The chest of drawers is such a widespread piece of furniture in today’s modern homes that we tend to forget its origins.
The ‘chest’ of chest of drawers gives us a clue, as it was the chest that came first and the drawers later. Chests have been in existence in Britain since Medieval times. However the chest of drawers in its more modern form originated really from the 17th century. These were traditionally dowry chests which had a drawer fitted. By the middle of the 17th century, complete chests of drawers had begun to appear and these early oak country pieces were made well into the 19th century.
By the time of Queen Anne, beautifully walnut veneered chests were being made for the wealthy elite. Originally these chests of drawers were put on stands. The carcasses were made of pine although the drawers were still made of oak. By 1730 mahogany was being used and its density allowed for new innovations in cabinetry such as serpentine fronts, ogee bracket feet and carved canted corners. Bow fronts were introduced a little later in the century. Typical examples tended to have four graduated drawers, sometimes with a writing drawer on the top. These 18th century chests of drawers were intended primarily for male use and were used mainly in the bedroom and dressing room.
By 1820 already cheaper methods of manufacture were being introduced and during Victoria’s reign, mass production took hold. Many revival chests of all styles still survive from this period.
When looking for an antique chest, Lancashire dealers will be able to show you a good selection of pieces.
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