Oak Chest With Iron Strapwork

6 ft. 4i ins, long by 2 ft. i in, high by I ft. 4 ins. back to front

Fourteenth century. Capt. N. R. Colville, M.C.

Oak Chest Iron

THE CHEST, FIG. 7, WITH LID OPEN, SHOWING THE DECORATIVE PAINTING.

THE CHEST, FIG. 7, WITH LID OPEN, SHOWING THE DECORATIVE PAINTING.

appearance of being a reconstruction. This type of chest persisted well beyond the fourteenth to the earl\* fifteenth century, as in Mr. Smedley Aston's example, Figs. 10 and ii, but here the top and the uprights are scratch-moulded, a sure indication of the fifteenth century. The wood here is not left rough from the saw, but is dubbed smooth, and with the plane, not the adze. Although of early type, it is possible that this chest may date from the very end of the century.

Fig. 12 is a characteristic fourteenth-century chest from Dersingham Church, with fully-carvcd front. It is typical only, however, in belonging strictlj* to its period, but as an example of an ornate chest of this date it is highly exceptional. It is, beyond question, of English workmanship, whereas many of the ornate chest-fronts of this epoch are of doubtful nationality. The front is decorated with a winged angel holding the scroll of Matthew (Matheus) and Marcus, Lucas and Johannas are represented in the others. The front, which is carved from the solid, is tenoned into wide uprights, traceried in the mid-fourteenth-century manner, and above and below are bands ornamented with the rose of York centred between two birds, in a repeated pattern.

There is no doubt that the making of chest and coffer-fronts was a regular industry in the fourteenth century, the system of solid-front construction lending itself to this separate production. Carvers of high skill evidently engaged in this work, but whether they were all of English origin is doubtful. It is difficult, at the present day, however, to imagine the extent of the English dominions in the years from 1327 to 1376, when Edward III was on the throne of England. The south-western part of France, from the north of Poictiers to the Spanish frontier, including the eastern boundary to Auvergne, Languedoc and Touraine w as in the possession of England, and although, with Richard II, much of this was lost, Guienne and Acquitaine were still retained. Paris was more English than French until the middle of the fifteenth century. To speak of English workmen and workmanship at this period, therefore, is very misleading. French artisans intermingled with their English fellow-craftsmen to a large extent, and the wandering Fleming and Walloon frequently settled in this country in the fourteenth century, making his home and following his crafts here, and at the same time exercising a powerful influence on the development of the English huchicv. The fourteenth-century chest in Faversham Church shows this influence in a very marked manner, and the late fifteenth or sixteenth-century examples such as at Crediton and elsewhere show the French traditions perpetuated in the same way. Equally, the coffer in the Cluny Museum, from the Gerente collection, from the very early fourteenth century, if not earlier, has the English influence intermingled with the French. One of the Knights in the canopied

niches bears the leopards of England on his shield, and others of the twelve show English inlluence, if not workmanship. Although the relations between the countries were more warlike than artistic, -Crecy was fought in 1346, the siege of Calais was in the following year, and the Battle of Poictiers was only nine years later, there must have been strong reacting influences between French and English craftsmen, even if the education was only fostered by a study of the pieces looted from each other by the combatants. In this connection, it is well to note that chests, containing valuables, would be just the articles of woodwork which would thus be the most likely to change hands in this way. The coffer-fronts, Figs. 13 and 14, exhibit this foreign influence, especially in the first of the two. Here we have a knight, in armour and on horseback, in pursuit, with poised lance, of a very small dragon which follows a lady in the most docile fashion. The lady holds a strap-lead which is knotted round the dragon's neck.

Early fifteenth century. Victoria and Albert Museum.

Early fifteenth century. Victoria and Albert Museum.

Fifteenth century. W. Smedley Aston, Esq

At the left of the panel is another episode of the knight vigorously spearing the dragon (who has lost his neck-strap, by the way) while the rescued maiden kneels in prayer of thanksgiving for the deliverance. At the bottom, at each end, are shown small animals, hares or rodents, entering burrows, and above, on the left is the meeting of the knight and the rescued damsel. To the right, in quaint perspective, is shown the town beleagurcd by the dragon, with the king and queen, properly crowned, looking forth from the castle windows, which their heads more than fill.1 The legend of St. George and the Dragon is now regarded as an English one, but this origin is of doubtful authenticity. There is a chest at York which shows exactly the same subject as in this Victoria and Albert Museum example, but reversed. The two were probably by the same hand, and were made, specifically, as coffer-fronts instead of as complete chests. It is doubtful if the Museum example has even been made up as a coffer.

Fig. 14 is more in the English character, cruder in modelling and not so vigorously cut as Fig. 13. Among a jumble of motives are shown the Nativity and the visit of the Wise Men of the East, with the crowning of the Virgin in the presence of the Deity in the right-hand top corner. Below is a representation of the Annunciation. Three horses, -presumably those of the Wise Men—stand in stiff attitudes, with a suspended crown above them, and there are the same curious animals scurrying into burrows, as in Fig. 13, to complete the picture. As an example of coffer-front work of the very close of the

1 A similar conceit can be seen above one of the portals to the house of JiRjues C«?ur at Bourges.

1 A similar conceit can be seen above one of the portals to the house of JiRjues C«?ur at Bourges.

OAK CHEST. DERSINGHAM CHURCH, NORFOLK.

Fourteenth century.

OAK CHEST. DERSINGHAM CHURCH, NORFOLK.

Fourteenth century.

Fig. 13.

OAK PANEL, PROBABLY A CHEST FRONT.

4 ft. 9 ins. long by 2 ft. ins. high. Fourteenth century.

Victoria and Albert Museum.

Fig. 14. FRONT OF OAK COFFER.

Fourteenth century. Victoria and Albert'Museum.

Fig. 14. FRONT OF OAK COFFER.

Fourteenth century. Victoria and Albert'Museum.

fourteenth century, this is highly interesting, and undoubtedly English in design and execution.

The evidence for this separate manufacture of coffer-fronts is strengthened by Fig. 15, where the front is typically English of the mid-fifteenth century, with perpendicular tracery in low relief, and a Flamboyant centre. It is absurd to imagine that the fine and elaborate front was made for the crude chest to which it no* belongs. The top has the appearance of being of seventeenth-century date, but this may be an addition. The roughly incised decoration of the uprights indicates no period, but this work is, obviously, not by the same hand as the traceried front.

Fig. 16 is unmistakably foreign, French or Burgundian, although there is strong English feeling in the traceried panels of the side doors. This was, in all probability, a credence, the legs of which have been cut down. It dates from the latter part of the fifteenth century, when chests were rarely, if ever, supported on legs. Similar tracery will be noticed in the door panel, Fig. 17, the English origin of which is more certain. There is the same ogival tracery in the lower fenestration as in the side doors to Mr. Aston's cabinet. Both are of about the same period.

Marked traces of the Flamboyant still linger in the next panel, Fig. 18, which is somewhat earlier than the preceding example. The central tracery is ogival, in the

Wood Working for Amateur Craftsman

Wood Working for Amateur Craftsman

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