Amongst the lots up for auction in Bonham’s sale, Home & Interiors, in Knightsbridge, this coming Tuesday, the 23rd of February 2016, I espied this stretcher-less oak low dresser , lot 393 (fig. 1).
Silhouette-legged dressers and low dressers were popular in predominantly rural areas from the late seventeenth-century. Though less sophisticated than turned legs, silhouette legs bridged the aesthetic gap between thoroughly plain legs and turned legs.
Fig. 1. George II oak baluster silhouette-legged low dresser , circa 1745. (Bonham’s)
Fig. 2. Charles II oak Solomonic column silhouette-legged low dresser, circa 1680. (Robert Young)
Fig. 3. Welsh oak dresser with baluster silhouette legs, late eighteenth-century. (Moxhams)
Your next project?
I have no interest in making one at present.
Like that Welsh dresser.
I do too; very much.
What are the criteria that make the item in Fig. 3 a dresser? I would have thought it a cupboard, or possibly,a hutch.
The dresser gets its name from being ‘dressed’ with crockery etc. The items in figures 1 and 2 are ‘dresser bases’ or ‘low dressers’.
A cupboard is literally a ‘cup-board’ (for keeping cups on) and were often wall-hung racks with shelves. Cupboards evolved to have doors to keep dust off the contents.
Hutches were for keeping live food (fowl, rabbits etc.) indoors, convenient to the table. Hutch doors are either barred (as prison bars) or have pierced panels. Dressers and dresser bases sometimes incorporated a hutch.
is there perhaps a problem with the legs in figure 1, in that the stretchers ‘got lost’ or forgotten? Not only does the absence of stretchers weaken the joints at the carcass, these legs appear to have been left large enough to accept tenons. It appears that the leg on the front corner, right hand side has been chamfered at the bottom edges yet the others remain squared. A singleton?
Was this piece, as much as you can know, cut down at a later date than construction? Did the original maker run out stock to complete the piece? Or are there enough extant examples to demonstrate that this stretcherless construction was acceptable?
The legs on this dresser base are probably 1-3/4″ or 2″ thick, so there’s little concern of them being weak at the carcase juncture.
The chamfer you see is merely a missing chip, or decayed sapwood. If you look at the front feet, there is evidence of wet mopping which can lead to decay.
The completeness of the baluster shape would contradict any shortening of the legs. The stretcher-less dresser base is not an uncommon format.