Exhibition Spotlight: When Lacquer Meets Giltwood


A seventeenth century ivory japanned cabinet on giltwood stand 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

Our exhibition, Gilded: Golden Treasures of Georgian Furniture continues this week, and today we are highlighting a few pieces from the exhibition.  We have several pieces that combine lacquer and giltwood in our exhibition, and they each exemplify the interesting harmony of two different cultural traditions coming together.

There are three lacquer cabinets on stand in the exhibition.  Two of the lacquer cabinets originate from Japan and were imported to England in the early eighteenth century.  The third cabinet was made in the late seventeenth century in Europe.  Each one stands on a carved stand–two in giltwood and one in a silvered finish.


A seventeenth century ivory japanned cabinet on giltwood stand 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

The ivory japanned cabinet features decoration of whimsical Oriental gardens with flowering shrubs, birds and butterflies and relates to patterns issued in John Stalker and George Parker’s Treatise of Japanning and Varnishing, 1688. The indented-corner tablet set within a broad frame corresponds to that of a 17th century Japanese cabinet illustrated in M. Jourdain and R. Soame Jenyns, Chinese Export Art, London, 1967, fig. 31, and displayed on a similar stand that is carved with putti amongst Roman foliage in the French arabesque manner.


A seventeenth century ivory japanned cabinet on giltwood stand 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

A pair of 17th century Japanese lacquer cabinets that are similarly decorated on a white ground are illustrated in T. Murdoch (ed.), Boughton House, The English Versailles, London, 1922, pl. 80, while white-japanned versions, executed in Berlin in the late 17th century by Gerard Dagly (d.1714), are illustrated in H. Huth, Lacquer of the West, London, 1971, figs. 160 – 161, and H. Honour, Cabinet Makers and Furniture Designers, London, 1972, p.63.


A Japanese cabinet on silvered stand 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

The two Japanese cabinets both feature exceptional black and gilt lacquer decoration with traditional mountainous scenes interspersed with birds and other wildlife.


A Japanese lacquer cabinet on giltwood stand 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

The stand of the silvered cabinet was made contemporaneously with its corresponding cabinet, while the gilt stand is a modern replacement for the other cabinet, which would have likely had a much more ornate carved base when it was first brought to England.  The simplicity of the modern gilt stands allows for the cabinet to take centre stage as the sole focus with its intricate copper mounts and delicate decoration.


A black lacquer and gilt gesso lowboy 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

We also have a most unusual piece of furniture in the exhibition, which is a japanned and gilt gesso lowboy.  This exceptional table with its striking combination of gilt-gesso and japanned decoration bears a great similarity to one at Longford Castle, Wiltshire which was probably supplied for Sir Jacob de Bouverie (created 1st Viscount Folkestone in 1747) when he succeeded his brother in 1736. The Longford Castle dressing-table is illustrated in R. Edwards’ The Dictionary of English Furniture, and P. Macquoid The Age of Mahogany.

We invite you to come and see these pieces in person at our exhibition, which runs throughout the rest of this week and weekend.


One thought on “Exhibition Spotlight: When Lacquer Meets Giltwood

  1. Pingback: An Unusual Material: Chinese Cinnabar Lacquer | The Source

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