Cabinet on Stand


Secret hiding places in buildings and furniture were simply a matter of security in days before banks and modern safes; however this cabinet is exceptional in that it was made in 1870 when both good banks and safes were available . It must have been constructed as an exhibition piece as well as for a recreational puzzle.

The outer casing is of walnut carved in stunning detail: - The overhanging cornice above a frieze with carved high relief honeysuckle, leaf and berry decoration on a stippled ground. The main panels all profusely carved in high relief with Renaissance style masks, grotesques, floral motifs and two tablets inscribed 'ANNO DMNI' 'MDCCCLXX'.

The style of the carving is is almost indistinguishable from that of the famous cabinetmaker Luigi Frullini.





Each side has a central carved tablet with scenes of fertility and plenty. The four corners are similarly decorated uprights with Corinthian capitals, above an inverted breakfront frieze, all carved with foliate and floral sprays, fruit, classical scenes and portrait medallions

The base of each of the corner columns has two cartouches carved with words in Latin. The eight inscriptions make up the sentence: QVAE MIHI CREDIDERIS SERABABO FIDELITER NEC QVISQVAM ERIPIET NICI PRIVIS CONFRECERIT: This slightly obscure Latin translates as 'Whatever you will have entrusted to me I will guard faithfully and nobody can take unless he shall have first solved it'.

So with this challenge, we know that this cabinet was truly designed to be a puzzle.

The plinth is carved 'GIOACCHINO SCANNAVINI INV. SCUL.'.


When the key and keyhole have been found:

The fall front unlocks to reveal an architectural facade of an arched panel door surrounded by tessellated brick-work concealing a variety of secret drawers all with cunning puzzle release mechanisms, at some stage the central door can be opened to reveal a metal "safe". A secret catch allows this to roll forward on metal "tram lines".

The puzzle is not over as the "Safe" is really another puzzle box.

In total there are 20 secrets to be discovered.



Thanks to some very remarkable research in 2017 by Dic Sonneveld, we now know that
GIOACCHINO SCANNAVINI, the wood carver, was the son of Natale Scannavini and Domenica Conte/Contithe.
He was Born in 1837 in Rome, and Married to Maria de Cupis.
About 1872 he lived in Rome at Via San Chiara, and a
bout 1874 he lived in Rome at the address (Via) Arca di San Callisto, nr 46. He died, at the age of 57, poor in Rome of general paralysis caused by brain extravasation in the hospice Ospizio San Cosimato in 1887.

This strip of wood was used as the backstop to one of the secret drawers in the most obscure part of the cabinet. It was only discovered when dismantling the cabinet to treat for possible furniture beetle.

Dic Sonneveld has also researched this and found the death certificate of Ildebrando de Rocchi, ebanista (= cabinetmaker), who died in 1882 aged 31. So he would have been 18 years old when he made the cabinet, which was "invented" by Gioacchino Scannavini who also carved the outside panels.


Do please tell us if you know of any other furniture by Scannavini or de Rocchi.


The cabinet 69cm. wide, 52cm. deep, 94cm. high.
The stand 87cm. wide, 70cm. deep, 75cm. high


This cabinet appeared on the BBC's Antiques Roadshow in 1996 at Michelham Priory, Sussex. The clip was one of four selected for their "Viewer's Choice - Bizarre Finds" selection at the end of 2002 and was chosen for the 25th Anniversary Roadshow broadcast in the UK on 16th March 2003.
It also appeared together with our Rebus watercolour panels in September 2006 on one of four special programmes "The Roadshow's Greatest Finds".



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