Table cabinet, Augsburg, Germany, ca 1650. Melchior Baumgartner, born 1621 - died 1686 (probably made in the workshop of Melchior Baumgartner (1621-1686) possibly before the death of his f, maker). Veneered in ivory, walnut and maple on a carcase of walnut, oak and maple; set with panels in gilded copper, painted with scenes from Ovid's 'Metamorphoses'. Alfred Williams Hearn Gift. W.60-1923 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

By about 1600, Augsburg in Germany was already the centre of the production of cabinets, mostly in ebony and, more rarely, in ivory, mounted with silver or gilt brass, enamel and semi-precious stones. Because these cabinets were made from precious materials and assembled with such skill, they were regarded as fit for princes and noblemen and served as diplomatic gifts. Sometimes they were supplied already fitted with a variety of small, rare, collectable objects. Some were from the natural world, such as coral or shells, and others were 'artificial' or examples of human skill, such as watches or pieces of fine ivory turning.

Ulrich Baumgartner and his son, Melchior (1621-1686) were amongst the most skilled makers of such cabinets and they are known to have made cabinets very similar to this one. The small panels of gilt copper which decorate the interior of the cabinet are painted with scenes taken from the edition of Ovid's 'Metamorphoses', published in Frankfurt in 1563 with engraved illustrations by Virgil Solis. 

The cabinet is raised on low, bracket feet, above flat, turned ones inlaid with a line of ebony. The base is set with a single, full-width drawer. Above this are two doors, with flat, mitred outer frames of ivory, separated by narrow bands of ripple-moulded ivory from a central flat panel.

The doors open to reveal a bank of 10 drawers (one concealed in the pediment of the central door) surrounding a central cupboard door flanked by columns veneered in turtle-shell, with gilt-brass bases and capitals, surmounted by turned ivory vases. The columns are outset from the central cupboard, raised on tall, narrow plinths, the fronts set with panels of painted gilt-copper. Ripple moulding runs below and above the columns, across both door and columns, outset above these. The drawers are veneered with horizontally set ivory, outlined with a framing of ripple-moulded ivory and are each set with a single, oval gilt-copper painted panel, surrounded by 4 circular discs of carnelian, and with a single gilt-brass knob set at the bottom of the drawer front. The doorcase and the gilt-copper panels on the inside of each outer door are set with low relief framing in carved ivory. The central cupboard of the cabinet may be lacking a removeable nest of smaller drawers.

The base and top of the cabinet are veneered with lambrequins in ivory and walnut. The cabinet is set with a superstructure in the form of a box, with rounded base moulding, the hinged lid veneered with ivory and walnut in the manner of the base and top of the cabinet.

The locks plates to both external drawers, to the two doors (only one with a keyhole) are of gilt-brass, as are the carrying handles on either side, decorative, the two hinges on the inside of each door and the circular plaques covering the screw attachments of the hinges on the outside of the doors, and a central band of metal covering the outer join of the two doors. The painted gilt-copper plaques are oval on each inner drawer, with arched panels in the central door and on the inside of each outer door, each arched panel with an oval panel set below in a plinth created by the applied ivory panels.

The back of the cabinet is veneered with walnut, maple and kingwood, with a central star design on a light ground, framed with walnut veneer.

The scenes from the 'Metamorphoses' on the doors include the stories of: 
Daedalus and Icarus (inside the left door) 
Oprheus playing his lyre to tame the wild beast (central cupboard) 
Perseus rescuing Andromeda (inside the right door).

The scenes on the drawers include: 
Daphne being changed into a laurel 
Apollo shooting the Python 
Aglauros raising the lid of the chest in which Ericthonius had been concealed by Minerva 
Phaeton asking permission to drive the horses of the sun 
Cadmus and the Dragon 
Apollo shooting Coronis 
Arcas shooting Callisto 
Actaeon being changed into a stag 
Mercury and Herse 
Daedalus and Icarus

The images (with the exception of Mercury and Herse, and Perseus delivering Andromeda) are taken from the engraved illustrations by Virgil Solis (1514-1562) in the popular translation of the 'Metamorphoses' by Johann Posthius (1537-1597), published in 1563 at Frankfurt-am-Main by G. Rabe, Sigosmund Fayerabent and Galli heirs.

[cabinet] Cabinet of walnut veneered with ivory, resting on brackets decorated with acanthus scrolls (possibly a later addition) and terminating in ivory bun feet at the front. All three sections of the cabinet are decorated at the top with a fillet of walnut cut in a fringe pattern and applied to the ivory veneer. The projecting base is fitted with a drawer, the doors and side-panels of the main body are decorated with ripple moulding, and the upper part has a flat hinged top. All three sections are fitted with locks, the front with a gilt metal external bolt and the side panels with gilt metal handles. The back of the middle section is veneered with a four-pointed star-pattern of tulip-wood on a ground of stained pine, framed by a rosewood veneer. The top and the bottom sections of the cabinet are each veneered at the back with strips of walnut, arranged with different graining patterns, into a rectangular frame.

The doors open onto what seem to be ten small drawers each decorated with a painted gilt copper plaque, but are in fact eight small ones and one longer one at the bottom fitted with two plaques. They are painted with scenes from the Metamorphoses of Ovid, which centre on a cupboard, in the form of a double pedimented aedicule flanked by walnut columns. The inside of the doors of the cabinet are decorated with discs of carnelian in the corners and frames in the form of triumphal arches, topped and flanked with acanthus on all four sides. The drawers are made of oak, and the plaques are cut into the fronts of the drawers.