Elizabeth I Nonsuch chest

Circa 1580
Probably London, possibly Southwark

W 48.5" × H 22.5" × D 20.5"

Stock # MARH0218


More information

Elizabethan oak boarded chest with inset, contrasting wood decoration (marquetry). This chest represents a tradition of furniture-making introduced to English urban centers by transplanted Germanic artisans. Most English chests of this type were produced during the late sixteenth century in major immigrant communities such as Southwark. 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 tableaus 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 colored, native English timber. Because of the resemblance between the marquetry buildings and contemporary depictions of Henry VIII’s Nonesuch Palace, Surry (initiated 1538), chest of this type are apocryphally referred to as ‘nonesuch’ chests. A closely related chest is on display at Packwood House, a Tudor house near Solihull, Warwick. Old, dark surface with no restorations and few losses to marquetry. Original hinges, lock and escutcheon, and carrying handles. Base molding replaced.