The credenza or dresser was one of the many specialized Italian Renaissance cabinetry pieces that emerged in the sixteenth century. Although in reality this piece could be employed for any storage purpose, it tended to be used for the storage of table service— linens and implements—and during dining for the artistic display of food. Its name derives from the verb credere (to believe) since in periods when the purposeful poisoning of food might be suspected, servants tasted the displayed food before serving it so diners might believe in its purity.
This exceptionally large walnut credenza has a studied classical architectural vocabulary typical of the period. Five fluted Ionic pilasters, set on a stepped plinth base much in the manner of a Renaissance palazzo façade, support an entablature row of four drawers, each with a cabinet door below. The drawer, which had been recently introduced, about 1500, was an important contribution of the Italian Renaissance, allowing for a conveniently accessible smaller storage area. Classically inspired running frieze motifs, such as the dentil border below the top and the guilloche chain motif on the entablature drawers, compliment the classical architectural design, as do the foliate scroll bracket supports. The four doors have bronze knobs applied to turned roundels and frames with guilloche chain borders.
An Italian Renaissance credenza identical in size and design to the one at Dumbarton Oaks was offered for sale at Sotheby’s New York in 2001 (sale 7652, lot 124).
Bühl, Gudrun, editor. Dumbarton Oaks, The Collections. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (distributed by Harvard University Press), 2008, 326f, ill.
Purchased from French & Co., New York, NY (dealer) (inv. no. given separately as 12346 and 16165), by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, 4/16/1929.
Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, DC, 4/16/1929-11/29/1940.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, DC.