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European Chests

Until the Middle Ages there were no closets in which to store clothes and household possessions. Even when attics finally came into being, they lacked ready accessibility, and cellars tended to be damp, less-than-ideal storage spaces. The chest finally provided Medieval Europeans a place in which to keep their belongings.

In its early form, the chest was a large, simple wooden box with a hinged lid. Although its primary function was storage and safekeeping of clothing and valuables, chests were also used to store linen - especially those kept as dowries for brides-to-be to present their future husbands. In many cases, they did double duty as additional seating at a time when chairs were considered a luxury.

Early transcontinental ship manifests show chests were often the only piece of furniture that accompanied European travelers to the New World. Chests built by 17-century craftsmen became the model for later English pieces designed in the Jacobean style. Later European designs influenced American joiners like Nicholas Disbrowe of Hartford, Connecticut, and Thomas Dennis of Ipswich, Massachusetts.


Quick Facts

  • In July 2015 at Bonhams, a William and Mary-style burl veneer high chest dating to 19th century England sold for $1,845
  • A rare, handmade Wythe County blanket chest made in 1880 by German craftsman Henry Huddle sold in 2007 auction at Case Antiques for $99,000
  • In 2012, an Italian Renaissance Revival-style carved chest-on-chest sold at a Skinner auction in Boston for $3,240, above its $1,800 high estimate

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Sellers Who Sell European Chests


Austin Auction Gallery

Austin Auction Gallery

King Galleries

King Galleries

New Orleans Auction Galleries

New Orleans Auction Galleries

Twents Veilinghuis

Twents Veilinghuis