About this artwork
William Burges was one of the preeminent architect-designers of the 19th-century Gothic Revival. The patterns and designs on this cabinet draw inspiration from the tracery and stained glass of Gothic cathedrals, as well as medieval manuscript illumination.
In contrast to the reverent approach of fellow archictect-designer Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, Burges’s interpretation of the Middle Ages is more playful and humorous. The scenes on the cabinet’s four projecting panels are painted in brilliant colors and an abundance of gold by Nathaniel Westlake. They illustrate a 14th-century French poem called “Le Martyre de Saint Bacchus” (The Martyrdom of Saint Bacchus). In a witty parody of the lives of the saints, the anonymous poet contended that healing the sick and consoling the unfortunate are not just the stuff of sainthood, but the work of wine as well.
On the sideboard, Saint Bacchus is depicted as a handsome young man dressed in a pink medieval-style tunic, a crown of grapevines around his head. After offering wine to his companions, he is pushed into a cask; the fourth panel shows the martyred Bacchus imprisoned in an oak wine barrel from which a maiden fills her pitcher. In the row of portraits below the scene, wine is also rendered with a human face: at far left, Burgundy is personified by a crowned, dark-haired prince, while at far right Champagne is represented as a fair-haired maiden. The inside surfaces of the two center doors, are however, painted with heads representing Temperance and Sobriety—a reminder to the cabinet’s owner to moderate his pleasures even as he pursues them.
- William Burges
- Sideboard and Wine Cabinet
- Pine and mahogany, painted and gilded; iron straps; and metal mounts
- No mark
- 126.5 × 157 × 58 cm (49 3/4 × 61 3/4 × 22 3/4 in.)
- Restricted gift of the James McClintock Snitzler Fund through the Antiquarian Society, Mrs. DeWitt W. Buchanan, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Henry M. Buchbinder, Mr. and Mrs. Stanford D. Marks, Mrs. Eric Oldberg, Harry A. Root, and the Woman's Board in honor of Mrs. Gloria Gottlieb; Harry and Maribel G. Blum Foundation, Richard T. Crane, Ada Turnbull Hertle, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Krehbiel, Florence L. Notter, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Varley, and European Decorative Arts Purchase endowments; through prior acquisitions of Robert Allerton, the Antiquarian Society, Mr. and Mrs. James W. Alsdorf, Helen Bibas, Mrs. E. Crane Chadbourne, Mr. and Mrs. Richard T. Crane, Jr., the R. T. Crane, Jr., Memorial Fund, H. M. Gillen, George F. Harding Collection, Mrs. John Hooker, and the Kenilworth Garden Club