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Ribeaupierre armoire

The golden age of Alsatian cabinet-making and joinery extended from the Renaissance until the late 18th century. Rigorously controlled by the trade guilds or craftsmen’s corporations, which established standards for the organisation of work as well as production quality, artisans who wished to be considered as masters were required to produce a “masterwork”, often an armoire, in whose design they were to demonstrate the full panoply of their talents. Under an edict issued in 1571, artisans were obliged to abide by the theories of the Orders (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian) and proportions set forth by Vitruvius (active 46–30 BC) in his De Architectura libri decem (Ten Books on Architecture), the only comprehensive architectural treatise to survive from antiquity, which had recently been rediscovered. These masterworks were to establish the successive stylistic models used in Alsatian cabinet-making. Produced in 1604, the armoire from the castle of Ribeauvillé, where it had been the property of the count of Ribeaupierre, is perfectly in keeping with this architectural reference. This armoire, mounted on a smooth base, is decorated with 26 columns and covered in wood veneers, in particular loupe d’orme (elm burl) with its marbled aspect. In the guise of an Italian Renaissance palace, the armoire also conveys the wealth of its owner. In later years, Alsatian cabinet-making would adopt simpler designs, including seven-columned and two-tiered armoires. Little by little, French models and references, most of which originated in Paris and Versailles, would come to be applied by Alsatian cabinet-makers.

Ribeaupierre armoire
 

Alsace, Ribeaupierre armoire, 1604. Walnut, oak, maple, ash, elm, service tree, fruitwood, Musée Unterlinden, Colmar.

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