• 500 Years: Decorative Arts Eur auction at Christies

    Sale 2203

    500 Years: Decorative Arts Europe Including Carpets from The Corcoran Gallery of Art

    24 November 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 84

    A CHINESE EXPORT BLACK AND GILT LACQUER BUREAU-CABINET

    CIRCA 1730-1740, MADE FOR THE DANISH MARKET

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    A CHINESE EXPORT BLACK AND GILT LACQUER BUREAU-CABINET
    CIRCA 1730-1740, MADE FOR THE DANISH MARKET
    The interior of the upper section with a drawer and three shelves, the fall front enclosing a fitted interior with drawers, compartments and central verre eglomisé prospect door, decorated overall with scenes of European courtly life with embossed metal escutcheons, mirror plate to central door replaced, some limited areas of refreshment to decoration
    96 in. (244 cm.) high, 38 in. (96.5 cm.) wide, 20½ in. (52 cm.) deep


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    This superb bureau cabinet is a fascinating example of the Chinese export trade creating a piece of furniture for a specific Western market, in this case Denmark. Its distinctive form, with a single mirrored door to the upper section with elaborately shaped cornice, and base with two drawers on a carved base with short cabriole legs, closely relates it to the work of the Danish cabinet-maker Mathias Ortmann. A bureau cabinet signed by Ortmann of closely related overall form is in the Royal Castle of Hirscholm (illustrated in M. Gelfer-Jorgensen, Dansk Kunsthandwerk 1730-1850, Copenhagen, 1973, p. 33). Records of Ortmann's stock in 1751 and 1752 reveal a number of pieces imported from China, suggesting that Ortmann himself may have commissioned this cabinet in China for export to Denmark.

    The decoration is particularly fascinating, as it combines elaborate rococo cartouches enclosing dream-like visions of exotic potentates, while the scene depicted on the fall-front of hunting figures in European costume, is clearly inspired by Western print sources, such as the 16th centry German engraver Virgil Solis, many of whose prints depicted hunt scenes strikingly similar to those on this cabinet.

    An important trade existed between Denmark and the Far East, beginning with the establishment of the Danish East India Company in 1616 by King Christian IV. King Christian VI subsequently revived this lucrative trade, establishing in 1732 the Royal Danish Asiatic Company. A number of pieces of Chinese lacquer furniture were brought back by the captains of the Asiatic Company in the 1730's and sold to King Christian VI, including a pair of lacquer bureau cabinets, originally supplied to the Royal Palace in Copenhagen in 1738 and now in Fredensborg Castle (see T. Clemmenson, 'Some Furniture Made in China in the English Style, Exported from Canton to Denmark 1735, 1737 and 1738', Furniture History, 1985, pp. 174-177).
    Related Chinese export lacquer bureau cabinets were sold in Le Goût Steinitz I, Christie's, New York, 19 October 2007, lot 30 ($250,000 excluding premium); from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, sold Christie's, London, 14 December 2000, lot 340 (£ 120,000 exc. premium); and another formerly in the collection of Lord Plender, sold Sotheby's, London, 7 November 1997, lot 22 (£100,500 inc. premium).

    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION (LOT 84)