The Antique Dictionary

A definitive resource on terms related to European antiques including core terms as well as history and context

tantalus

a small, glass-paneled, locking cabinet for the securing and display of fine liquors

 

The name comes from Greek mythology where Tantalus was punished by being forced to stand in a pool of water beneath the low branches of a fruit tree which he could not reach.  The water of the pool was also out of his reach as it would recede if he tried to take a drink.  This myth is also the basis of the word tantalizing.

Some confuse a tantalus with a “cave a liqueur” which was also a locked box for liqueur, but a cave a liqueur will have solid-paneled rather than glass-paneled sides.  This makes their contents both out of reach and unseen, thereby not reflecting the character myth of Tantalus who could see but not reach what he desired.

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