Joachim Tielke (Königsberg 1641- 1719 Hamburg), A showpiece cabinet, Hamburg, c. 1700. Ivory, tortoiseshell, gold leaf, silver, semi-precious stones and glass, and veneered wood. 90 x 103 x 46 cm (35.4 x 40.6 x 18.1 in.). Courtesy KOLLENBURG ANTIQUAIRS at TEFAF Maastricht 2023
A two-door cabinet standing on four turned feet of solid ivory. The entire cabinet is veneered with tortoiseshell and ivory in première-partie and contre-partie. The cabinet has two large doors, the inner sides of which are also veneered with tortoiseshell and ivory. Behind these doors are twelve drawers: four larger ones at the top and bottom, with eight smaller ones in-between. These drawers can be opened using solid silver pulls. The drawers surround a central open section, which is decorated with a solid ivory Corinthian column aligned with the section’s central axis, flanked by two arches standing upon solid ivory balusters. The section’s “floor” has tortoiseshell and ivory parquetry in a block motif. The section’s inner surfaces are decorated with three mirrors, two of which are oriented diagonally. The section can be removed as a single unit, revealing another twelve smaller drawers behind it. The cabinet’s overall decoration consists of stylised tortoiseshell and ivory flowers, engraved and inlaid with glass and semi-precious stones. The inner and outer doors and sides of the cabinet are decorated with centrally positioned, framed representations of architectural elements, flowers and figures. These representations were inspired by the styles of Daniel Marot (1660/61–1752) and Jean Bérain (1640-1711).
This cabinet is a unique piece in the oeuvre of the musical-instrument maker Joachim Tielke. Although the instrument-makers of Hamburg were not affiliated with a guild, the guild regulation of other guilds would refrain Tielke from crafting other goods than instruments for the free market. However, Tielke made an exception to the rule. A large sumptuous cabinet with ‘tortoise-shell, ivory, mother-of-pearl and many semi-precious but finely cut and partly coloured stone’ was spotted in 1711 by the book collector Zacharias von Uffenbach (1683-1734). He visited Tielke’s shop to buy a guitar and noted in his travel diary (published in 1753) its ‘exceptional beauty’.
Joachim Tielke is considered one of the great instrument makers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Alongside the members of his large business of luthiers and specialty carvers, he is responsible for an oeuvre of staggering variety renowned for superb craftsmanship and use of luxury materials. The extant violins, guitars, violas da gamba, bell citterns, lutes, and other instruments that bear Tielke’s name number, can today be seen in museums and private collections throughout the world. Tielke’s skill as craftsman, decorative artist and businessman continues to inspire instrument makers, musicians, and historians centuries after his death. He was renowned for the use of precious materials such as ivory, ebony, tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl and semi-precious stones. This made Joachim Tielke's instruments desirable works of art for the nobility.