Opening up the cabinets

All of this week many of the cabinets in the house have been opened up!  This is a rare opportunity for visitors to see the stunning interiors of our cabinets.

It is a chance to highlight the wide variety of items on display at Polesden Lacey; from a late George III rosewood games table to a German cabinet reminiscent of the Dutch cabinetmaker Pierre Gole (1620-84) who worked for Louis XIV from c.1656, as well as the Spanish cabinet, Flemish cabinet and collection of fine French furniture in the Tea Room.

german cabinet

German cabinet

Unfortunately, cabinets cannot be opened all year round because of the strain and damage it can cause on the hinges and doors.  Even some that have been opened up specially for this week have had sections needed be supported because the doors or lids cannot support their own weight.  As a new intern, I have spent an enjoyable time looking at all the cabinets in greater detail.  What struck me most is how displaying objects in a new way, especially temporarily, helps us to stop and appreciate them.   Just a simple change of opening a lid or folding open a writing desk can transform the look of an item. 

It took quite a while to decide, but one of my favourite pieces is the large Italian chest or cassone that is located in the South Corridor.  Cassone is the Italian term for a large chest that contained a bride’s dowry or was given as a wedding present.  It is decorated with marquetry in geometrical patterns made of small pieces of bone, ivory and different woods.  This type of work is known as ‘alla cesto-sina’ from its supposed association with the Carthusian monasteries.  It also derives from Arabic models and was practised in Venice and Lombardy in the fifteenth century.

cassone closed

Cassone as it is usually displayed, closed



One could be forgiven for thinking that the cassone, so incricately decorated on the outside, would be plain inside.  However, as seen in the picture above, the inside is just as stunning.  Knowing the complete extent of detail of the work as a whole helps me appreciate cassone all the more.  An event like this gives everyone; visitors, volunteers and house team alike, an opportunity to take in the variety and beauty of the collections we have here at Polesden Lacey.


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