Picture This XXXVI

Anomalies in late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British furniture are as diverse as the abilities of its creators. Then, as now, fashions were fastidiously followed, but cost, availability of modish materials and competency frequently cast a shadow on the end product – though the results are often quite glorious.

One sometimes sees case furniture with exposed through-dovetailed drawers and, when constructed in oak or pine, one could be forgiven for thinking the cabinetmaker had a bad week and didn’t get round to sticking on the veneer. But when chests and bureaux occasionally pop up in solid timbers such as ash, elm, maple and yew, with exposed through-dovetailed drawers, then it becomes apparent that was an acceptable (at least, in some quarters) form of construction around three hundred years ago.

The yew chest below is well proportioned with nicely drawn mouldings and the carcase sides are of frame-and-panel construction – all positive indications of a competent (though likely provincial) cabinetmaker. So what went wrong with the dovetailing – copious ale at lunch on Friday… a journeyman’s sage advice to an apprentice on April Fool’s Day… French instructions?

Queen_Anne_yew_COD_c1705_01aEarly eighteenth-century yew chest of (curiously dovetailed) drawers. (Bonham’s)

Jack Plane

About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
This entry was posted in Antiques, Furniture Timbers, Picture This and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Picture This XXXVI

  1. Eric R says:

    A craftsman trying to set himself apart from the crowd?
    Thinking that he may have been starting a new design?
    Curious though, I must admit.


  2. And the tails are on the front!? That’s just as surprising as the exposed nature of the joinery!


  3. Joe M says:

    A thought…..since the hardware has been changed (you can see the two holes at the lower handles and the lock escutcheons ), maybe in this case the veneer was taken off when someone “restored” it, also putting on the existing hardware?


    • Jack Plane says:

      Good lateral thinking, though I don’t believe the chest has been relieved of any veneer nor has it been restored. The finish looks to be totally original to me.

      The original drop handles were replaced with bails at some point, but have been reinstated (with sympathetic reproductions).



  4. bobbarnettpe says:

    Sometimes you just have to call a bad mistake, a mistake and not a design feature.


I welcome your comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s