The smaller items in a collection of art or curiosities, such as old coins, fossils, gemstones or mounted insects, were kept in specially designed cabinets.
They had many small drawers and (often hidden) compartments, frequently made from costly varieties of wood. In the seventeenth century, Antwerp developed into the most important international centre for these curio cabinets. The city’s craftsmen specialised in making cabinets with drawers decorated with paintings. These were generally executed by anonymous artists who took their inspiration from the work of great masters like Rubens. This cabinet features various allegories of love, based on the popular emblem book by Rubens’ teacher, Otto van Veen.
Antwerp, seventeenth century
oak inlaid with ebony,
decorated with paintings on copper