Trunks or Chests

chestRanking number 8 on the Top Ten Antiques to Buy in Belgium, the chest or trunk as a furniture item reflectsa melting pot nature of availabilty in Brussels. They come in a variety of sizes, woods intricacy or simplicity of design and price range. Its unpopularity in the current trend make them a great target for acquistion at fair prices.

What to look for
Older chests have a certain patina, but unfortunately this is deflty faked and the buyer must move on to more tell tale signs that mark the genuine. Check the hardware. Like bathing suit straps, something may be mismatched in its life and variation in color of wood will be obvious and not match the  original surface protected by the original  hardware. If not then it originality has been compromised, and although not a dire situation, still if the vendor says it is totally orignally, this may be used as a monitor to test the integrity of the seller/vendor/dealer. Thus buyer beware and hoist the first red flag if s/he  adamantly claims total originalityfor example. Call their hand and get them to melt some of the price down if the candlebox is missing. Look for signs of wear where it was and be careful not to make false claims yourself. It works both ways. 

A nice touch inside the older chest is the candle drawer which is small built in with a lid that parallels the inner narrow side . Lids of both the candle drawer and trunk shave each other when closed. When the trunk /chest is open the lid to the candle drawer can serve as a prop so you can manipulate things handsfree.

Another sign of age is the direction of the wood panels. Look on the insde at the direction of the panels/planks on the bottom. Are they running parallel to the narrow ends, thus vertical from a center front aerial vantage point?  Or are the planks on teh bottom running horizontal length wise , east and west from this vantage point?  The latter is  usually a younger chest.

Although not always an issue, check that all four sides can be visible if you plan not to place it against a wall or foot of bed. Also models wiht arched tops are not good solution for extra seating  or display space. A  flat top is much better suited for coffee table replacement in front of sofa for example.  

Chests are very versatile and due to their simple construction, easy to maintain. They take an inordianate amount of abuse so high traffic areas and families with small children can do little wrong with such and investment.  Chests/trunks/coffers show age by the patination as well as the construction inside and out.  Outside there may be carved panels as during the Renaissance or flat and crossbanded, with simple intarsia as on later designs. Motifs vary in style and by country. The coutry or origin is sometimes determined by sort of wood or if the corners are mitered or dovetailed.

The chest is the forerunner of modern day chest of drawers. The transition style which combined one solid cavity with one drawer or two smaller drawers at the bottom is referred to as a mule chest. The drawer was added for organizational ease and later the carcass became fitted with a multiple number of drawers and the chest itself grew out of fashion and the decoration on its facade equally less important.  Thus the older the chest the more beautifully formed on all four sides and the more decoratively carved one will find the exterior facades.


Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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

%d bloggers like this: