Luxury Lifestyle

Past and Present: A Glance at the Hope Chest

A Renaissance hope chest (cassone). The frontal picture represents the final act of the Battle of Anghiari (1440).
A Renaissance hope chest (cassone). The frontal picture represents the final act of the Battle of Anghiari (1440).

There was a time when a Hope chest was commonly used by young unmarried women, it was a designated place to hold their valuables in preparation for the future.

This was a special chest designed to store the collection of an unmarried woman’s household items such as linen and clothing in anticipation of her future marital status. More than just a collection of items to be shared and to add to the her new household, the chest represented hope, love and dreams.

A Chest of Many Names

This special chest went by several names in various places around the world: the “hope chest” or “cedar chest” was used in the Midwest or south of the United States. In the UK it was referred to as “bottom drawer” and “glory box” in Australia.

Indo-Dutch or Dutch Colonial Mahogany and Ebony Chest on Stand
Indo-Dutch or Dutch Colonial Mahogany and Ebony Chest on Stand

A Signal of a New Life Beginning

Women stocked their chest with their true so a coming-of-age right of dowry items with items to start her new life; a stash of clothing, table linens, towels, bed linen, quilts and sometimes dishware. The chest was designed to be portable and to come with the bride after her marriage.

Hope Chest from Italy and the Renaissance

The chest or “Casonne” of Italian Renaissance in this example, was a large showy ornate chest formed part of dynasty marriages in the 15th and 16th century prized displays of wealth.

Italian hope chest cassone
Italian Hope Chest, cassone

Re-purposing the Hope Chest for Today

What can you do today with a hope chest? While not a necessity in modern times to create dowries or such collections of things, it is a beautiful decorative storage piece to add to fine homes and can be excellent storage for precious possessions and valued keepsakes.

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