Elizabeth I inlaid Nonsuch chest

Circa 1560 - 1580
London or Norwich

W 48 1/2 × H 26 1/2 × D 22 3/4

Stock # Marh1460


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Elizabeth I inlaid Nonsuch chest, with contrasting wood decoration (marquetry). This chest represents a tradition of furniture-making introduced to English urban centres by transplanted Germanic artisans. Most English chests of this type were produced during the late sixteenth century in major immigrant communities such as Southwark and Norwich. The format of ornament seen on this and related chests, as well as other examples of late Elizabethan movable furniture and woodwork employ contrasting, and often costly inset woods (bog oak, holly, ebony) to create architectural tableaux depicting fantastic cityscapes. While this approach to decoration is German in origin, English chests can be distinguished by their simplified patterns of ornament, lack of three-dimensional arcades and other applied architectural ornament, and, as in this example, the use of dark coloured, native English timber. Parts of the inlay are painted with green decoration. Because of the resemblance between the marquetry buildings and contemporary depictions of Henry VIII’s Nonsuch Palace, Surrey, chests of this type are apocryphally referred to as ‘nonsuch’ chests. A closely related chest is on display at in the Victoria and Albert museum, London.