Oak Muniment Or Vestment Chest

The Woodworker's Treasure Chest

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Lady Chapel, St. Michael's Church, Coventry. 6 ft. 5 ins. long by 3 ft. 2 ins. high by 2 ft. 3 ins. back to front. Fifteenth century. iS

mannered duplication which is evident in much of the secular woodwork or furniture of this period, both in this country and in France.

Fig. 25 is one of the small secular chests of the beginning of the sixteenth century, constructed of oak with a front and top of elm. The two roundels are chip-carved in the late Gothic manner. The cutting is rough, as one would expect in a sccular chest at this date, and the Gothic traditions are imperfectly comprehended. The lock is not original. It probably possessed one, of well-finished ironwork, buttressed in the Gothic style. At this date, although woodwork fell from its former high standard very frequently, it is rare to find poor ironwork.

The reading desk, Fig. 26, belongs to the late fifteenth century, and, although now considerably restored, still shows much of its original condition, with two rows of cusped Gothic arcading, the upper one finishing below with crenellated coping. It has been cut down, and has lost its original moulded base.

The ambry, or small cupboard fixed near the altar to contain the sacramental

Late Gothic Oak

Date about 1500-20. Christchurch Park Museum, Ipswich. 19

Date about 1500-20. Christchurch Park Museum, Ipswich. 19

vessels, is the first instance of the development from the chest form, with a lid, to the cupboard with a door. It appears towards the close of the fifteenth century only, and is rare until about 1470. After that date it begins to develop rapidly, and standing or livery cupboards, with doors, take the place, largely, of the former chests with lids, although not entirely. The cupboard merely becomes, as it were, an addition to the furnishing of the house. It is always rare in a church, that is, as a piece made specifically for clerical use as compared with one presented or bequeathed. Cupboards possess certain advantages over chests which would cause their rise in favour to be both rapid and permanent. Articles, such as goblets of metal, can be placed vertically in a cupboard, and on two or more tiers if it be provided with shelves, and each article is accessible without one touching another. Against these advantages must be set the facts that for clothing, linen or vestments, which could be laid flat and at length, the chest offers advantages which the cupboard does not possess, and a chest, thus filled, could be easily transported, whereas the cupboard could only be moved with difficulty, especially if its vertical position had to be maintained.

Two of these ambry doors of the close of the fifteenth century, if not the beginning of the sixteenth, are shown in Figs. 27 and 28. In the one is a representation of the r.

Date about 1520. Crediton Church, Devon.

Date about 1520. Crediton Church, Devon.

Virgin, in the other an acolyte holding a chalice. Both are niched beneath semi-circular arches vaulted to spiral columns. The peculiar character of drapery treatment among English carvers will be noted here. French foldings are sharper, and more mannered, if wftxcept some of the figures sculptured in wood from Touraine of the fifteenth century. In these ambry doors the emergence from the Gothic traditions can be remarked. Fig. 29 is a door from one of the standing buffets of the early sixteenth century, showing traces of Flamboyant Gothic without cusping. In a piece of purely ecclesiastical inspiration this door might have been referred to the previous century.

Secular Gothic of the later fifteenth century is nearly always cruder and flatter than the clerical; practically chip-carving, executed with sharp clean cuts with the V-gouge or parting tool. The geometrical form of interlacing circular heads, which produces the pointed or lancet arch at the intersections, was a favourite detail, possibly because it was easily remembered and as easily executed. The next three examples show this device. Fig. 30 has chip-carved roundels in square panels at either end, with double arcading between, and is designed with a place for a lock-plate, whereas in Fig. 31 the interlaced arcade runs right along the chest-front and the lock-plate covers the ornament. The change in the decoration below shows that a lock with covering plate was intended, however. Fig. 32 from the Strangers' Hall at Norwich, shows an elaborated version of this interlacing of arches, the mullions being imbricated, and the spaces between, cut with Gothic arcading in the Perpendicular style. All three chests are constructed in a similar way, with solid fronts rebated into the ends and fixed with nails or pegs.

The next example, Fig. 33, also dates from the filteenth century, but is very late. It has the chip roundels, forming much the same patterns as a child would devise with a draughtsman's compass. On none of these chests do the locks appear to be original, and, apart from the perishable

Gothic Ambry Furniture

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