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?