'The Doomer Ebony Cabinet'
attributed to Herman Doomer (1595-1650)
An ebony and mother of pearl inlaid cabinet on stand, attributed to Herman Doomer (b. Anrath, Germany c. 1595 - d. Amsterdam, Netherlands 1650) circa 1640 with some later additions. The cabinet with a carved swan neck pediment and oversized cartouche inlaid with flowers, above a pair of ribbed moulded panelled cupboard doors also inlaid with flowers and enclosing a later fitted interior of drawers around a cupboard door. The drawers inlayed with rosewood and bone in geometric designs and the door of ebony. The inside of the cupboard doors inlayed with a simple geometric design of kingwood and rosewood. Below the doors is a further pair of drawers inlaid with trailing flowers and all flanked by turned columns raised on panelled plinths. The stand with a further drawer and applied carved apron, raised on carved square section baluster legs tied by stretchers, turned bun feet Alterations to the interior and some later mother of pearl inlay.
By tradition, the ebony cabinet, with its extraordinary auricular cresting and mother-of-pearl inlaid flowers, had been thought to have been made in India and brought to Northern Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century. As Simon Jervis has shown, however, it is actually Dutch and, based on its close resemblance to a piece at the Rijkmuseum in Amsterdam, can be dated around 1640-50. Reinier Baarsen confirmed the attribution to Herman Doomer in his 2018 exhibition catalogue, because of the high quality of the piece (see Reinier Baarsen, Kwab: Ornament as Art in the Age of Rembrandt (ex. cat.), Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 2018, pp. 118-9). Ebony was a highly sought after material in 17th century Holland. It is both an expensive and very hard wood, which made it all the more desirable. As Baarsen recently argued, ebony ‘did not lend itself easily to rendering of auricular ornament. Indeed, this does not figure prominently in Doomer’s work, although he did tend to soften his carved motifs in the fashionable manner’ (Baarsen 2016). Simon Jervis stressed that while ebony cabinets were often decorated with ivory, silver or gilt bronze mounts or indeed pietre dure plaques, ornamentation made of mother-of-pearl was significantly rarer and reminiscent of black lacquer screens imported from Japan (Jervis 1998). They, too, combined a shiny black surface with the glowing silvery shine of mother-of-pearl. Herman Doomer came from Germany and has often be associated with Rembrandt’s frame maker, when in reality he never made carved frames. His speciality were works made of ebony with highly elaborate mother-of-pearl inlay, such as can be seen on the cabinet at The Argory. Rembrandt portrayed Doomer and his wife in 1640. The portrait of the husband, of which there is a contemporary copy at Erddig, Wrexham (NT 1151313), exits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (29.100.1), while the portrait of the wife is kept at the Hermitage in St Petersburg (ГЭ-729).
Makers and roles
attributed to Herman Doomer (1595-1650), cabinet-maker
Jervis, 1998: Simon Jervis. “Ebony at The Argory: “Een Ebbenhout kabinet met parlemoer ingeleydt”.” Apollo (1998): pp.42- 44. Baarsen, Reinier, Kwab: Ornament as Art in the Age of Rembrandt (ex. cat.), Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 2018 Baarsen, Reinier 'Herman Doomer, ebony worker in Amsterdam' The Burlington Magazine, vol.CXXXVIII no.1124 (November 1996)