CHESTS OF DRAWERS (VENEERED) - 1680 to 1740
The art of veneering was introduced to England by Dutch and
Flemish craftsmen working in and around London during the Restoration period.
General style was three long drawers below two short. Most with over-hanging top, formed at first by a cornice, later ovalo or thumb moulding. Later pieces occasionally with caddy top.
Tops often quarter-veneered (veneer laid in four identical pieces) until about 1710; thereafter one piece, usually with broad, cross-banded border.
Veneer: Predominantly walnut; occasionally mahogany after about 1720. Also yew, mulberry, sycamore and many other burr and figured woods. Laburnum, lignum vitae,
kingwood, olive-wood and others used for oyster veneers (veneers cut across the grain from small branches). Boxwood, holly, ebony,
and other woods for inlay and marquetry, also occasionally tone.
Carcases: Pine for all veneered surfaces; oak for drawer linings (except the drawer
front. On these a strip of oak often concealed the pine top edge). Oak or deal carcase when japanned.
Prices invariably in four figures, many in five. Being particularly valuable - and rarely in
totally original condition - false versions are lot uncommon. Watch out for all-oak or
all pine construction. In both cases the chest probably started life without veneer; the first
in the 17thC or 18thC, the latter in the late 19thC (although it could possibly be an
imported Continental version). Look carefully at the construction of the drawers.
It has been estimated that approximately 90% of all chests of drawers have had their handles replaced at least
once! This will be obvious from the number and position of holes visible on the inside and probably from filled holes on the outside On veneered drawers, if the holes on front and back do not tie up, the piece
has certainly been re-veneered, or even veneered for the first time.