Sedan Chair attributed to Christophe Huet, circa 1750
17th century Japanese chest sitting on an 18th century stand.
I can only imagine the brilliance of this piece when it landed at the London docks. New lacquer is dazzlingly brilliant. I have seen a few examples of late 18th and early 19th century lacquer that rarely saw the light of day or dust and they seemed to float in space. The black ground that forms the color absorbs the light at the same time that the clear lacquer layers above it reflect the light. Add gold and the pieces nearly vibrate. Additionally the black in these pieces falls into the black-brown family rather than the black-blue family of modern blacks. (Black-brown can look warmer to the eye than blue-black, providing counterpoint to the brilliance of the finish) The surface of most of the 18th century lacquer we see in museums has been abraded by centuries of dusting and cleaning lessening the reflective quality of the finish. The 17th and 18th century Beau Monde went mad for lacquer, but it was an expense reserved for princes. The other problem was that it didn’t match anything anyone had. (A piece or two of Asian furniture is nice, but where is my chair and footstool, please.) There were early attempts to send unfinished European furniture to Asia to be lacquered, but the results were unacceptable. Each layer of lacquer required about ten days to cure and did so at about 90 percent humidity. With transportation, turnaround time could be three years; compounding this the lacquer fractured with the changes in temperature and humidity.
Commode, Chateau Choisy from the blue chamber circa 1742
Harpsichord decorated by Dagly, circa 1710, Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin
Dauphin’s Chamber. Versailles
Copal Varnish Link:
An excellent source if you are interested in understanding the how’s and why’s of interior color is:
Ian C. Bristow, Interior House-Painting Colours and Technology 1615-1840 Yale University Press. New Haven and London, 1996
Lacquer, An International and Collectors Guide, Bracken Books, London, 1984.
For a look at Schloss Charlottenburg:
Jeff Hopper is an author, editor and manager of the Warner House