Opening up the Sixtus cabinet

The Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead. ©National Trust/John Hammond

The Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead. ©National Trust/John Hammond

It is not often that a whole book is devoted to one piece of furniture, but the Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead amply rewards such treatment.

The attic storey of the Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead. ©National Trust/John Hammond

The attic storey of the Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead. ©National Trust/John Hammond

The newly published book Roman Splendour, English Arcadia, by Simon Swynfen Jervis and Dudley Dodd, celebrates the visual impact of this extraordinary cabinet, its architectural complexity, lavish gilt-bronze mounts and dazzling semi-previous stones.

The Composite third storey of the Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead. ©National Trust/John Hammond

The Composite third storey of the Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead. ©National Trust/John Hammond

The book also explores how the cabinet was made in about 1585 for Pope Sixtus V, who rose from humble origins to become the rebuilder of Rome, and how it was handed down in the dynasty of his relatives, the Peretti family, who joined the ranks of the Roman princely elite.

The Corinthian second storey of the Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead. ©National Trust/John Hammond

The Corinthian second storey of the Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead. ©National Trust/John Hammond

The cabinet came to Stourhead in the 1740s, after it had been bought by the banker Henry Hoare, ‘the Magnificent’. It was a key element in Hoare’s project to transform both the house and the garden at Stourhead into an arcadian realm inspired by Italian art and the classical world.

The podium and Ionic first storey of the Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead. ©2010 John Hammond

The podium and Ionic first storey of the Sixtus cabinet at Stourhead. ©2010 John Hammond

Although it is strictly speaking a piece of furniture, the Sixtus cabinet has the impact of a luxurious model building and the aura of a tabernacle or a reliquary.

The pedestal for the Sixtus cabinet, made for Henry Hoare in the shape of a triumphal arch. ©National Trust/John Hammond

The pedestal for the Sixtus cabinet, made for Henry Hoare in the shape of a triumphal arch. ©National Trust/John Hammond

The book can be obtained from the National Trust online shop.

8 Responses to “Opening up the Sixtus cabinet”

  1. Eagle-Eyed Editor Says:

    A stunning piece of art! Wow.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Glad you like it 🙂 I hope to show some more of the cabinet and its context in following posts.

  3. Michael Shepherd Says:

    This is one of the best produced books that the NT has published: it is also a fascinating read! I got mine when it was published just after Christmas and only hope that the Trust looks to publish more books like this rather than their rather lame guidebooks.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    I am very glad you like it, Michael. We are indeed hoping to do more books like this – there are a number of them in the pipeline. But they are intended to augment rather than replace the guidebooks – horses for courses, as they say 🙂

  5. trewinb Says:

    I second Michael Shepherd’s comment. In recent years I have been very disappointed in the quality of books available in the National Trust properties. I would like to add that the NT property websites could also use an upgrade. The current generic format gives very little actual information on the properties themselves, other than opening hours (unlike your blog of course, which is excellent and full of content).

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes our website has been very much focused on giving people information about how to get to the places we look after, and not so much about the places themselves. But a redesign of the website is being prepared which I believe will include more ‘content’ (as it’s called in web design lingo) about the beauty and history of these places and collections.

    And as regards publications, I have just checked with colleague Claire Forbes who manages the specialist publishing programme, and she has given me details of the books that are planned to come out over the next year and a half or so, in various formats and in collaboration with various publishers:

    – a big book on Hardwick Hall, edited by our head curator David Adshead (similar in scope to the recent Ham House book)
    – a book on the silver collection at Ickworth, by our silver expert James Rothwell
    – a book on the Roman villa at Chedworth by Dr Simon Esmond Cleary
    – a book on country house libraries by our libraries curator Mark Purcell
    – ‘Wonder of the North’, a book on Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal by Mark Newman
    – a book on ancient and historically significant trees by Edward Parker
    – a book on country house technology by Marilyn Palmer and Dr Ian West
    – a book on Charles Paget Wade (who owned Snowshill Manor and built up the extraordinary collections there) by Jonathan Howard
    – a book on Rex Whistler at Mottisfont Abbey by Hugh and Mirabel Cecil
    – a book about the war diaries of Maud Russell (the chatelaine of Mottisfont who commissioned Whistler) by Emily Russell

    So I hope some of those will help to appease your understandable hunger for more in-depth information 🙂

  7. Susan Walter Says:

    A fabulous object. I believe the conservation cleaners ‘fight’ over who gets to clean it.

  8. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    I can imagine – plumeaus at dawn 🙂

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