Aesthetic Cabinet with Brass Detailing
Herter Brothers (1865-1905)
New York, [signed] c. 1880
With its intricate “Mashrabya” turned fretwork, this piece – which is branded “Herter Bros” – is a rare example of their work in the Moorish taste. The unusual cabinet is the same form as one seen in an 1881 photograph of prominent New York City banker Simon Borg’s parlor, a period reference which establishes an approximate date for the present piece. Borg’s cabinet, however, lacked the Mashrabya fretwork found in the upper galleries of this example. It is interesting to note that furniture in the salon of the New York City home of George Kemp (which was designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany [1848-1923] and was one of the first American rooms done in the Moorish taste) also included Mashrabya fretwork. It is possible that the detailing of those furnishings had some influence on this cabinet, whose Moorish arched sides resemble base detailing of the Kemp salon center table. Evidence that some of the furniture in the Kemp mansion was fabricated by Herter Brothers perhaps provides a rationale and clue to the repetition of these unusual forms and details.
Other rare characteristics of the present cabinet include its incorporation of brass colonettes and pierced drawer mounts, as well as the decorative brass fretwork dividing the beveled glass panes in its central doors. A simpler vitrine by Herter featuring brass astragals in its glass doors is in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum.