Antwerp was the leading centre for the manufacture of cabinets such as this. It was supplied with ebony from Cadiz and other Spanish ports and with oil paintings by the many talented artists living in the city as members of the Guild of St Luke.
Dealers played an important part in their sale: the best known being the family business of Melchior Forchondt the Elder (d.1633) who turned an ebony workshop into an international art and luxury goods enterprise. The business records across three generations of the Forchondt family firm still survive.
Similar cabinets have appeared on the London and Paris markets in recent years but this 3ft 5in (1.04m) example was offered at Chorley’s in Prinknash Abbey on July 18-19.
The 13 surviving oil-on-copper panels to the interior depict mythological scenes in the manner of Rubens including Meleager and Atalanta, Apollo and Daphne and the Death of Procris. Chorley’s specialist Thomas Jenner-Fust suspected the artist was Geeraert de Lavallée (c.1605-66).
As is common with such pieces, the turned ebony stand is a later (probably 19th century) addition. More of a concern were splits and losses to the tortoiseshell and ebony veneers plus the absence of three of the original panels from the hinged cover.
The successful buyer, bidding against the room from continental Europe via thesaleroom.com, tendered the winning bid of £20,000 (plus 20% premium).
The price was at the lower end of the estimate, although it compared favourably with a similar cabinet with a full complement of panels sold by Bonhams in November 2009 for £16,000.