While it may appear a rather unassuming piece at first glance, this chest is rendered exceptional by an inscription which dates and locates very precisely the moment of its construction.

The vast majority of surviving 18th-century furniture is unlabelled and its makers are rarely known. Unusually, however, this chest of drawers bears an inscription, in pencil, on one of the baseboards, which reads: May the 21st 1728 Made for Mrs Mary Reynolds by Thos Reynolds in Bell Lane Spittle Fealds Such a detailed inscription, detailing both maker and, notably, a consumer of conspicuously middling standing is extremely rare, and serves to an extent to humanize the item that it adorns. Moreover, it presents a fantastic opportunity to draw detailed insights into both the particular tastes, circumstances and domestic behaviour of the middle classes, and, indeed, the particular fashions driving furniture design, at a specific point in history. For instance, the date given by the inscription firmly establishes piece as the first English chest of drawers with bracket feet as original fitments.

Provenance

Michael Gillingham, 1996; Sotheby’s, April 2000; Bonhams, May 2011; Michael Pashby, 2011. An Art Loss Register search has been completed.

Oak


The Geffrye Museum of the Home

136 Kingsland Road, Hoxton, London, Greater London, E2 8EA
020 7739 9893
Website

Opening times

The museum is now closed to undergo a major, transformational development project. It will reopen in spring 2020.

Throughout closure, the Geffrye's restored almshouse will remain open for tours and a full programme of events will be run in the front gardens.

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