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Chest

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1500-1550 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oak, carved

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr Robert L. Mond FSA

  • Museum number:

    W.69-1916

  • Gallery location:

    On display at Mary Newman's Cottage, Saltash, Cornwall

Chests were the earliest form of storage and could easily be carried from place to place. They were used for storing clothes, linen, documents or money and often had locks for security, as in this case. This example came from a farmhouse in Stamford, Lincolnshire. It is constructed of six boards, one for each of the sides, bottom and top. The lid is not original.

Physical description

Chest constructed of six boards, the front carved in low relief with three rows of ornament: arcading, with a scrolling band above and at the top cresting with rosettes. The ends are plain and divided into two feet at the bottom. The base of the chest is lifted well up of the ground on the side panels. The lid is not original.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)

Date

1500-1550 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Oak, carved

Dimensions

Height: 73 cm, Width: 126 cm, Depth: 48.2 cm

Object history note

Given by Robert Mond, F.S.A., Combe Bank, Nr Sevenoaks.

Said by the donor to have come from a farmhouse in the neighbourhood of Stamford, Lincolnshire.

RP 1916/3067 with the notation that the lid is not original.

Historical context note

Symonds places this chest within a group of four, similarly decorated chests that he suggests were produced in the same workshop in the village of Watford, Northamptonshire, on the basis of similar construction and ornament and their provenance to the same area. A second is in a Northamptonshire church; a third, 'the Watford chest' (Portsmouth City Museums) formerly in the collection of Lord Henley and thought to have originated in Watford; a fourth (private collection), said to have been purchased in the 1950s from a farm at Whilton (Northants), sold 1998. Other comparable chests: (5) sold Gorringes, 25th April 2001, lot 1180 'estate of Dennis Ward'; (6) sold Sotheby's London sale L01712, 27/11/2001, lot 30 'the Peter Gwynn Collection'; (7) sold Christie's London, 21/11/1968 lot 89, illustrated in WINDISCH-GRAETZ, Franz: Möbel Europa. 1. Romantic-Gotik. (Munich, 1982)., fig. 165.

Symonds suggests that the Northampton church chest is the earliest, dating to the early 16th century.

Descriptive line

Six-board chest with three horizontal bands of carved ornament, 1500-1550, England

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

R.W. Symonds, The Regional design and ornament of joined furniture, in Connoisseur, June 1948, pp. 90-6
Eric Mercer, The Social History of the Decorative Arts – Furniture 700-1700 (London, 1969), fig. 142
Charles Tracy, English Medieval Furniture and Woodwork (London, 1988), cat. no.304.

'CHEST, constructed of six boards; the front is carved with three rows of ornament; below is an arcading, above it a scrolling band with conventional leaves, and on the top a cresting with rosettes; the ends are plain and have pointed openings below. The lid is not the original one (PL.110).
Given By Mr Robert L. Maud, F.S.A.
Oak. Early 16th century
67.5 x 126 x 48.2 cm
Mus. No. W.69-1916
From a farmhouse in the neighbourhood of Stamford,Lincolnshire. The decoration on the front panel is close to that on another early sixteenth- century chest sold at auction by Christie’s in 1968 (See F. Windisch-Graetz, Mohel Europas, Munich, 1982, p.225)'.

See V. Chinnery, Oak Furniture: The British Tradition, (Antique Collector's Club, 1979), p 179 for similar chest.
CESCINSKY, Herbert: The Gentle Art of Faking Furniture. (London, 1931). Pl. 39.
Smith, H. Clifford, Catalogue of English Furniture & Woodwork. Vol II - Late Tudor and Early Stuart (London 1929).

'CHEST, constructed of six boards; the front is carved with three rows of ornament; below is an arcading, above it a scrolling band with conventional leaves, and on the top a cresting with rosettes; the ends are plain and have pointed openings below. The lid is not the original one. From a farmhouse in the neighbourhood of Stamford, Lincolnshire. Early 16th century.’ Plate 46, number 314.
Dictionary of English Furniture (Country Life 1924-7, 2nd rev. ed. 1954, 3 vols. See entry for Desks p.205
Fred Roe, Old Oak Furniture (London, 1908), p.194
Charles Tracy, English Medieval Furniture and Woodwork (London, 1988), no. 314

'DESK or CUPBOARD for books. Carved on the back and sides with two rows of Gothic arcading enriched with tracery Within a slightly moulded framework; the front is plain with the exception of two carved lions’ masks at the upper corners. The framed sloping top opens on hinges, and the interior is fitted with a cupboard with a hinged lid. The lower part of the desk is missing. The lock plate and the book ledge are post-medieval (PL.114a, b & c).
Oak. Last quarter of 14th century
97x 83.8x 54.6cm
Mus. No. 143-1898
This an extremely rare example of a medieval desk-cum-book cupboard. It is without doubt authentic and English, It is a great pity that it has lost the lower part of its panelling and its base. Two decorative features point strongly to England. The trefoil tracery in the super-arches of the back panel is stilted in the characteristically early Perpendicular Way (compare stall-ends at Lincoln Cathedral, See Fig.39). This same trait could also be found on a fragment of panelling from the York Minster choir- stalls in the Roe collection (illustrated in Roe 1910, PL.xvI) [sic] where the tracery pattern is sexfoil. The date of the construction of the York stalls is about 1390 (Francis Bond, Wood Carvings in English Churches: I. Stalls and Tabernacle Work and II. Bishops’ Thrones and Chancel Chairs, London, 1910, p.58). The treatment of the lions’ masks on the front of the desk is another parallel with Lincoln, in particular the same treatment of the hair in whorls and ear shape (Pics. 56a & b). The Lincoln stalls must have been manufactured in about 1370 (See CAT.67). The placing of these masks is reminiscent of the use of this motif on choir-stalls on the standards underneath the capping (compare Chichester Cathedral)'.

Helena Hayward, (Ed.), World Furniture. (London, 1965), p.34, fig. 85
H. Clifford Smith, Catalogue of English Furniture & Woodwork. Vol.II. - Late Tudor and Early Stuart (London 1930), cat. 320. plate 48

Books chests and desks of this kind (armariola), with lids set at an angle on which books might be laid whilst being read, are often represented in illuminated MSS, with St. Jerome or other Doctors of the Church, scribes at work, etc. Compare Laborde, 'Les MSS. à Peintures de la Cité de Dieu de St. Augustin,' 1909, pl. XCVII (1473), etc. A rare example of medieval domestic furniture.
William H. Lewer and J. Charles Wall, The Church Chests of Essex (London, 1913), p.17, illustrated in a line drawing on p.18

'Similar receptacles for books may often be seen in ancient pictures of the studies of medieval scribes and limners...another of the fifteenth century in the Victoria and Albert Museum has a framed lid set at an angle on which books might be laid whilst being read.'
DIETRICH, Gerhard: Schreibmöbel von Mittelalter zur Moderne. (Munich, 1986).
Oliver Brackett (revised by H. Clifford Smith), English furniture illustrated. (Spring Books, London, nd). [Originally published under the title of An encyclopaedia of English furniture, London : E. Benn, 1927]

Labels and date

CHEST.
Carved oak.
From the neighbourhood of Stamford, Lincolnshire.
ENGLISH; early 16th century.
The lid is a replacement.
Given by Mr, Robert Mond, F.S.A.
W.69-1916 [Pre-2006]

Materials

Oak

Techniques

Carving

Categories

Furniture

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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