Cabinet painting

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The Flight into Egypt, by Adam Elsheimer, Alte Pinakothek, Munich. 31 x 41 cm Adam Elsheimer - Die Flucht nach Agypten (Alte Pinakothek) 2.jpg
The Flight into Egypt , by Adam Elsheimer, Alte Pinakothek, Munich. 31 × 41 cm

A cabinet painting (or "cabinet picture") is a small painting, typically no larger than two feet (0.3 meters) in either dimension, but often much smaller. [1] The term is especially used for paintings that show full-length figures or landscapes at a small scale, rather than a head or other object painted nearly life-size. Such paintings are done very precisely, with a great degree of "finish". [2] From the fifteenth century onward, wealthy collectors of art would keep these paintings in a cabinet, which was a relatively small and private room (often very small even in large houses) to which only those with whom they were on especially intimate terms would be admitted. A cabinet, also known as a closet, study (from the Italian studiolo), office, or by other names, might be used as an office or just a sitting room. Heating the main rooms in large palaces or mansions in the winter was difficult, so small rooms such as cabinets were more comfortable. They offered more privacy from servants or other household members and visitors. Typically, a cabinet would be for the use of a single individual; a large house might have at least two (his and hers) and often more.

Painting Practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface

Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface. The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and airbrushes, can be used. The final work is also called a painting.

Cabinet (room) private room in the houses and palaces of early modern Europe serving as a study or retreat

A cabinet was a private room in the houses and palaces of early modern Europe serving as a study or retreat, usually for a man. The cabinet would be furnished with books and works of art, and sited adjacent to his bedchamber, the equivalent of the Italian Renaissance studiolo. In the Late Medieval period, such newly perceived requirements for privacy had been served by the solar of the English gentry house, and a similar, less secular purpose had been served by a private oratory.

Saint George Fighting the Dragon by Raphael, Louvre, 31 x 27 cm Raphael - Saint George Fighting the Dragon.jpg
Saint George Fighting the Dragon by Raphael, Louvre, 31 × 27 cm

Later, cabinet paintings might be housed in a display case, also known as a cabinet, but the term cabinet arose from the name (originally in Italian) of the room, not the piece of furniture. Other small and precious objects, including miniature paintings, "curiosities" of all sorts (see cabinet of curiosities), old master prints, books, or small sculptures might also be displayed in the room.

Miniature (illuminated manuscript) picture in an ancient or medieval illuminated manuscript

The word miniature, derived from the Latin verb miniare indicates a small illustration used to decorate an ancient or medieval illuminated manuscript; the simple illustrations of the early codices having been miniated or delineated with that pigment. The generally small scale of such medieval pictures has led to etymological confusion with minuteness and to its application to small paintings, especially portrait miniatures, which did however grow from the same tradition and at least initially used similar techniques.

Cabinet of curiosities encyclopedic collections of objects whose categorical boundaries were, in Renaissance Europe, yet to be defined

Cabinets of curiosities were notable collections of objects. The term cabinet originally described a room rather than a piece of furniture. Modern terminology would categorize the objects included as belonging to natural history, geology, ethnography, archaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art, and antiquities. The classic cabinet of curiosities emerged in the sixteenth century, although more rudimentary collections had existed earlier. In addition to the most famous and best documented cabinets of rulers and aristocrats, members of the merchant class and early practitioners of science in Europe formed collections that were precursors to museums.

Old master print paper illustration by woodcut, engraving or etching

An old master print is a work of art produced by a printing process within the Western tradition. The term remains current in the art trade, and there is no easy alternative in English to distinguish the works of "fine art" produced in printmaking from the vast range of decorative, utilitarian and popular prints that grew rapidly alongside the artistic print from the 15th century onwards. Fifteenth-century prints are sufficiently rare that they are classed as old master prints even if they are of crude or merely workmanlike artistic quality. A date of about 1830 is usually taken as marking the end of the period whose prints are covered by this term.

A rare example of a surviving cabinet with its contents probably little changed since the early eighteenth century is at Ham House in Richmond, London. It is less than ten feet square, and leads off from the Long Gallery which is over a hundred feet long and twenty feet wide, giving a rather startling change in scale and atmosphere. As is often the case, it has an excellent view of the front entrance to the house, so that passerby and daily activities can be observed. Most surviving large houses or palaces, especially from before 1700, have such rooms, but they are often not displayed or accessible to visitors.

Ham House historic house museum in Ham, London

Ham House is a historic house with formal gardens set back 200 metres from the River Thames in Ham, south of Richmond in London. It is claimed by the National Trust to be "unique in Europe as the most complete survival of 17th century fashion and power." The house itself is designated on the National Heritage List for England as a Grade I listed building. Its park and formal gardens are listed at Grade II* by Historic England in the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.

The magnificent Mannerist Studiolo of Francesco I Medici in Florence is larger than most examples and rather atypical in that most of the paintings were commissioned for the room.

Studiolo of Francesco I room in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

The Studiolo is a small painting-encrusted barrel-vaulted room in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. It was commissioned by Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. It was completed for the duke from 1570-1572, by teams of artists under the supervision of Giorgio Vasari and the scholars Giovanni Batista Adriani and Vincenzo Borghini.

Florence Comune in Tuscany, Italy

Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with 383,084 inhabitants in 2013, and over 1,520,000 in its metropolitan area.

There is an equivalent type of small sculpture, usually bronzes. The leading exponent in the late Renaissance was Giambologna, who produced sizeable editions of reduced versions of his large works, and also made many exclusively in small scale. [3] These sculptures were designed to be picked up and handled, even fondled. Small antiquities were also very commonly displayed in such rooms, including rare coinage.

Bronze metal alloy

Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, commonly with about 12–12.5% tin and often with the addition of other metals and sometimes non-metals or metalloids such as arsenic, phosphorus or silicon. These additions produce a range of alloys that may be harder than copper alone, or have other useful properties, such as stiffness, ductility, or machinability.

Giambologna Italian sculptor

Giambologna — — was a Flemish sculptor based in Italy, celebrated for his marble and bronze statuary in a late Renaissance or Mannerist style.

Antiquities historical objects and artefacts

Antiquities are objects from antiquity, especially the civilizations of the Mediterranean: the Classical antiquity of Greece and Rome, Ancient Egypt and the other Ancient Near Eastern cultures. Artifacts from earlier periods such as the Mesolithic, and other civilizations from Asia and elsewhere may also be covered by the term. The phenomenon of giving a high value to ancient artifacts is found in other cultures, notably China, where Chinese ritual bronzes, three to two thousand years old, have been avidly collected and imitated for centuries, and the Pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica, where in particular the artifacts of the earliest Olmec civilization are found reburied in significant sites of later cultures up to the Spanish Conquest.

Small paintings have been produced during all periods of Western art, but some periods and artists are especially noticeable for them. Raphael produced many cabinet paintings, and all the paintings of the important German artist Adam Elsheimer (1578–1610) could be so described. The works of these two were much copied. The Dutch artists of the seventeenth century had an enormous output of small paintings. The painters of the Leiden School were especially noted "Fijnschilders" or "fine painters" producing highly finished small works. Watteau, Fragonard and other French 18th-century artists produced many small works, generally emphasizing spirit and atmosphere rather than a detailed finish. In modern times the term is not as common as it was in the 19th century, but remains in use among art historians.

Raphael 16th-century Italian painter and architect

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, known as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form, ease of composition, and visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period.

Adam Elsheimer German painter and draftsman

Adam Elsheimer was a German artist working in Rome who died at only thirty-two, but was very influential in the early 17th century in the field of Baroque paintings. His relatively few paintings were small scale, nearly all painted on copper plates, of the type often known as cabinet paintings. They include a variety of light effects, and an innovative treatment of landscape. He was an influence on many other artists, including Rembrandt and Peter Paul Rubens.

Leiden City and municipality in South Holland, Netherlands

Leiden is a city and municipality in the province of South Holland, Netherlands. The municipality of Leiden had a population of 123,856 in August 2017, but the city forms one densely connected agglomeration with its suburbs Oegstgeest, Leiderdorp, Voorschoten and Zoeterwoude with 206,647 inhabitants. The Netherlands Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) further includes Katwijk in the agglomeration which makes the total population of the Leiden urban agglomeration 270,879, and in the larger Leiden urban area also Teylingen, Noordwijk, and Noordwijkerhout are included with in total 348,868 inhabitants. Leiden is located on the Oude Rijn, at a distance of some 20 kilometres from The Hague to its south and some 40 km (25 mi) from Amsterdam to its north. The recreational area of the Kaag Lakes (Kagerplassen) lies just to the northeast of Leiden.

A "cabinet miniature" is a larger portrait miniature, usually full-length and typically up to about ten inches (25.5 cm) high. These were first painted in England, from the end of the 1580s, initially by Nicholas Hilliard and Isaac Oliver. [4]

In 1991, an exhibition entitled "Cabinet Painting" toured London, Hove Museum and Art Gallery and Glynn Vivian Art Gallery and Museum, Swansea. It included more than sixty cabinet paintings by contemporary artists.

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Jan Brueghel the Elder Flemish painter

Jan Brueghel the Elder was a Flemish painter and draughtsman. He was the son of the eminent Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Brueghel the Elder. A close friend and frequent collaborator with Peter Paul Rubens, the two artists were the leading Flemish painters in the first three decades of the 17th century.

Art museum Building or space for the exhibition of art

An art museum or art gallery is a building or space for the display of art, usually from the museum's own collection. It might be in public or private ownership and may be accessible to all or have restrictions in place. Although primarily concerned with visual art, art galleries are often used as a venue for other cultural exchanges and artistic activities, such as performance arts, music concerts, or poetry readings. Art museums also frequently host themed temporary exhibitions which often include items on loan from other collections.

Medieval art

The medieval art of the Western world covers a vast scope of time and place, over 1000 years of art in Europe, and at times the Middle East and North Africa. It includes major art movements and periods, national and regional art, genres, revivals, the artists' crafts, and the artists themselves.

Objet dart

Objet d'art means literally "art object", or work of art, in French, but in practice the term has long been reserved in English to describe works of art that are not paintings, large or medium-sized sculptures, prints or drawings. It therefore covers a wide range of works, usually small and three-dimensional, of high quality and finish in areas of the decorative arts, such as metalwork items, with or without enamel, small carvings, statuettes and plaquettes in any material, including engraved gems, hardstone carvings, ivory carvings and similar items, non-utilitarian porcelain and glass, and a vast range of objects that would also be classed as antiques, such as small clocks, watches, gold boxes, and sometimes textiles, especially tapestries. Books with fine bookbindings might be included.

Wallace Collection art museum in London, England, UK

The Wallace Collection is an art collection in London open to the public, housed at Hertford House in Manchester Square, the former townhouse of the Seymour family, Marquesses of Hertford. It comprises an extensive collection of fine and decorative arts from the 15th to the 19th centuries with important holdings of French 18th-century paintings, furniture, arms and armour, porcelain and Old Master paintings arranged into 30 galleries.

Portrait miniature very small painting

A portrait miniature is a miniature portrait painting, usually executed in gouache, watercolor, or enamel. Portrait miniatures developed out of the techniques of the miniatures in illuminated manuscripts, and were popular among 16th-century elites, mainly in England and France, and spread across the rest of Europe from the middle of the 18th century, remaining highly popular until the development of daguerreotypes and photography in the mid-19th century. They were usually intimate gifts given within the family, or by hopeful males in courtship, but some rulers, such as James I of England, gave large numbers as diplomatic or political gifts. They were especially likely to be painted when a family member was going to be absent for significant periods, whether a husband or son going to war or emigrating, or a daughter getting married.

Roman art the visual arts made in Ancient Rome and in the territories of the Roman Empire

Roman art refers to the visual arts made in Ancient Rome and in the territories of the Roman Empire. Roman art includes architecture, painting, sculpture and mosaic work. Luxury objects in metal-work, gem engraving, ivory carvings, and glass are sometimes considered in modern terms to be minor forms of Roman art, although this would not necessarily have been the case for contemporaries. Sculpture was perhaps considered as the highest form of art by Romans, but figure painting was also very highly regarded. The two forms have had very contrasting rates of survival, with a very large body of sculpture surviving from about the 1st century BC onward, though very little from before, but very little painting at all remains, and probably nothing that a contemporary would have considered to be of the highest quality.

Thangka Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton, or silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala.

A thangka, variously spelt as thangka, tangka, thanka, or tanka, is a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton, silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala. Thangkas are traditionally kept unframed and rolled up when not on display, mounted on a textile backing somewhat in the style of Chinese scroll paintings, with a further silk cover on the front. So treated, thangkas can last a long time, but because of their delicate nature, they have to be kept in dry places where moisture will not affect the quality of the silk. Most thangkas are relatively small, comparable in size to a Western half-length portrait, but some are extremely large, several metres in each dimension; these were designed to be displayed, typically for very brief periods on a monastery wall, as part of religious festivals. Most thangkas were intended for personal meditation or instruction of monastic students. They often have elaborate compositions including many very small figures. A central deity is often surrounded by other identified figures in a symmetrical composition. Narrative scenes are less common, but do appear.

Gemäldegalerie, Berlin art museum in Berlin

The Gemäldegalerie is an art museum in Berlin, Germany, and the museum where the main selection of paintings belonging to the Berlin State Museums is displayed. It holds one of the world's leading collections of European paintings from the 13th to the 18th centuries. Its collection includes masterpieces from such artists as Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach, Hans Holbein, Rogier van der Weyden, Jan van Eyck, Raphael, Botticelli, Titian, Caravaggio, Giambattista Pittoni, Peter Paul Rubens, David Teniers the Younger, Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, and Antonio Viviani. It was first opened in 1830, and the current building was completed in 1998. It is located in the Kulturforum museum district west of Potsdamer Platz.

Persian miniature

A Persian miniature is a small painting on paper, whether a book illustration or a separate work of art intended to be kept in an album of such works called a muraqqa. The techniques are broadly comparable to the Western and Byzantine traditions of miniatures in illuminated manuscripts. Although there is an equally well-established Persian tradition of wall-painting, the survival rate and state of preservation of miniatures is better, and miniatures are much the best-known form of Persian painting in the West, and many of the most important examples are in Western, or Turkish, museums. Miniature painting became a significant genre in Persian art in the 13th century, receiving Chinese influence after the Mongol conquests, and the highest point in the tradition was reached in the 15th and 16th centuries. The tradition continued, under some Western influence, after this, and has many modern exponents. The Persian miniature was the dominant influence on other Islamic miniature traditions, principally the Ottoman miniature in Turkey, and the Mughal miniature in the Indian sub-continent.

Plaquette small bas-relief sculpture

A plaquette is a small low relief sculpture in bronze or other materials. These were popular in the Italian Renaissance and later. They may be commemorative, but especially in the Renaissance and Mannerist periods were often made for purely decorative purposes, with often crowded scenes from religious, historical or mythological sources. Only one side is decorated, giving the main point of distinction with the artistic medal, where both sides are normally decorated. Most are rectangular or circular, but other shapes are found, as in the example illustrated. Typical sizes range from about two inches up to about seven across a side, or as the diameter, with the smaller end or middle of that range more common. They "typically fit within the hand", as Grove puts it. At the smaller end they overlap with medals, and at the larger they begin to be called plaques.

Print room collection of prints, and sometimes drawings, watercolours and photographs

A print room is either a room or industrial building where printing takes place, or a room in an art gallery or museum, where a collection of old master and modern prints, usually together with drawings, watercolours and photographs, are held and viewed. The latter meaning is the subject of this article.

Flemish Baroque painting

Flemish Baroque painting refers to the art produced in the Southern Netherlands during Spanish control in the 16th and 17th centuries. The period roughly begins when the Dutch Republic was split from the Habsburg Spain regions to the south with the Spanish recapturing of Antwerp in 1585 and goes until about 1700, when Habsburg authority ended with the death of King Charles II. Antwerp, home to the prominent artists Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, and Jacob Jordaens, was the artistic nexus, while other notable cities include Brussels and Ghent.

Feast of the Gods (art)

The Feast of the Gods or Banquet of the Gods as a subject in art showing a group of deities at table has a long history going back into antiquity. Showing Greco-Roman deities, it enjoyed a revival in popularity in the Italian Renaissance, and then in the Low Countries during the 16th century, when it was popular with Northern Mannerist painters, at least partly as an opportunity to show copious amounts of nudity.

The Studiolo of Isabella d'Este was a special private study in the Corte Vecchi apartments in the Ducal Palace in Mantua, designed by, and with a collection of art specially commissioned by Isabella d'Este. The Studiolo was moved between 1519 and 1522 to the castello di San Giorgio.

<i>Studiolo from the Ducal Palace in Gubbio</i> art displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has on display a complete studio from the Palazzo ducale di Gubbio. Consisting of period woodwork from late 15th century Italy, the studio was commissioned for Federico da Montefeltro.


  1. Although up to four feet in each dimension could still qualify; see the Metropolitan Rubens.
  2. Rubens from Metropolitan New York
  3. Metropolitan Timeline of Art History
  4. Strong, Roy: Artists of the Tudor Court: The Portrait Miniature Rediscovered 1520-1620, Victoria & Albert Museum exhibit catalogue, 1983, pp. 156-67, ISBN   0-905209-34-6