English, Cellaret, ca. 1790, Mahogany and oak with brass mounts and tinned iron internal canisters; 55.9 x 68.6 x 52.1 cm (22 x 27 x 20 1/2 inches) feet, Gift of Mrs. Guy Fairfax Cary 56.001
The cellaret was a dining accessory used to keep wine bottles chilled and close at hand during a long meal. The small cabinet may be locked for security; its interior is divided into six circular metal-lined compartments for bottles; and its carved lion’s-paw feet conceal small casters for mobility. In the neoclassical style inspired by eighteenth-century excavations at the ancient Roman sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum, this English cellaret takes the form of an ancient sarcophagus. In further reference to antiquity, the wavy carved fluting of the mahogany is often called strigil decoration. The ancient Greeks and Romans used a strigil, or scraper, to remove impurities or excess oil from their skin. The shape of this strigil is similar to that of the tool cabinetmakers used to incise the cellaret’s exterior.