Ultimately, this exquisitely carved, small oak chest or coffret from the 19th century has its roots in the heady times of medieval chivalry. Originally designed to hold portable valuables, the coffret was also used as a dispatch box for love letters carried around the Languedoc region of France where the troubadours elevated courtly love to new heights in their chansons and rondeaux. The decorative elements revolve around the bucolic themes of agriculture and wine.
On the top, the figure of a youth reclines on a chaise longue of sculpted vegetation, staring dreamily into space while clutching an some fruit. Grape clusters and leaves abound on the front panel, framing a head of Bacchus. The side panels display intricately carved floral arrangements in the overall shape of a fleur-de-lys.
Unlike many coffrets of the period, this one has an exquisitely carved panel on the back in addition to the three sides generally exposed to viewers. At each corner of the coffret is an intricately carved cluster of fruit.
Decorative borders on the top include the pearl motif typical of Renaissance decoration and palmettes alternating with highly stylized fleurs-de-lys. Made of solid oak, this small chest is a wonderful tribute to the skills of master cabinet makers and carvers who pooled their talents to create a memorable work of art.
The most representative color, given the challenges of photographing dark furniture, is in the image at the top of this page.
Thirion, Jacques, Le Mobilier du Moyen Age et de la Renaissance en France (Editions Faton, Dijon, 1998); Wainwright, Clive, The Romantic Interior (Yale University Press, New Haven, 1989); Wilk, Christopher, Western Furniture 1350 to the Present Day (Cross River Press, New York, 1996)
This small oak box is ideal for holding jewelry and other valuables or as a decorative item to be admired for its own sake. Because the back panel is also carved, it can be displayed at the center of a table or atop a cabinet. Its size is perfect for a humidor and we can suggest specialty restorers who will add a cedar lining and a humidification system to store cigars.