armoire is one that, the moment we first saw it, we knew that it was a
beautiful example of Gothic styling.
But it wasn't until closer examination that we discovered its rarity -
it is made from solid chestnut. While
resembling some pieces of oak in its distinctly wide grain of the wood (and
often misclassified by dealers), chestnut is a somewhat softer wood and its
grain is richly varied, with the contrasting portions wider and more
chestnut trees in the temperate areas of Europe were introduced by the Romans
and planted to assure a reliable source of nutrition during long-term occupations
when crops of cereal grains might fail.
Until the potato was introduced from the New World, chestnuts were a
staple and an excellent source of carbohydrates in Europeans' diets. As other sources of carbohydrates became
more popular, cultivation of chestnut trees for their nuts declined as did the
supply of chestnut trees for use in furniture.
chestnut wood for furniture because the natural color is lighter and somewhat
more reddish than oak and the ability to see the rich grain of the wood
persists, even when it has been stained.
Because the wood is less hard and generally younger than oak, it is
easier to carve (more akin to walnut) and to embody the exuberance of the
sculptor's imagination. Therefore,
furniture made from chestnut offers the best of both worlds -- a rich and
varied grain like oak and a susceptibility to intricate carving like walnut.
armoire boasts both of these qualities in an array of interesting Gothic
ornament amidst unadorned sections of wood displaying the chestnut grain to
full effect. The upper part of the two
doors making up the front are carved with tracery (fenestrage) patterns we have
never seen before. Each has four lancet
arches above four rounded arches. These
give rise to two flower-like shapes with quatrefoils at the top, resembling a
blossom, and leaves made up of elliptical mouchette patterns. Below these panels are plis-de-serviette
designs unusual for the depth of relief and that they involve intricate trefoils
at top and bottom.
panels on the upper parts of both sides of the armoire also involve fenestrage
patterns, but completely different from the door panels. Again the stem and blossom theme is used but
this time set within larger elliptical shapes, undulating upward from pairs of
pointed, rather than rounded, arches.
Separating these panels from the plis-de-serviette panels below is a
band of tracery involving mouchette shapes.
all this were not enough, the armoire is crowned by an intricately carved
railing of open tracery or fenestrage on the front and sides. It is also in the details of this carving,
and that of the base, that the skill of the artist shines through in intricate
details and flourishes.
interior is fitted with four shelves.
The aluminum hardware comprising straps and escutcheon plate may be of a
more recent vintage. The armoire locks
with a beautiful, decorative key.