Henry VIII armourers chest

Circa 1450-1500

W 77.5" × H 31.25" × D 19.5"

Stock # Marh164


More information

This medieval oak chest might be described as an 'armourer's chest', as it was made to store a suit of plate armour - probably parade amour. It dates to the mid fifteenth century, and measures 77 1/2" long x 31 1/4" high x 19 1/2" deep. The interior (with divider to accommodate a helm) features an original coat of vermilion red paint. This pigment (either made from the imported mineral cinnabar or from mercury sulfide) was common in late medieval wall painting, and was also used as the 'primer' for gilding because it is non-reactive and also acts as a sealant. Applied to the interior of the chest, it would have prevented the metal from oxidizing through contact with the tannic acid present in the oak. The exterior (save for the back which is dry and untouched) is covered with a now thin and heavily patinated coat of the yellow ochre paint seen on many examples of English medieval furniture - a clamp-front in the Gwynn sale (lot 7) had a very similar surface. The hinges and decorated lockplate are original. The latter was secured with two flap-type hasps - a trait that can be seen on an late fourteenth-century chest in the church of Little Waldingfield, Suffolk.The floorboard is joined to the side with 'through-tenons' - a carry-over of even earlier construction methods associated with clamp-front chests and ark. There is an ancient split in one side that is repaired with two pieces of wrought iron. The Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers, London, owns a related chest.