German or Possibly Swedish. Second Quarter 18th Century.


Width: 30 1/2" (90cm)
Depth:15 3/4" (40cm)
Height: 27 1/2" (70cm).

Of pine with white lacquer and mounted with decoupage chinoiserie figures and scenes on every surface.  Faced on four sides, top with hinges, opening to reveal a top with similar decoration, back legs extend to support the top when open.  Lambrequin-shaped apron on four sides with four outward-facing cabriole legs with high knees.  Some old repairs to mechanism that had been glued shut, but now functions having been unglued.  Repairs to some apron sections and some engravings replaced where lacking. 

An Old Private Collection, Uppsala, Sweden.

Lacca povera, sometimes also known as lacca contrafatta, was something of a craze among fashionable circles in the early eighteenth century. In 1727 Mademoiselle Charlotte Aïssé wrote “we are here at the height of a new passion for cutting up colored engravings … Everyone great and small, is snipping away. These cuttings are pasted on sheets of cardboard and then varnished. They are made into wall panels, screens and fire boards. There are books and engravings costing up to 200 livres; women are mad enough to cut up engravings worth 100 livres apiece. If this fashion continues they will be cutting up Raphaels”.1 This quote proves that the embellishment of furniture by amateurs, by hand using cut-out engravings, was far from a cheap option, indeed calling the technique “poor lacquer” is very misleading, as the materials were expensive and the technique meticulous and complex.

Another letter from M. Constatin of 1727 confirms this trend: “tapestry and knotting are no longer in question; one has left behind spinning wheels and shuttles; one wants nothing but decoupage. All kinds of furnishings suitable to this technique are being decorated; screens, folding screens, wall hangings, ceilings, the tops of coaches and sedan chairs; it is being put everywhere.”2 Corroborating the suggestion that aristocratic and royal ladies learned the lacca povera technique is a firescreen at the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin which bears the initials of the Queen of Prussia, Sophia Dorothea, herself.3

This new creative endeavor was encouraged by a number of publications on the subject, that gave instructions on how to mix the required varnishes – although many of these had titles such as The Ladies Amusement; or, Whole Art of Japanning made Easy, often what was being described was in reality decoupage or lacca povera, of the kind seen on the present tables. On the present examples however this is unlikely the work of an amateur; the process has clearly been adopted and improved by a professional furniture maker.

The present pair of tables perfectly exemplifies the range of different kinds of subject that were selected to decorate lacca povera pieces. On the legs are single figures and flowers, on the frieze are hunting scenes and exotic birds, and on the closed tops are figures engaged in various activities and interaction. Flower vases have been cleverly selected to highlight the corners of the outside and inside of the tops. On the inside top, the surface used for gaming, a theme appears to be figures in pairs engaged in some form of joint activity, perhaps referencing the tables’ intended use.

Full research report available on request.

Full research report available on request.