The Yatman Cabinet
William Burges (1827-1881)
Made by Harland & Fisher for H.G. Yatman
Painted by Edward John Poynter (1836 - 1919)
Museum no. 217-1961
Secretaire designed to resemble a house with four painted panels of classical scenes across the middle, three at the bottom, and ornate designs containing columns, porcupines, profile portraits etc.
Everything Burges did was painted, not carved, to more closely match the medieval spirit. Unlike Morris' painted furniture, which used furniture merely as a vehicle for the painted subject, Burges always applied the decoration so that it had an integrity with the structure of the piece.
The design of the desk is taken from a medieval cabinet then in Noyon Cathedral in France. Much of this piece is decorated with stencilling, a technique that Burges took directly from medieval sources, but these are not the only inspiration. The top cupboards illustrate the Greek legend of Cadmus and the Dragon's teeth. The lower doors have three very different paintings and it is these that give the most obvious clue to the cabinet's use. The Assyrian mason lettering his monument, Dante writing in the monastery and Caxton with his press, indicate that this object serves words and communication. Another clue is in the roof dormers, which act as a perpetual calendar.