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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

Recommended Items at Auction

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Danish Biedermeier Maple Chest of Four Drawers
Jun 09, 12:00 PM EDT
Danish Biedermeier Maple Chest of Four Drawers
by Auctions at Showplace
Est: $800- $1,200
$2004 Bids
George III Mahogany Chest on Chest, 18th C.
Jun 09, 12:00 PM EDT
George III Mahogany Chest on Chest, 18th C.
by Auctions at Showplace
Est: $1,000- $2,000
$1002 Bids
BIEDERMEIER MAHOGANY COMMODE
Jun 09, 10:00 AM CDT
BIEDERMEIER MAHOGANY COMMODE
by Austin Auction Gallery
Est: $300- $600
$2001 Bid
Barockkommode
May 30, 9:00 AM CEST
Barockkommode
by Auktionshaus Zofingen
Est: CHF800- CHF1,000
CHF8001 Bid
Grosse Kommode
May 30, 9:00 AM CEST
Grosse Kommode
by Auktionshaus Zofingen
Est: CHF480- CHF600
CHF4801 Bid
Fantastic pair of Maitland Smith Commodes
Jun 02, 12:00 PM EDT
Fantastic pair of Maitland Smith Commodes
by South Jersey Auction by Babington Auction Inc.
Est: $1,000- $2,000
$5001 Bid
French Provincial Louis XV Style Carved Oak Coffer, 19th c., H.- 28 1/4 in., W.- 51 1/4 in., D.- 24 3/4 in.
Jun 15, 10:00 AM CDT
French Provincial Louis XV Style Carved Oak Coffer, 19th c., H.- 28 1/4 in., W.- 51 1/4 in., D.- 24 3/4 in.
by Crescent City Auction Gallery
Est: $300- $500
$2001 Bid
George III Mahogany Chest on Chest, 18th C.
Jun 09, 12:00 PM EDT
George III Mahogany Chest on Chest, 18th C.
by Auctions at Showplace
Est: $800- $1,200
$1001 Bid
(2) FRENCH TRANSITIONAL STYLE ORMOLU-MOUNTED & MARQUETRY-INLAID COMMODES
Jun 09, 10:00 AM CDT
(2) FRENCH TRANSITIONAL STYLE ORMOLU-MOUNTED & MARQUETRY-INLAID COMMODES
by Austin Auction Gallery
Est: $1,500- $2,500
$1,0001 Bid
Giorgio Collection Italian Mahogany Chest Drawers
Jun 23, 12:00 PM EDT
Giorgio Collection Italian Mahogany Chest Drawers
by Auctions at Showplace
Est: $600- $800
$1001 Bid
Early Painted Chest (Truhe / Stollen) Henndorf, Romania, 17th century
Jun 04, 10:00 AM EDT
Early Painted Chest (Truhe / Stollen) Henndorf, Romania, 17th century
by DOYLE Auctioneers & Appraisers
Est: $400- $600
$2001 Bid
SPANISH COLONIAL LEATHER/HIDE TRUNK
May 31, 10:00 AM CDT
SPANISH COLONIAL LEATHER/HIDE TRUNK
by Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers
Est: $50- $200
$251 Bid
18th Century Italian Renaissance Painted Cassone
Jun 22, 10:00 AM EDT
18th Century Italian Renaissance Painted Cassone
by Premier Auction Galleries
Est: $400- $800
$501 Bid
PAIR KARGES LOUIS XVI STYLE MAHOGANY COMMODES
Jun 05, 10:00 AM EDT
PAIR KARGES LOUIS XVI STYLE MAHOGANY COMMODES
by Ahlers & Ogletree Inc.
Est: $1,500- $3,000
$7501 Bid
Late 19th C. Georgian Style English Mahogany Inlaid Bow Front Chest of Drawers
Jun 01, 11:00 AM EDT
Late 19th C. Georgian Style English Mahogany Inlaid Bow Front Chest of Drawers
by Northgate Gallery Auctions
Est: $600- $800
$1001 Bid
A German wrought iron armada chest
Jun 25, 9:30 AM CEST
A German wrought iron armada chest
by Nagel Auction
Est: €500- €800
€4001 Bid
Danish Biedermeier Maple Chest of Four Drawers
Jun 09, 12:00 PM EDT
Danish Biedermeier Maple Chest of Four Drawers
by Auctions at Showplace
Est: $800- $1,200
$1001 Bid
18th C. German Hand Carved Wood Chest Box or Trunk
Jun 02, 10:00 AM PDT
18th C. German Hand Carved Wood Chest Box or Trunk
by Taylor & Harris
Est: $600- $800
$5000 Bids
Reisetruhe
May 30, 9:00 AM CEST
Reisetruhe
by Auktionshaus Zofingen
Est: CHF200- CHF250
CHF2000 Bids
grosse Kredenz
May 30, 9:00 AM CEST
grosse Kredenz
by Auktionshaus Zofingen
Est: CHF400- CHF500
CHF4000 Bids
A CHARLES II OAK
Jun 04, 10:30 AM BST
A CHARLES II OAK
by Dreweatts 1759 Fine Sales
Est: £600- £900
£3500 Bids
DYRLUND, DENMARK, SECRETARY / DRESSING TABLE / CHEST OF DRAWERS, 1960S
Jun 12, 3:00 PM CEST
DYRLUND, DENMARK, SECRETARY / DRESSING TABLE / CHEST OF DRAWERS, 1960S
by Quittenbaum Kunstauktionen GmbH
Est: €500- €600
€4000 Bids
A Georgian style burr-walnut chest
May 30, 6:00 PM CEST
A Georgian style burr-walnut chest
by Greco Subastas
Est: €300- €400
€3000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell European Chests


Austin Auction Gallery

Austin Auction Gallery

King Galleries

King Galleries

Nagel Auction

Nagel Auction

Crescent City Auction Gallery

Crescent City Auction Gallery