Unlocking Wonder: A peek into the world of luxury cabinets

Function and Use: Protection versus Display

Dublin Core


Function and Use: Protection versus Display


Early Spanish coffers and vargueños were designed with security at heart; they were portable fortresses with multiple levels of protection and thus often contained little external decoration save for intricate iron locks whose value sometimes eclipsed that of the rest of the cabinet. Wealthy Spaniards could carry valued documents and objects with them safely during travel via these cabinets, yet, once arrived, vanity often obliged the owners to display their prized trinkets. In this papelera-- a less secure and more ornately decorated descendant of the vargueño, display rather than protection takes precedence.

The locked central console, once revealed, has a further dimension of secrecy: the entire section slides forward to reveal a series of small shelves for hiding the most coveted possessions. In addition to exemplifying the conflicting desires to safeguard and show off certain possessions, the presence of this secret component demonstrates the spread of ideas facilitated by the breadth of the Spanish Empire; these types of compartments seem to have been introduced in Flanders but were quickly adopted in Spain and Naples.



“Function and Use: Protection versus Display,” Unlocking Wonder: A peek into the world of luxury cabinets, accessed July 14, 2024, https://www.ats.amherst.edu/meadcollection/items/show/48.