John Evelyn's cabinet

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John Evelyn's Cabinet, 1644-1646 V&A Museum no. W.24-1977

John Evelyn's cabinet is a highly decorated portable storage box housed at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The cabinet was made for the diarist John Evelyn (1620-1706) and is an early example of a piece of furniture commissioned by a British visitor making the 'Grand Tour' of Europe.

Objects often acquire their fame because of who owned them, but what makes this cabinet unusual is that its physical appearance was the result of elements already owned by the man who commissioned it. The cabinet was expressly made to incorporate 19 pietre dure (hardstone) panels, which Evelyn had purchased in Florence from their maker, Domenico Benotti (active 1630-50), in 1644. The cabinet was then extended to accommodate bronze plaques, probably made by Francesco Fanelli (active 1610-42). Evelyn's Diary was first published in the early nineteenth century, long after his death. The national recognition he achieved in turn gave the cabinet new significance, and it was further embellished with the gilt brass mounts, decorated with amorini and swags, the strawberry leaf cresting and provided with its stand.

On Evelyn's return from the Grand Tour, the cabinet was probably housed in Dover Street, London. Soon after Evelyn's death in 1706 it was moved to his country residence, Wotton House in Wotton, Surrey. In 1813, John Evelyn's diaries were discovered in an 'ebony cabinet' at Wotton House, quite possibly this one.


  • Jackson, Anna (ed.) (2001). V&A: A Hundred Highlights. V&A Publications.