Picture This CXLV

Lot 230 in Bonham’s recent The Gentleman’s Library Sale was this late early walnut chest (figure 1).

Fig. 1. George II walnut caddy top chest of three drawers, circa 1735. (Bonham’s)

‘Late early’ may sound a little Irish, but, with its caddy top, cock-beading, bail handles and bracket feet, it’s a fairly late interpretation of an early style three (or two-over-two) drawer chest (figure 2).

 Fig. 2. William and Mary walnut two-over-two drawer chest, circa 1690. (Keil’s Antiques)

Whilst Bonham’s describe the chest as standing on “shaped bracket feet”, the current solid brackets (figure 3) are not original (they don’t even appear to be walnut). The chest may have formerly stood on bracket feet, however, wear to the vertical veneer on the base suggests the possible antecedence of bun feet – which would make them late in the chronology of feet.

 Fig. 3. Spurious foot. (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.
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11 Responses to Picture This CXLV

  1. potomacker says:

    I’ve reread the last paragraph several times and visited the Bonhams website in order to try to understand the thought process that led you to conclude that this piece originally had bun feet. Where is the wear on the vertical veneer that cite as evidence of bun feet? I’ve looked at a closeup of the left foot and it clearly shows damage to the veneer and made of composed elements although the two feet don’t match, which implies a sloppy repair or subsequent damage. At least the left foot is evidently not solid

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    • Jack Plane says:

      The front right corner of the vertical base veneer is rounded over both on the top of the corner and at the bottom. The only way the bottom of the corner could have been rounded over is if there was no bracket to protect it: Hence I concluded the chest may have had bun feet to begin with.

      Had the brackets been original, not only would they finish flush with the base, but they would have been veneered, and the (vertical) veneer would encompass each foot and the area of the base directly above it, viz:

      The wood of both brackets on the Bonham’s chest (whatever it is) is the same pale stuff. It is obvious that the right bracket is solid (rather than veneered, as one would expect on a veneered chest such as this) as it has been top-coloured to resemble the parent walnut veneer and with subsequent wear, the corner and colour have been eroded, exposing the pale wood beneath.

      JP

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  2. Leigh says:

    About the Keil’s Antiques William & Mary chest’s feet: Does the molding at the base very old chests hint at what was under there originally? For instance, would the molding be different for a chest on stand, as opposed to a chest on bun or ball feet? I “rescued” a wonderful English Circa 1695 Chest on ball feet (likely replaced by Arthur Newberry Furniture Makers England around 1900 from the label inside the drawer) and it has concave molding at the bottom much like this chest:

    https://www.1stdibs.com/furniture/storage-case-pieces/commodes-chests-of-drawers/english-william-mary-walnut-four-drawer-chest-circa-1690/id-f_7553363/.

    On a side note, my chest is wildly similar to the one linked above in the base molding, nice inlay design on the top, and halved veneer on the side (not quartered) except mine has bolder featherbedding (wider). I wonder sometimes if it was made by the same cabinetmaker!

    It was implied by an antique restorer that the small size of the casement (of my chest), combined with the concave molding indicates it might originally have been on a stand. I argued that the moderately complex veneer inlay at the top would discount the chest on stand theory.

    Anyway, you would know best. Your blog is so very interesting and I am so glad you posted this topic.

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    • Jack Plane says:

      The majority of chest-on-stand base mouldings (of the era) are either cyma or cyma recta, though scotia (“concave”) mouldings are not unheard of.

      Elaborately veneered tops of chests-on-stands are common enough.

      JP

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  3. Eric R says:

    Extremely interesting, I must say.
    It’s difficult to put into words the amount of knowledge I’ve gained from this site. From you Jack Plane and from your learned subscribers.
    Thank you all very much.

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  4. Guido Smoglian says:

    Hi Jack
    Agree strange chest, bracket feet not original ,as you say, bad shape,person that made them did not understand
    The design of the earlier pieces.
    Regards Guido

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  5. Andrew Wilson says:

    I can only echo Eric R’s comments. Thank you, Jack. Fascinating and illuminating, as always.

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  6. Ken says:

    I thought that English chests had 4 drawers and only French had three drawers, am I incorrect?

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