Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery: John Stalker & George Parker’s Japanning

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 11.45.12We have discussed japanning, the European imitation of lacquer, in previous blog posts here, here, here, and here, but we aren’t quite done yet.  The names John Stalker and George Parker are synonymous with the rise of japanned wares in England due to their seminal publication in 1688 entitled Treatise on Japanning and Varnishing.  


This treatise included over 100 designers ‘for Japan-work in imitation of the Indians.’  There were also instructions on how to create the japanned surface in a variety of colours, including white, blue, red, chestnut, lapis lazuli, and tortoiseshell hues.

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 11.47.26

The connoisseurs distinguished lacquer from Asia with European japanned work, however some collectors did not mind having the japanned wares as it was more readily available and provided a similar aesthetic.  The Duke of Hamilton wrote to his wife about the benefit of japanning over ‘Indian’ cabinets, remarking, ‘For my part I think a counterfeit one looks as well, so let me know if you will take such a one.’  It is interesting to note the Duke of Hamilton referred to the japanned pieces as ‘counterfeit’ as they were still highly regarded and today command very high prices in the sale rooms and galleries alike.

George II Japanned and Gilt Chair

Detail of the japanning on one of a pair of Georgian green japanned side chairs in the manner of Giles Grendey 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

We’ve put together a group of japanned furniture from our collection in a Pinterest board.  Have a look through to see the variety of colour, decoration, and styles while also looking out for the similarities with Stalker & Parker’s distinctive designs.


One thought on “Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery: John Stalker & George Parker’s Japanning

  1. Pingback: Winding Back the Time… A Magnificent Japanned Clock | The Source

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