M. Markley Antiques




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French Antique Chests or Trunks
Gothic, Renaissance, Louis XIII


For prices, additional photos, and more information about each item, CLICK on the photo, plus check out our page of Recent Arrivals.

For more information about the history of chests, scroll down below the photo gallery.



#5154-Renaissance Chest


 #3213 Renaissance Chest

#4158 - Gothic Chest
#4189 - Gothic Chest
#9460 - Oak Coffret (Box)
 #9460 - Oak Coffret (Small Box)
#1034 - 17th Century Oak Chest

 #3089 - Henri II Style Chest
 #4163 - Reproduction Gothic Chest

#9330 - Louis XIII Style Chest
#9330 - Louis XIII Chest


#3216-Gothic Chest
 #3216 Gothic Chest
4152-Louis XIII chest
 #4152 - Louis XIII Chest


#3090 - Renaissance Style Chest
 #3090 - Renaissance Chest
 #4105 - Gothic Chest



#9260 - Breton Wedding Chest
 #9260 - Breton Wedding Chest
#3089 - Henri II Style Chest
 #3089 - Henri II Chest



#3224 - Gothic Style Chest
 #3224 - Gothic/Renaissance Chest
 #4109 - Italian Renaissance Chest

About Chests

We adore chests or coffres because they were and remain the most versatile and adaptable furniture ever invented.  A true "multi-tasker" for Medieval times, a chest functioned as bed (for children or very small adults), table, or seat while securing all manner of worldly goods under lock and key.  Not only was it the main item of furniture in early French households, it was not uncommon to have a chest in every room. 

Tracing a chest's DNA to its ultimate ancestor shows that it began life in Roman times as a container for a soldier's weapons, often hewn from an entire log with a portion cut open and hinged to form the top (hence, chests also referred to as 'trunks').  Later Roman chests derived their style from the burial sarcophagus made of marble and heavily carved.  Through the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, the chest continued to have a security function -- housing the owner's valuables in a relatively portable form but strong enough to deter thieves.  The French nobility led a semi-nomadic life traveling from one castle or home to another and taking their furniture with them.  The portability and versatility of chests came in handy for transporting textiles and other valuables as well as serving as seats, tables and other functions on arrival at each location.

So many categories of furniture owe their development, during the Middle Ages, to the chest.  For example, the armoire began as a chest standing on its end so the lid could swing to the side as a door.  That staple of French dining rooms, the bahut-deux-corps, began life as two chests stacked on top of one another with their lids opening to the front.  The dressoir cabinet evolved from a chest placed on a small table or platform.  The bench is a chest with a back and arms added, while retaining the convenience of a storage area below the seat.  Throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, chests were used to store prized culinary commodities such as salt and spices, keeping them not only safe from thieves but protected from vermin.  In a smaller form, the coffret, the chest became a jewelry box or small yet secure container for housing highly portable valuables.  The coffret took on its own decorative vocabulary associated with the style and wealth of its owner.

During the Gothic period in northern France, chests enjoyed their glory days -- borrowing from cathedrals such architectural elements as intricately carved arches and tracery (fenestrage) to become architectural masterpieces in their own right.  Many of these pieces survive as faithful copies by 19th century craftsmen seeking to evoke the grandeur and elegance of earlier times.

In the Renaissance, the styles developed and perfected in Italy swept into Paris and the Loire Valley with  Catherine de' Medici's entourage of craftsmen brought to the court of her husband, the future King Henri II of France.  This decorative vocabulary, including vegetation and mythological figures, quickly supplanted the last remnants of Gothic style among the furniture makers of Northern France.

The coffre de mariage or wedding chest was also a popular form used by the bride to accumulate the linens to be used in marriage - not unlike the American concept of a "hope chest."  Regional versions of the wedding chest were particularly popular in Brittany, often including likenesses of the bride and groom in carved panels on the front of the chest.

This versatility as well as a chest's portability helped ensure its popularity in the 19th century when French craftsmen sought to recapture the romance and chivalry of an earlier era - characteristics embodied in the chest as a cherished furnishing for the ages.



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