Unlocking Wonder: A peek into the world of luxury cabinets

History and Origins: Describing the Typology

Dublin Core


History and Origins: Describing the Typology


Looking at the object in the Mead’s collection, finding terminology to describe the form of the cabinet becomes increasingly complicated as more aspects of the item’s history are revealed. The term that can most safely be applied is escritorio (escritoire in French and scrivania in Italian), as it literally means writing desk but is actually a blanket term, not necessarily implying intended use; likewise, the most specific term that covers the cabinet is papelera, describing a relative of the famous bargueño. Although use of bargueño has become ubiquitous and many related terms (including papelera, arquilla, arquimesa, and the originally Portuguese contador) are often applied to a variety of cabinets bearing roughly the same form, papelera officially refers to a somewhat smaller descendant of the bargueño that lacks the fall-front surface (meant for writing or displaying the contents of the drawers) and thus omits the elaborate iron lock that typically both seals of all the drawers and represents much of the object’s value. The possibility of the cabinet’s being first constructed in Italy, however, complicates the issue as there is no precise translation of papelera into Italian, and the Italian counterpart to the Spanish bargueño, stipo, conjures images of typically taller and shallower pieces of furniture framed by carved wooden columns similar to caryatids depicting babies or nymphs.



“History and Origins: Describing the Typology,” Unlocking Wonder: A peek into the world of luxury cabinets, accessed June 23, 2024, https://www.ats.amherst.edu/meadcollection/items/show/39.