Secrets & Symbols: "Crown of Thorns" Chest of Drawers

Time Period
1877 to 1924
1925 to Today
Media Type
Art & Architecture
Decorative Arts

“Crown of Thorns” chest of drawers, late 1800s
Unknown maker
VMHC Collection

So-called tramp art was popular across the U.S. from the 1870s to the 1930s. In this art form, the maker embellishes an object—such as a frame, box, or furniture—with chips notched out of a piece of wood and arranged into decorative designs. This spectacular example is encrusted with interlocking chips in a lattice-like pattern known as “crown of thorns” for its prickly appearance.

The artisan is unidentified. He might have been African American given that the bureau belonged to an affluent Black couple in Lynchburg: Dr. Fred Lander (1900–1942), a physician, and Georgia Goldsberry Lander (1899–1985), a schoolteacher.