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The History of Early Period Oak Furniture through the Tudorbethan Period

History Category -> The History of Early Period Oak Furniture through the Tudorbethan Period

Chests of Drawers and Tallboys

The Period of oak design furniture the chest was probably the earliest form of household furniture. It originated, no doubt, as the result of a need felt for a receptacle in which various personal articles could be not only stored, but carried about when travelling. Its actual uses, however, were manifold, embracing those of a table, seat, side table and even as a bed. In its simplest form it consisted of six boards, five of which formed the sides and bottom, and the sixth the top. The early types up till the end of the reign of Henry VIII were either quite plain or crudely carved with Gothic designs representing tracery windows and other Gothic details. Fig. 1 is an example of this type with two crudely-cut panels representing tracery and leafwork. This solid-board type of chest was still being made in the later years of the 16th century and onwards in provincial districts for the poorer classes, their construction being far simpler and the cost lower.
A more advanced type of construction is the framed­up method. This form was begun in the early 14th century, and was of the style usually made during the Elizabethan period. The chest consisted of four corner posts with rails tenoned into them and with panels let into grooves. In early chests the uprights and intermediate rails when moulded at the edges were butted between the horizontal rails, the lower rail being usually bevelled on the top edge. Later, the mouldings were mitred, although the bevel on the lower rail was often continued. Fig. 2 is an Elizabethan panelled chest with carved frieze rail and panels and with channellings worked on the rails. In  the Period of oak design furniture theJacobean chest, Fig. 3, the Elizabethan motif of the lunette is continued. The panels, however, are geometrically treated, each being subdivided to form five small panels, the centre one of which is raised. The whole treatment is coarse in character.

Period of Oak Furnitre Design Chests-Tallboys

There is a great number of these Jacobean chests still in existence, although those dating from towards the end of the century are, as a rule, country-made specimens, since the use of walnut had developed other fashions in the towns. A chest with a drawer is shown in Fig. 4, and this type shows the origin of the chest of drawers. The drawer or drawers were at the bottom, the lid opening in the usual chest form, thus combining the convenience of a drawer with the old idea of the chest. Fig. 5 is another example of crude construction and carving, and has two drawers at the bottom.
The next step in the evolution was to do away with the upper chest portion and utilise the space for extra drawers. Fig. 6 is an example of an early chest of drawers, in which it will be seen that the spacing of the drawers is very irregular. The drawer fronts are decorated with the usual Jacobean motif of mitred mouldings.
During the latter half of the 17th century the period of oak  design chest of drawers were often mounted on stands, these at first being low and later somewhat higher. Fig. 7 is a walnut chest of the William and Mary period, with the drawer divisions of a flat, rounded section.
The tallboy proper of the Queen Anne period consisted of two chests, one mounted on the other, although in some cases the stand (mostly having drawers also) was continued, usually with cabriole legs. The double chest type stood either upon bracket feet or small turned ball feet. Fig. 8 is a typical Queen Anne tallboy of veneered walnut. The tallboy was continued throughout the 18th century, although a great many simple low chests were also made.
Fig. 9 is a chest of the Chippendale period, and probably made in imitation of his style. The canted corners are a typical feature.

1. Oak chest, composed of boards secured together. The carving on the front is of Gothic character. Tudor Gothic Period. About 1500.

2. Oak chest of the panelled type. The panels are carved with conventional renderings of leaf and flower work. Elizabethan Period. Second half of 16th century.

3. Oak chest with geometrically formed panels. The uprights and top rails are carved with lunettes. Jacobean Period. Second half of 17th century.

4. Oak chest with drawer in the lower portion. The top opens as a lid as in the usual form of chest. Jacobean Period. Early 17th century.

5. Oak Chest with drawers. The whole is profusely ornamented with coarse carving. Jacobean Period. Middle 17th century.

6. Oak Chest of drawers. The drawer front are raised and decorated with applied mouldings. Late Jacobean Period. Second half of 17th century.

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