9538 A RARE QUEEN ANNE BLACK LACQUER PAD FOOT OCCASIONAL TABLE English. Circa 1715. Measurements: Height: 29″ (74.5 cm) Width: 31″ (77.5 cm) Depth: 20″ (50.5 cm)
Of black lacquer with gilded and raised decoration. The rectangular top with molded edge and indented corners is decorated all over with an idyllic river scene centered by a Chinese junx driven by a robed oarsman, within a landscape of mountains, prunus trees, houses and strutting birds. The cavetto frieze fitted with a foliate decorated single drawer centered and an old but later brass knob above a shaped keyhole escutcheon. The whole raised on four elegantly drawn foliate decorated cabriole legs terminating in pad feet. Restoration to lacquer consistent with age and use. Toes restored.
The present table is a rare example of English lacquer furniture made in the reign of Queen Anne. Whilst bureaux and mirrors rendered in lacquer at this date are not uncommon, small freestanding occasional tables are few. The beautifully drawn cabriole leg supporting a cavetto frieze is particularly pleasing and is more often associated with prototypes in figured walnut.
Trade between Europe and Asia in the 17th and 18th centuries resulted in a cultural exchange which sparked European enthusiasm for Far Eastern decorative arts, particularly painted furniture using lacquering technique. Lacquered furniture was first imported to Europe from China and Japan (hence the English term for the technique, “japanning”) and as contact with these countries increased, the “European rage for paint on furniture, through the ancient art of lacquer”1 was inspired. Japanned pieces were most often decorated with a black lacquer and decorated with raised and flat work often in the form of deities, pavilions, and fantastical creatures which were then gilded and detailed.
In England, “painted furniture gained popularity during the reign of William and Mary (1689-1792).”2 It reached its apogee in the early 18th century and demand was so high that the trade was unable to accommodate it. Books were published instructing the English in the art of japanning so that pieces could be made at home. In 1688 John Stalker and George Parker published their Treatise on Japanning and Varnishing, which provided detailed descriptions of lacquer recipes, processes, and designs. Tables, secretaries, chairs, and coffers were all made in this style, such as a tea table (circa 1710) similar to the present example in shape, from the collection of Maldwyn Drummond, Esq.,3 which can be seen in figure 1. A further occasional table is found at Ham House, where it stands today in the Volury Room (figure 2). Furniture took contemporary British forms, but was decorated with distinctly Asian scenes of exotic animals and birds, flora, and landscapes. The English “worked hard to imitate the lustrous surface of Asian lacquerware, but the objects they created were distinctly European in character.”4
The table is illustrative of the shift in taste that occurred shortly after the end of the reign of William and Mary. Whereas furniture and decoration had been of a monumental baroque character, relying on French and Dutch precedents for inspiration, the present table shows the incoming tendency for lighter and much more restrained forms. The beautifully drawn cabriole legs of the present table are often a mainstay of the Queen Anne style. More commonly, such a leg terminates in a splayed pad foot, however, the designer in this case has employed a tighter splay to the foot, which is in line with the distinctly feminine character of the table. Another Queen Anne design innovation found here is the shallow upwardly curving ‘cavetto’ frieze and drawer, a distinct and more elegant solution to the deeper straight-sided friezes found on tables made just a few years earlier.
- De Dampierre, Florence. The Best of Painted Furniture. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1987. 11.
- ibid. 15.
- Tarlow, Rose. The Private House. New York: Clarkson Potter, 2001. 169.
- Webb, Marianne. Lacquer, Technology and Conservation. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2000. 99.