A 17th century Ottery St. Mary, Exeter joined oak chest highly likely from the same workshop in which Thomas Dennis apprenticed, 1687
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An undocumented and very good example of a west country joined oak chest from Ottery St. Mary, Exeter, Devon highly likely to have been constructed in the workshop in which Thomas Dennis was an apprentice. Thomas Dennis, alongisde William Searle, emigrated to New England, America in 1663 and went on to become one of the foremost furniture makers of the period.
The features seen in this chest continued to appear in Dennis' work in New England, and wide research has taken place around the workshop where Dennis was an apprentice. The significant features of the chest undoubtedly point to its origins in the Exeter workshop. In fact whilst referred to as the Exeter workshop more recent research supports the location of the workshop as Ottery St Mary, outside Exeter, Devon.
The chest is of good colour and retains signs of the original red paint - including within the carved date, which is unusual.
The lid of two boards with run-moulded long edges and dog-tooth punched-decorated ends The chest is a triple panelled chest. There is S scroll work, typical of Devon to the top rail and foliage emerging from the lozenges on the left and right front panel. A running leaf and stem is carved to the bottom rail, with double S scroll work to the muntins.
The characteristic Dennis workshop features are present with the distinctive and cleats with notches and ogee bracket scroll, the V-V ogee moudling and the sloping till (or candle box) - a particlaur feature of Dennis chests.
The incised initials to the right, MS 1687, denote the owners initials and date the chest was made. Two other known examples also have the flattening to the top of the 8 in the carving and at least one has traces of the original paint in the carving as with this chest. The date is undoubtedly correct and in keeping with three other chests which have previoulsy been exhibited having similar dates and clearly by the same artisan - their features being so similar, to have been by a different artisan is to defy belief.
The originality of the chest throughout is delightful and it has come to the market for the first time in some time this week, having previously been in private hands.