This is a handmade small trinket box, created by a highly skilled craftsman. It belonged to my Great Aunt Katharine (1870-1962). I am 74 now, and when I was a child, she let me play with it, and I would pretend it was a treasure chest. It surely resembles one! Aunt Katharine would store sachets and tiny soaps in it, and other little keepsakes that did not go in her jewelry case. After she passed away I got to keep it, but now it needs to go to a new home.
At 5 inches long, 3 inches wide and 3-1/2 inches tall in the center, this piece is a fabulous example of carving. We do not know what kind of wood it is, but it appears to have no knots, and has aged to this incredible rich, dark umber color. It may have been stained but it is difficult to tell. There appears to be no finish on it - it is smooth and sleek to the touch, but has no shine. There a few light surface marks from age and use but there are NO cracks, splits, stains, or repairs in the wood.
On the very top is inscribed the word ODEURS (French, meaning scents or aromas), surrounded by a cluster of carved stems and leaves. The center of each leaf is hollowed out, giving it depth. Around the edges are perfectly straight incised lines. The front of the box is covered with more vines and leaves. On each end, surrounded by tiny stamped-in 5-pointed stars and small circles, a slender starburst design is carved. Zigzags cut-outs run down both side edges and across the lid.
Some of the very special detailing includes: (1) Note how the top is a solid piece but is planed into a noticeable dome shape, making the box resemble a miniature dome top trunk (it is 5/16-inch thick in the center, decreasing to 1/8-inch (2/16) at the edges; (2) the design on each end meets perfectly, despite the top and bottom being separate pieces; (3) the bottom edges are beveled; and (4) inside, there are side braces that would have held a tiny "till" or top shelf, just like in a real dome top truck, which is missing.
Important inside details: Note how the front board is 7/16-inch thick, while the sides each are 3/8-inch (6/16), and the back is narrower yet, 5/16-inch. This box appears to have been entirely glued - we can find no evidence of nails or screws. At each corner, the boards are fastened together with a tiny "finger" cut out fitting into a notch. Every one of these is as tight as it has ever been.
IMPORTANT: The top piece is securely solid at the back but has pulled up at the front, likely because of wood shrinkage due to age. It is NOT loose, it is solidly attached; just there is a narrow gap between the top and the front/sides. This could easily be reglued.
Hardware: The brass hinges and lock plate appear to be original (The tiny screws appear to be steel, and likely may be replacements). The lock mechanism is there, but we have no key. The keyhole is carved deeply. Problem: On the top lid, a small loop that must have worked with the lock to keep the box closed, is broken off/missing.
I know nothing about the origins of this little chest. It looks very European to me. Aunt Katharine appreciated fine things. Sadly, if I asked her about it, I do not remember. If you are familiar with anything similar, we would love to hear from you.
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Antique Chip-Carved Wooden Small "Treasure Chest" Dresser Box