17th century
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General Description

Wooden chests, typically found in the main living areas of medieval and Renaissance interiors like the bedroom, the hall, and the study, served many purposes and were standard pieces of personal storage furniture during this period. Over the centuries, craftsmen produced chests throughout Europe. As a result, their shape, material, decoration, and internal makeup varied depending on the region, intended use, and interior location. Aside from those with domed lids, many chests were multi-purpose, serving as extra seating or tables in addition to being storage containers.

Wood was the material of choice for most chests, and many elaborately carved ones depict decorative trends and period styles. Exterior decoration ranged from colorfully painted scenes, marquetry and wood inlays, highly carved floral and geometric patterns, or architectural motifs inspired by Romanesque, Gothic, and classical imagery.

Chests were often situated next to the bed in bedrooms or along hallway walls. Inside, all sorts of personal valuables could be stored including tableware, family records, important documents, books, linens, money, and jewelry. While most household chests were designed to be portable for easy travel, many were large enough to carry long unfolded garments too. Chests that stored valuables were secured with a built in lock, as seen on this chest in the Reves Collection.

Drawn from

  • Eva Oledzka, Medieval & Renaissance Interiors in Illuminated Manuscripts (London: The British Library, 2016), 116-118.
  • Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1985), 165.