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Welsh, circa 1550–1600
Height 25 1/2", Width 36", Depth 20 1/2"
Courtesy of Fiske & Freeman Fine and Early Antiques

An ark is a small chest used to store grain, flour or meal. The earliest arks date from the 14th century. Most are undecorated, but this one is enhanced with scratch-carved circles and chevrons on the front and lid. The circles have deformed with the wood shrinkage, indicating an early application, probably when the ark was first made. Remarkably, for a piece of this age, there are no restorations, modifications, or significant losses.

Of particular interest is the ark’s “clamped-front” method of construction. The clamped-front is the precursor of the mortise-and-tenon. It appeared early in the 13th century and was used only to make chests and arks. The vertical stiles that form the legs have deep grooves on their inside edges into which the horizontal boards are fitted. These are secured by oak pins that “clamp” the entire front together.

The three-board, canted lid is typical, as is the way that the sides narrow slightly toward the top; the lid hinges on oak pins. All the wood is riven, and there are no nails or ironwork anywhere in the piece.

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