Oak Chest.

Fig. 34. Oak Chest. - 3 ft. 6 1/4 ins. wide by I ft. 5 1/2 ins. nigh by 1 ft. 6 ins. deep. - Late fifteenth century. Victoria and Albert Museum

Actually, up to the close of the fifteenth century, woodworkers were divided into three classes, all under the jurisdiction, in varying degrees, of the Guild of Master Carpenters. First in order of importance came the wood-sculptors or ymagers (Fr. tailleurs d'images, Flemish beeldersnyders, modern German bilderschneiders or bildhauers, literally hewers of pictures); secondly the carpenters, and, lastly, the huchers, or makers of furniture. The latter only obeyed the stringent regulations of the Guild regarding the selection, cutting and seasoning of timber.1

Chests showing this Renaissance character are not exceptionally rare, and it is with them that we reach the period of framed construction, as adopted by the hucher, as distinct from the carpenter, who had framed up panels nearly a century before. Fig. 45 is framed and panelled, with tenons secured in their mortises with wooden pins, in the manner which persisted throughout the seventeenth century until its very close. The styles and rails are moulded on three sides, and chamfered below, in the manner of panelling. This fragment, however, is undoubtedly a part of a chest, but the absence of lock-plate, or provision for the lock itself, suggests that it is the back framing. The panels are curious and archaic, quite in the English manner of the period. On the left is represented Adam and Eve beneath the Tree of Knowledge. In the centre, two angels support a shield having on it the Passion Symbols, and on the right the decoration is one of stalked grotesque heads. The work is of the Midland type usually to be met with in Cheshire or Shropshire.

1 How strict these regulations were, may be gathered from the following extracts from the records of the Carpenter's Company : 1474. Edward 4. 14.

Itm paid to fgeauntes for diuce tymes for restyng of stufte Vjs (Seizure of defective timber.) Itm paid to a fgeaunte of the Mayes to areste stufte and in expenc the same tyme XVd I503. 19 Henry 7.

Rec of a foren carpent to haue lycens to set vpp an howse win the Serient in Chauncellor Lane XXd"

(A ' foreign ' carpenter was one who had not been admitted to the Company.)

Fig. 46 is a complete chest of the same archaic character, but undoubtedly post-Reformation. Pieces of this type were frequently made by country huchers of little or no tradition, and were presented to churches. They were usually inscribed with the name of the donor or original owner. The carving is extremely crude. The framing is scratch-moulded and stop-chamfered, the inside muntins only being worked with a coarse ovolo section. The type appears to be Somerset of the mid-sixteenth century.

Chests of the so-called " Nonsuch " inlaid type, similar to Fig. 47, appear towards the end of the sixteenth century, but their nationality is questionable. The work is really parqueterie, rather than inlay or marqueterie,1 and although Tonbridge, at a later date, was the home of this industry, - hence the term "Tonbridge ware," - it is more probable that it copied and adopted the method from chests of this type, rather than that the style originated in that part of Kent at this early period. The palace of Nonesuch, at Cheam, in Surrey, was built by Henry VIII in his later life, and was regarded as one of the wonders of England at that date. It was sold to the Earl of Arundel in 1555, but some forty years later it was repurchased by Elizabeth, with whom it became a favourite residence. Presented by Charles II in 1670 to his mistress, Barbara, afterwards, Duchess of Cleveland, it was demolished by her. Hofnagle engraved a view of the Palace in 1582, which shows it possessing three towers capped with onion-shaped cupolas, such as are represented in the central panels of this chest. The peculiarity, in England, of cupolas of this kind - that is, admitting the accuracy of Hofnagle's engraving, which there is no reason to doubt, is some evidence for the English origin of these chests, especially as they are found in some numbers in this country.1

1 The significance of the terms is explained in Chapter V (The Development Of The English Timber Roof) of this Volume.

The Back Of The Chest, Fig. 34.

Fig. 35. The Back Of The Chest, Fig. 34.

Fig. 48 is another example, which, from its strong similarity, in many of the details of the inlay, strongly suggests a common origin, for both, not only of country or locality, but even of actual maker. It must be remembered that inlay presupposes a master-pattern, or "pricking" (see Chapter V (The Development Of The English Timber Roof) for a definition of this and other terms used by the marqueterie-cutter) from which copies can easily be taken, whereas to reproduce inlay from an actual piece implies both the drawing and pricking of another pattern; a tedious and laborious task. It is feasible, therefore, to suppose that where two pieces exhibit the same design in inlay (not necessarily the use of the same woods), they are from the same hand or workshop, unless we are to suppose that patterns were made and " prickings " sold, as articles of commerce, to makers throughout England; a very unlikely proceeding. Of these so-called "Nonsuch" chests, - which are really coffers, - Mr. Percy Macquoid, in his " History of Furniture," illustrates three, in which the same towers are represented. Against this must be set the fact that many chests and cabinets unquestionably from the Rhine Provinces, were imported into England, in which similar devices and methods to those in these " Nonsuch " chests were practised. Figs. 49 and 50 are two views of one of these German cabinets of the seventeenth century. The fronts of the drawers inside can be compared with the panels of Figs. 47 and 48, and will show the probable national kinship of the three pieces. Chests with inlay, that is, with various coloured woods chopped into the solid ground, as distinct from marqueterie where the inlay is cut into veneers and both laid either with the veneering hammer or the caul, are not uncommon in England towards the middle of the seventeenth century. In Fig. 51 will be noticed one of late Charles I period, where the pilasters are inlaid with flagged towers, in somewhat similar fashion to the chests illustrated in Figs. 47 and 48. The turned feet are additions. A chest of this kind would probably be fitted with a cut-out plinth taking up the line of the moulding-breaks at the base. The arcades of the panels and the pilasters are carved with a flat veined running guilloche, in the East Anglian manner. Chests of this kind are frequently of uncertain nationality. They were extensively imported from Holland, which was the home of marqueterie up to the later seventeenth century. It must not be assumed, however, that imported marqueterie from Holland necessarily resembles what we know here in England as Dutch inlay. There is no doubt that craftsmen in Holland made, especially for the English market, many of the inlaid long-case clocks of 1690-1710; - although quite in another fashion to that current in Holland, - as labels, which may be occasionally found inside the trunk-doors, attest.