The other day, I got an email from Dave Powers, a reader from the UK about this sort of inlaid chest.
“I am planning to make a version of a Nonsuch chest and have been wrestling for some time with the use of banding. In all the examples I’ve seen the patterns in the banding don’t finish symmetrically?… I was delighted to see that in your wainscot chair you have taken the same approach. My question is really how do you feel about this? All the good wholesome part of me really likes it but there’s a horrible little modern bit that desperately wants it to match. I would love to know how the original makers viewed it: unimportant? technically awkward? expensive? …”
See Jonathan L. Fairbanks and Robert F. Trent, eds., New England Begins: The Seventeenth-Century 3 vols. (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1982) 3:513, 514. You can read more about these chests in Benno M. Forman, “Continental Furniture Craftsmen in London 1511-1625” in Furniture History, vol. 5, 1971, 94-120. My copy of the Forman article is in the workshop, so I don’t have it right here to refer to; but the gist of it is these are made in London, maybe in Norwich as well… I think the Forman article includes a great quote about the inlaid work, I found it on the V&A website:
Edmund Maria Bolton, Elements of Armories (1610): ‘At St. Olaves in Southwark, you shall learn, among the joyenrs what Inlayes and Marquetrie meane. Inlaye … is a laying of colour’d wood in their Wainscot works, Bedsteads, Cupbords, Chayres and the like’.
These chests are dovetailed oak board chests, then covered with the inlay. The Metcalfe one has a replaced lid, usually they are inlaid too. I think the one Dave sent a photo of is this one, from Yew Tree House antiques:
I imagine this one has lost a lot of its inlay; but it allows us to see the dovetails quite clearly. There’s more photos of this one at http://yewtreehouseantiques.1stdibs.com/itemdetails.php?id=182987
So, I don’t really do any inlay of significance; but my take on it is that the bands begin & end willy-nilly. They are really nice chests; I have never spent any lengthy time studying them, and I would like to see more of them at some point. The V&A one described (not illustrated) on their website says its interior is inlaid too…on the tills, plural.