mule chestnoun – 1. a low chest with drawers, mounted on a low frame.

mule chest – noun – 1. a hybrid form of chest, intermediate between a simple chest and a chest of drawers.

I just flew back from Spain and boy is my butt tired. Two hours Barcelona to Munich. Ten and a half hour Munich to Charlotte and then a two-hour drive home. Good to be back. Now I have over 1,000 images to sort through.

We were gone for seventeen days leaving on Nov. 1st and returning on Nov. 17th.  Starting in Lisbon, Portugal  we moved on to Porto, Santiago de Compostela, León, Bilbao, Bielsa    finishing in Barcelona.

Anything happen while I was away?

Being a tour, I had less freedom to explore. We had adult supervision. Whenever we had free time, I explored what I could. I did find several worthy museums. I didn’t find any open antiques shops although I did find several abandoned ones.

I did the best I could get away with.

But first, a few words about Spain. The Kingdom of Spain consists of 17 autonomous regions and two autonomous cities. The cities are actually across the Straight of Gibraltar on the northern coast of Africa. People tell me the Moroccans feel about these cities as the Spanish feel about the English in Gibraltar.

These autonomous regions all celebrate their unique languages, culture and history just like Texas and Oklahoma. If one is to believe one’s local guides, the regional citizens accept being part of Spain but many are less than thrilled about the prospect, just like Texas and Oklahoma. As each local guide bid farewell, our wrangler would give us a slightly different perspective on regional relations and history.

End of lesson.

I used my free time in Barcelona to visit the Museum of Design of Barcelona (Museu del Disseny de Barcelona). The six of us traveling together agreed to visit the museum the following day. Knowing this would never happen, I went on my own. The others sought out markets and that really cute hat they saw on the walking tour.

On the third floor of the museum was an exhibition titled Extraordinary! Collections of Decorative and Author-Centred Art (3rd-20th Century). It looked interesting, worth the long escalator ride up, and I went. Many museums have taken to show only the best of the best, this museum just puts it out there right up front.

There was a grouping of 16th century Catalan (possessive of Catalonia (the autonomous region in which Barcelona exists)) chests that caught my eye. These, while a bit fancier than the typical mule chest, do technically loosely fit the definition of a lidded chest with drawers. Only these chests have their drawers on the right side with the left side being an open space:


Not your typical Anglo-American mule chest.

The structure of the displayed chests were all the same, open space to the left and three drawers below a fixed tray on the right. The top drawer isn’t a drawer. It is fixed and supplies structure and support for the chest:


When is a drawer not a drawer?

Some have conventional drawers as well:


Well, it’s location and orientation are conventional…

And the level of decoration  varies from lightly decorated:


The interior is undecorated.

to slightly more so:


Lots of gold, leaf and other. It is so convenient to have colonies to supply gold.

We have mule chest on this side of the Atlantic as well as demonstrated by two I was at the Raleigh Antiques Extravaganza last weekend:


This variant has doors below.

and this one:


It’s sort of decorated.

I am tempted to build a Shaker version of of these side drawers chests. I’ll add it to the list…

To see the rest of the 29 pictures of the fancy chests, click HERE.