These two magnificent Roman cabinets were made for a member of the princely Borghese family in the early 17th century.

They were later mounted on English Neo-Classical stands and displayed as Grand Tour trophies in the Long Gallery at Castle Howard. The cabinets are of an architectural form, echoing the facades of Baroque Roman churches and the arches of antiquity. Each cabinet is veneered in black ebony and decorated with pieta dure, or semi-precious stones. Notable among the stones are lapis lazuli, red and yellow jaspers and richly decorated agates. A lavish array of gilt bronze work complements the ebony and polished stones. Serving as feet are a Borghese device of crowned eagles, four caryatids support vases in the centre, and surmounting each cabinet are three figures of virtues. The cabinets were probably made for the Villa Borghese or Palazzo Borghese in Rome. In the 18th century they were almost certainly acquired by Henry Howard, 4th Earl of Carlisle, during his second Grand Tour of 1738-39. In 1772, Horace Walpole noted the cabinets on a visit to Carlisle's home at Castle Howard. In 1800 Carlisle's son, the 5th Earl, employed the architect Charles Heathcote Tatham to remodel the long gallery at Castle Howard. Tatham is thought to have designed the mahogany and gilt bases of the cabinets to complement the old master pictures and antiquities in the earl's collection. The cabinets were among the ten selected treasures from Castle Howard offered at auction by Sotheby's last year. They have now been saved for the nation and will go on display alongside the Fitzwilliam's superb collection of 17th-century Italian art.

This work was acquired with assistance from the Wolfson Foundation.

Artists include


Made in Rome in c.1625, possibly for a member of the Borghese family; acquired by Henry Howard, 4th Earl of Carslile c.1738-9; stands commissioned by Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carslile c.1801-1812; sold by the Trustees of Castle Howard through Sotheby

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