Ebony Cabinet with Thirteen Paintings of Classical Subjects (work of art)
Key Ideas about this Work of Art
- This cabinet is an example of a kunstkammer or art cabinet. This type of cabinet was popular in Antwerp (a city in Belgium) in the 17th century.
- It is called an “art cabinet” because it is decorated with elaborate paintings and has many compartments to display valuable objects.
- This art cabinet features 13 small oil paintings (on copper backgrounds) that depict different scenes from Greek mythology.
Kunstkammers (art cabinets) were popular in the 17th century in Antwerp, Belgium. They were often made of wood and finished with an ebony veneer. Ebony wood was extremely expensive. It was imported from Indonesia and Mauritius (an island off the eastern coast of Africa).
These types of art cabinets were decorated with paintings. They contained drawers and compartments for storing valuable objects. The oil-on-copper paintings that decorate this cabinet were created by Antwerp artist Simon Floquet. Painting with oil on copper made it possible for him to create tiny, finely detailed scenes. Each of the 13 paintings on this cabinet depicts a different story from Greek mythology. The largest panels show scenes of Apollo and the Muses (top lid), a shepherd being transformed into a wild olive tree by the Nymphs (left door), and the Judgment of Midas (right door). The scene on the central interior door depicts the Triumph of Cupid. These stories were well known in the 17th century and were popular subjects of paintings during that time.
Resources for Teachers:
- Read an article about the history and uses of Kunstkammers or (Wunderkammers).
- Explore a website to find resources on the Greek myths mentioned in the Learn More section.
- View another work of art that features the same story as the left cabinet door, and learn about the story it depicts from Ovid’s Metamorphosis.
Resources for Students:
- View another decorative cabinet that was created around the same time as this art cabinet.
- Explore a large painting that depicts the same story of Apollo and the Muses that is shown on the top lid of this cabinet.
- Read an article about ancient Greek mythology.