A Very Pretty c.1800 Polychrome Painted Scandinavian Pine Coffer


Origin: Scandinavian, Probably Swedish
Period: Late Eighteenth / Early Nineteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1790 -1820
Height: 23.5 inches
Width: 60.5 inches
Depth: 21 inches

The large Scandinavian antique pine coffer or marriage chest with hand sawn two piece plank top and one piece back having polychrome painted decoration to the front in the form of floral rosettes and fern sprays, with the original shaped hammered iron strap-work and hinges, the interior opening to reveal a candle box, the whole standing on bracket feet, the corners with iron brace reinforcements.

In desirable original condition, much of the original iron strap work remains, as do the hinges and original lock. There is wear commensurate with age to the pine, with some of the painted decoration worn away and scuffs to the sides and loss of stain to the edges but we feel this gives it a very appealing patina and finish. There is a repair to one of the bracket feet, with a newer section added to ensure the coffer stands true and old added reinforcements to the lid.

Similar to a Swedish brides chest, immigrant chest, hope chest or marriage chest we believe this example to be Swedish because decoration on Swedish chests tended to be slightly more subdued than that on, say, Norwegian examples where there would be more paint than pine. Long winters and an abundance of natural woods gave Scandinavian craftsmen much opportunity to make furniture whilst the desire of sunlight throughout the year led Scandinavians to rely on coloured decorations to brighten dark interiors. Immigrant chests have been described as “the roomiest and strongest packing case one could find, five feet long (as this chest is), three feet high, wrought with strong iron bands three fingers wide. The four oak walls of this chest were for thousands of miles to enclose and protect their essentials; to these planks would be entrusted most of their belongings. The ancient clothes chest which was about to pass into an altogether new and eventful epoch of its history was even given a new name in its old age. It was called the 'America chest.”

Once a treasured heirloom, and delightfully decorative though thoroughly functional, this coffer has enormous aesthetical appeal exuding a look and presence that many pieces of furniture try, but fail, to accomplish.