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Chest of drawers

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1653 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oak, with cherry (split furnings), and veneers of bog oak, ebony (<i>Diospyros ebenum</i>), ivory, snakewood (<i>Piratinera quiansensis</i>), brass and mother-of-pearl

  • Museum number:

    657:1 to 8-1883

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 56, The Djanogly Gallery, case 2 []

Object Type
This early chest of drawers was known as a 'chest on chest'. Drawers had been fitted into Catalan bridal chests, Spanish and German writing cabinets and European travelling chests since the early 16th century. However, by the mid 17th century, chests of drawers gradually replaced ordinary chests, with no drawers, as their convenience for storing clothes, blankets and other textiles became more apparent.

Materials & Making
The engraved ivory and mother of pearl decoration is found on gunstocks of this period. These materials had been used on Spanish, Neapolitan and Netherlandish furniture since about 1600.

Physical description

Cupboard or Chest with drawers, oak, inlaid with ivory and mother-of-pearl, partly veneered with ebony and other woods. Above is one long drawer, below is a deep drawer, while the lower portion opens in two doors enclosing three drawers. The fronts of the deep drawer and of the doors have circular applied mouldings within octagons; the corners and the centres of the panels inlaid with ivory and mother-of-pearl; the top drawer is also inlaid and bears the date 1653; the uprights of the framework are decorated with pairs of split balusters. In front are flattened ball feet, the back feet are rectangular.
From: H. Clifford Smith, Catalogue of English Furniture & Woodwork
(London 1930), 602, Plate 29

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

1653 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Oak, with cherry (split furnings), and veneers of bog oak, ebony (Diospyros ebenum), ivory, snakewood (Piratinera quiansensis), brass and mother-of-pearl

Marks and inscriptions

Dated 1653 on right side of top drawer

Dimensions

Height: 125 cm, Width: 117 cm maximum, top, Width: 113 cm bottom, Depth: 62.2 cm

Object history note

Object sampling carried out by Jo Darrah, V&A Science; drawer/slide reference 1/59.

Bought for £52.10s from Lieut. Col. H.C.Mathew, Langer House, Felixstowe.

RP: 5590/1883, 1883/6994NF

Descriptive line

Oak, England, 1653, 5590/1883 & 1883/6994NF

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Cupboard or Chest with drawers, oak, inlaid with ivory and mother-of-pearl, partly veneered with ebony and other woods. Above is one long drawer, below is a deep drawer, while the lower portion opens in two doors enclosing three drawers. The fronts of the deep drawer and of the doors have circular applied mouldings within octagons; the corners and the centres of the panels inlaid with ivory and mother-of-pearl; the top drawer is also inlaid and bears the date 1653; the uprights of the framework are decorated with pairs of split balusters. In front are flattened ball feet, the back feet are rectangular.

Dated 1653.
From catalogue H. 4 ft. 4 in., W. 3 ft. 10 in., D. 2 ft.
(H. 132.1 cm, W. 116.8 cm, D. 61 cm)

From: H. Clifford Smith, Catalogue of English Furniture & Woodwork
(London 1930), 602, Plate 29
Benno Forman, 'The origins of the joined chest of drawers', in Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, Vol. 31 (1980), pp. 169 - 183
Adam Bowett, 'The Age of Snakewood' in Furniture History XXXIV (1998), pp. 212-225
Clive Edwards, 'The Beginning of the Present. Stability and Professionalism', in 'The Intelligent Layman's Book of British Furniture 1600-2000'. London, The Intelligent Layman Publisher Ltd, 2005, pp. 1-7, ill. p.7
Casa d'Oro, No. 8, 16.11.66
WINDISCH-GRAETZ, Franz: Mobel Europa. 2. Renaissance-Manierismus (Munich, 1982) FW7 C 6,7.
Edward Joy. Antique English Furniture (London: Ward Lock Ltd, 1981).
BADA Yearbook 2001/2, fig 8 & 9, p 13.
Lee Jonathan, 'Decorative Cabinets of the Commonwealth', Apollo Magazine, 2.54, p 42-43.
Darrah, Josephine, 'Furniture Timbers'. Victoria and Albert Conservation Journal, issue 4 (July 1992), pp. 4-6, fig. 3 (although image shown as fig.2)

Identification of timbers used: oak (substrate), with cherry (split furnings), and veneers of bog oak, ebony (<i>Diospyros ebenum</i>), ivory, snakewood (<i>Piratinera quiansensis</i>), brass and mother-of-pearl. Bog oak used for areas of more intricate cutting or moulding.

Labels and date

CHEST OF DRAWERS
Oak inlaid with ebony, ivory, and mother-of-pearl
ENGLISH; dated 1653

A group of furniture inlaid in this manner survives, much of it dated around 1650. Similar decoration is also found on gun-stocks of the period, while inlaid mother-of-pearl was used on furniture made in Spain and the Spanish Netherlands. [pre July 2001]
British Galleries:
The chest of drawers was a new form of furniture in the middle of the 17th century. Lidded chests had traditionally been used for storage but drawers made it much easier to get at items stored at the bottom. Joiners developed strong joints, known as dovetails, for the drawers to withstand heavy use. The decoration included luxury materials imported from Asia and South America. [27/03/2003]

Materials

Oak; Cherry; Bog oak; Ebony; Ivory; Snakewood; Brass; Mother of pearl

Techniques

Inlay

Categories

British Galleries; Furniture

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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