In the old manuscripts of the Middle Ages, we find many illustrations of the developments of the chest and its various uses. Fig. 4 shows a long chest with short solid legs on which bedding is laid, and over which a canopy with curtains has been raised. By its side is a chair, the seat of which is manifestly the lid of a small chest. The chest-bed and chair stand on a carpet: the floor is tiled. The shape of the pillow is characteristic of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The carving of the panels in bed and chair show the "linen fold," which was so popular in the Netherlands and which was laid in even more intricate folds by the English carvers. Gothic tracery in furniture, in combination with the "linen-fold" is shown in the chair of Fig. 5, which exhibits also another chest, or bahut. The original illustration shows flames leaping up the chimney, against which the bed is closely placed. The cushions, with heavy tassels at each corner, are similar in shape to those in Fig. 4.

There were several varieties of the chest, known by various names, such as huche, bahut and arche. The huche usually had a flat top: it was the oldest and simplest form - a plain oblong box. As time wore on the huche gave its name to the cabinet-makers (the huchiers) of the Middle Ages. They made windows, doors, panels, shutters, bancs, bahuts, armoires, credences, and whatever else was required; and the guild of huchiers was one of the largest corporations of the period.

The huchiers were particularly distinguished for their execution of choir-stalls and splendid carving. The huche, at first a very simple piece of furniture, was later decorated with beautiful paintings and rich carvings; moreover, it was enriched and strengthened with chiselled and pierced iron hinges and locks.

The chests until the thirteenth century were works of simple carpentry. The faces consist of plain surfaces which are ornamented with paintings on linen or leather; and further adorned with hinges and clamps of pierced and wrought metal.

The bancs, benches or settles, were made in the Middle Ages by the huchiers. They were made of planks and often had backs and arms. In the fifteenth century, they were enriched with sculpture and surmounted by a canopy or dais. They were also called formes or bancs d'oeuvre. The Cluny Museum possesses many fine examples of this period, both civil and religious.

In the halls and bedrooms of the Mediaeval chateaux the banc is often seen placed laterally before the wide chimney-piece, and its high back was very useful in keeping off the draughts. It may be thought that their rigid form and absence of upholstery rendered them uncomfortable, but the numerous soft cushions with which they were supplied quite atoned for the absence of upholstery. {See Plate II.)

The chief use of the Mediaeval sideboard was the display of ornate plate, crystal and similar articles. The kitchen dresser with its shelves holding plates and dishes set upright against the wall is a lineal descendant of the old dressoir. The shelves of the dressoir were regulated by etiquette: every noble person could have a dressoir with three shelves; others, only two; royalty had four and five.

According to some authorities, the difference between the dressoir and the buffet is simply this: the dressoir was intended to display the articles taken from the buffet, and had no drawers and no cupboard; the buffet, on the other hand, contained both drawers and cupboards. The buffet of our dining-rooms and our cellarets that close with lock and key, are therefore survivals of the credence of the Middle Ages.

Sometimes the credence and dressoir were combined in one piece, or rather the dressoir served as a credence. A small one shown in the illuminated MS. of the Histoire de Gerard, Comte de Nevers, has but one shelf, upon which the silver platters are arranged, leaning against the back, which is covered with some kind of fabric. The cupboard serving as a credence is covered with a cloth on which are placed three silver ewers - aiguieres. This was, therefore, more of a buffet than a dressoir, for the real dressoir, as we have seen, was composed of shelves (gradins) and had a back {dorsal), or sometimes a dais of stuff or sculptured wood.

PLATE III.   Flemisli Dressoir (Fifteenth Century).

PLATE III. - Flemisli Dressoir (Fifteenth Century).

Figs. 6 - 7: Dressoirs (Fifteenth Century); Fig. 8: Table on Trestles; Fig. 9: Metal Chair.

Varieties of the dressoir of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries appear in Plate III, and Figs. 6 and 7; and a credence of the fifteenth century of Gothic decoration from the Cluny Museum, Paris, on Plate IV.

The Mediaeval table was a simple affair, with either fixed or movable supports. In nine cases out of ten, either in hall or cottage, it consisted simply of a board and trestles. In court and castle, kings and nobles sat only on one side, the other being left free for service, and for a clear view of the mummers, jongleurs and minstrels who entertained the company during the feast. These boards and trestles could be readily folded up and packed away in carts for travelling. A good example of the fifteenth century table of this construction occurs in a picture of Mary Magdalen at the feet of Jesus, by Derick Bouts (1410-1475). This is represented in Fig. 8.

We have seen that the chest with its various developments - chair, bench, bed and dressoir - furnished the Mediaeval chamber. The ordinary had contained merely a plain buffet and a table, consisting of boards and trestles, with simple forms for seats. Chairs there were none, except for the lord and honoured guests at the head of the board. It must not be supposed, however, that there was no attempt at comfort or decoration in the homes of the Middle Ages. It would be difficult to attach too much importance to the use of cushions and hangings.