Cabinet of Curiosities

September 24, 2011

By Mary Jo Gibson

A few weeks ago I discovered this beautiful representation of Victorian artwork.  I hope you appreciate the craftsmanship as I much as I did.

Friedrich Ludwig Hausburg (1817-1886) born in Berlin Prussia, became a naturalized British subject under very unusual circumstances in 1840.  During that year Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg married Queen Victoria, and the construction of this cabinet commenced, completed in 1857 corresponding with the ennoblement of Albert as Prince Consort.  The naturalization of Hausburg is remarkable for two reasons; the normal period from application to acceptance was four years – Hausburg was naturalized in five weeks, with the act of naturalization personally signed by Queen Victoria.  These facts indicate that Hausburg was the beneficiary of the direct intercession of Queen Victoria, who perhaps acted at the behest of the Prussian Court, Prussia being adjacent to the duchy of Saxe Coburg.

The Hausburg cabinet model is a Gothic cathedral; the exterior constructed in ebony with tracery elements, minute figures, rose windows, doors, an imbricated roof in brass and silver wire, and mother of pearl.  The turrets have concealed sliding covers with compartments under, and there is a well-hidden spring operated secret drawer.  The full glory of craftsmanship is revealed upon opening two of the side door panels. Each panel elaborately inlaid with brass, tulipwood, abalone and mother of pearl, depicting scenes from the interior of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, and Westminster Abbey.  The interior reveals a chessboard floor representative of the finest ability and technique, barred by hinged ormolu gates, with seven drawer fascias on each side.  The left hand side depicts Kew Palace, the entrance to the old House of Lords, Kenilworth Castle, Brighton Pavilion, Windsor Castle, Dover Castle and Caernarvon Castle.  The double-hinged doors depict Holyrood House and Westminster Abbey.  The right side portrays Virginia Water, Hampton Court Palace, Edinburgh Castle, Bushy Park, Kensington Palace, Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London.  The doors are of St. Paul’s Cathedral and St. James’ Palace. The cabinet is signed in marquetry inlay EL Hausburg Fecti Liverpool, Begun 1840, Finished 1857.

Drawers on left side of cabinet

Drawers on right side of cabinet

After arriving in England, Hausburg opened a jewelry and watch business in Liverpool at 24 Church Street, with his business partner and uncle, August Promoli.  Desks, dressing cases, writing boxes, lamps and chandeliers also bear the company name, but this cabinet, made over a large proportion of his working life, is surely the artist’s masterpiece.  Winner of the Object of the Year award from the Country Life-LAPADA, this exceptional piece of Victorian furniture was recently purchased at auction for 60,000 pounds.

If you would like to learn more about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert here is a link to my post, Royal Collection and the Stag’s Tooth Necklace.

Thank you for taking the time peruse this week’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  I am taking the final week of the month off to organize my new office and spend time with family.  I look forward to visiting the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in October, and finding new history to discover in the pile of research sitting on my desk.

Best Wishes,




Filed under September

5 responses to “Cabinet of Curiosities

  1. The level of detail throughout this piece is incredible, especially the inside door panels. The view on these panels transports the viewer directly to the scene as if they were actually there. To think that something of this nature could be done during that era of time without the aid of modern technology is an incredible statement to the skills of the artist. Thanks for sharing this Mary Jo!

  2. Nicky whittall

    Many thanks for sharing such superb photographs of the Hausburg Cabinet; by far the best I’ve seen. I have been mesmerized by this cabinet since I discovered it online last year!! I’m very distantly related to FLLHausburg and slightly more closely related to his predecessor in the fancy goods bazaar in Liverpool, Thomas Robinson Woolfield (My grandfather’s middle name was Woolfield!) There’s a picture of the bazaar on
    Woolfield and Hausburg were extremely closely linked, not only related by marriage; TRWoolfield went off to develop property in Cannes when his shop was taken over by Promoli and Hausburg, and Hausburg died in Cannes. Thanks again for so generously sharing your images of this magnificent cabinet! Nicky Whittall

  3. Pingback: Blog Treasures and ROW80 Party! « Gene Lempp's Blog

  4. modemjunkie

    Oh,Time flies. If you are still coming to Oak Park to see the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, please let me know when. I was hoping to show you the magnificent stained glass windows by William Gropper at the West Suburban Temple in River Forest (five minutes from the Home and Studio). If I have already missed you I hope you had a wonderful visit. Please reach me a Len @ Lgrossman dot com.

  5. Julian Promoli

    Thank you for posting these wonderful photos!
    Julian Promoli

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