry and numerous small drawers. Additionally, the smaller doors inside the upper portion open to reveal a painted nature scene with mirrors in the recess on either side.
A label on the underside of the drawer between the upper and lower portions provides some history of the piece. Typed on a tag from Day & Meyer, Murray & Young, Inc. Fireproof Warehouses "for storage of fine household property and art objects" is the name W.R. Hearst and "AAA-Tolentino Sale 1925." Raoul Tolentino, an art dealer, traveled throughout Europe and sold his purchases through the American Art Association in multiple sales during the early to mid 1920s.
At age 23, William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) became both publisher and editor of the San Francisco Examiner, owned by his father George Hearst. After success with the paper, he purchased The New York Morning Journal and began a contentious circulation war with Joseph Pulitzer and The New York World. At his peak, Hearst owned 28 papers in major American cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. He also expanded into magazines, newsreels, and feature films.
Hearst was elected for two terms to the U.S. House of Representatives. Though he was unsuccessful in subsequent campaigns for mayor, governor, and lieutenant governor of New York, Hearst’s publications had enormous political influence.
Hearst’s circulation and revenue peaked in 1928, but the economic collapse of the Great Depression left the Hearst Company facing reorganization in 1937. Hearst sold a number of possessions, including this cabinet, at auctions and private sales beginning the same year to recover his losses.