Dutch or Boule Front Chest of Drawers

dutch_boule-chest-of-drawersRanked number 9 on the DnD  Top Ten Antiques to Buy in Belgium list, the Dutch chest of drawers  is one of the most exquisite pieces of furniture one can own. Why? Because unlike styles that take their name from its region the Dutch boule front is representive of furniture making at its best. Kings and queens in reign borrowed furnituremaker like teenagers and lipstick. If one had a beautiful model it was soon noticed by the royal house and subsequently came into fashion, but only by the richest of families. These were showpiece items in their day and this has not changed.

What to Look for
The veneers. On the top, notice what in the trade is referred to as the ‘mirror’ . This is the quartering a certain section of a tree to  make a thin sheet of wood which has to be cut and used at the same time to assure the patterning will match symetrically. Depending on the part of the tree used, (i.e. the heart , the root ) the pattern becomes a ‘flame’ or a repeat of cirular formations ( sliced knots) the trade calls ‘oysters’.  If the commodity of the sort wood is scarce (the root), the price of the veneer is more precious.

As for the carcass, one must look on the inside of the drawer. The carcass is usually a cheaper, more available  wood than the those used on the exterior like pine. Due to this as the furniture ages, the two woods, having been sawn and constructed differently, will shrink in irregular tempo with each other although pressed and glued together quite magnificently in the onset, eventually cracks may form and this process has to be reversed and done again if restoration is desireable.

Characteristic and advantageous to the restorer of such pieces,  Dutch furniture is rarely highly varnished such as ‘French polishing which can be up to 36 coats of varnish, and may be prone to flowering or turning dull if the process is not done by trained ‘menusier’ [French] or  professional refinisherof woods. Therefore if one is lucky enough to find a Dutch chest of drawers, its restoration will not entail a costly and tedious process of removing such a finish before undertaking renewal of its apparent lost glory.

Dutch chest of drawers are maintained by dusting regularly and occasionally going over the surface with a wax meant for this purpose. The brands vary from country but in all cases, never use a commercial product such as the American “Pledge” spray. As the chest is made of solid wood throughout, minor blemishes such as watermarks or wine spills can be easily remedied and are not a cause for alarm. If French polish is desired, one should request that it be done using acrylic shellac, so that any wine or other alcohol spills will not blemish the surface– a  noted improvement from tradition methods and materials.

Dutch furniture is highly sought after and in such regions as the norther corridor of the United States where early settlement was influenced by the Dutch, it can command prices over that of its origin.  Companion pieces to the Dutch chest of drawers have a similar boule front such as the Dutch cabinet–the zenith and honored crown of the Top Ten Antiques to Buy in Belgium. [see separate blog  and feature comparison]


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