Henry VII carved board chest

Circa 1500

W 45" × H 19" × D 16"

Stock # marh0411


More information

Late medieval English carved chestnut board chest with remains of period painted decoration. Not all late medieval English board chests with carved ornament were elaborate and costly, reflecting the elite status of their original owners. Many were constructed by less skilled and/or less highly paid artisans working either in rural communities or for husbandmen and tradesmen rather than merchants and minor gentry. Far fewer of these middle level objects have remained intact because they experienced heavier use and were not preserved because they were always recognized as high-status objects. This relatively humble chest therefore represents a rare survival. The chest follows the basic structural and ornamental format as a large group of late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century carved board chests associated with the Lincolnshire and Nottingham area such as the chest formerly in the collection of Peter Gwynn and sold at Sotheby’s, 27 November, 200, lot 30. Like the Gwynn chest, ornament is achieved is through use of cross-hatched roundels and repetitive shallow gouge and chisel cuts which create an effect similar to chip-carving. Other, closer cognates are known: a chest illustrated in Macquoid, A History of English Furniture, vol. 1, fig. 8 also features carving organized as rectangular ‘panels’ some of which are composed of similar chevron or barbers’ pole patterns. Many late medieval surviving Northern English carved board chests were originally paint decorated. This chest and the more sophisticated Gwynn example originally received an all-over coat of reddish-orange paint composed from vermillion (mercury sulfide), much of which still survives on both objects. Lid reversed and with minor alterations; height reduced; hinges and lockplate replaced; till lost. Extensive traces of probably original vermillion paint; full coverage on lower surface of now reversed lid.