ARCHITECT, French
(active 1630s in Paris)

Interior view

1637
Photo
Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, Paris

In seventeenth-century French architecture the interior layout of private quarters followed the three-room principle of antechamber, bedchamber (with or without alcove) and cabinet. The latter was the most intimate and withdrawn, but not necessarily the smallest room. It was usually decorated in a deliberate, original way. The importance accorded cabinets is reflected in the gilded and painted wainscoting that framed the paintings on display, accompanied by sculpted decoration.

A typical examples include the cabinet of Maréchale de la Meilleraye at the Arsenal in Paris (shown on the photo) and the Cabinet des Muses at Oiron.

The small cabinet at the Arsenal, exquisite by its proportions, is known as "Cabinet des Femmes Fortes" named after the celebrated women that adorn the room, painted probably by a pupil of Simon Vouet: Esther, Porcia, Semiramis, Judith, Lucretia, Berenice, Joan of Arc.

In fact, practically no noble or wealthy bourgeois dwelling lacked a room of this type. These private rooms, comparable to Italian studioli, were somewhat secret places where rare objects and collector's items would be displayed. Cabinets were a more worldly version of the Wunderkammern fashionable around 1600.

The decorative program of the cabinets was conceived to be highly meaningful. At the Hotel Lambert, for instance, Eustache Le Sueur was successively commissioned to decorate three rooms, all with eloquent themes: a Cabinet de l'Amour, a Cabinet des Muses, and a hidden bathroom.




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