Cabinet (audio description)

Adam Eck
2 min
Year: Between 1645 and 1655




From the mid-1600s.

Dark, almost black cabinet with two doors and on four high so-called turned or twisted legs. There are patterns in different types of wood on the inside and outside of the cupboard doors. The patterns are motifs of women in full figure, perhaps symbols for each season. In the cupboard part itself, there are ten small drawers with female motifs, which surround a middle cupboard part where a mirror is hidden. 


The story of this cabinet, which was made in the mid-17th century, is one of secrets, war and connections. It was made in Bohemia at a time when Europe was suffering the impact of the Thirty Years’ War, a bloody conflict between Protestants and Catholics.  

Janne Arnesen:  

An interesting decorative feature of this cabinet is the female figure holding a sword. She has been interpreted as representing Justitia, which would suggest that the war is over and justice has prevailed. 


You are listening to Janne Arnesen, an art historian at the National Museum. Such pieces of fine furniture were often given to men who had distinguished themselves through their strength and bravery.  

Janne Arnesen:  

We know that a number of high-ranking military officers in Europe were given richly decorated cabinets as a kind of celebration of the end of the war. 


In these aristocratic homes, cabinets were often used as places to keep secrets, or as cabinets of curiosities. 

An important guest might be permitted to look behind the doors of the cabinet. The same doors that stand open for you now.  

The owner would then open the drawers and small doors inside, one after another. 

Janne Arnesen: 

So what would have been concealed behind the small doors and inside the tiny drawers? History tells us that there would have been small, valuable curiosities – perhaps objects from distant shores, expensive gifts, or quite simply, treasure. So really it’s a treasure chest, but one that you keep on opening, opening and opening, and each layer has its own little surprise.