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Court Cupboards: What Are They?

Court Cupboards: What Are They?
April 11, 2013 Chris

We recently acquired a heavily carved buffet from England. After some research we learned that this particular piece is known as a “court cupboard”:

Antique Georgian solid oak court cupboard

Note the carved soldier occupying the central panel on this cupboard. Such militaristic or noble themes were common in carved furniture throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.

According to the Britannica Encyclopedia, court cupboards were “fashionable throughout the 16th century and during the first three-quarters of the 17th…though they were probably still made in country districts until the mid-18th century.” Like so much of Anglo-Saxon culture subsequent to its Frenchification (following the Norman conquest in 1066), this type of cupboard derives its name from French word for “short,” court, due to its low height.

The best-known contemporary reference to court cupboards can be found in Shakespeare’s famous play, Romeo and Juliet:

Away with the joint-stools, remove the
court-cupboard, look to the plate. (I.v)

So there it is, now we can say that the Bard himself wrote about our furniture!