This spectacular cabinet in the Orientalist taste is made from padouk, mahogany and rosewood inlaid in mother- of-pearl and ebony with brass stringing. The main body has two banks of cupboards, drawers and dummy drawers on either side of a wide disguised drawer which pulls out to reveal a baize-lined reading slope. Below this is fall- front secretaire compartment in a variety of striking North European burr-cut and plain birch woods, fitted with a central glass-fronted box below a triangular pediment, two pigeon holes and various small drawers, two with mirrored fronts. The central box pulls out to reveal two banks of six secret drawers, the fall is lined with a tooled leather folio wallet. The whole is surmounted by five small cupboards and three disguised drawers topped by a stepped pagoda hung with bells and guarded by crouching dragons, all raised on a plinth with grotesque lion-dog feet. The ornate decoration comprises a pair of swans and a vase of flowers above a bell dated 1860, high relief carved figures of Chinese deities, auspicious birds, a variety of formal geometric borders, strapwork and ogee lock escutcheons, the drawers and cupboards are lined in a variety of different woods. European.
The provenance of this extraordinary piece is proving elusive to establish. Its size, complexity and superb craftsmanship would suggest a royal commission or an international exhibition entry. It has been variously described as French, produced by the great Orientalist Gabriel Viardot, Viennese and North German. Our researches are continuing, but whatever the outcome there is no denying that this a unique and magnificent masterpiece.