• 500 Years Decorative Arts Euro auction at Christies

    Sale 2305

    500 Years Decorative Arts Europe Including Oriental Carpets

    20 April 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 20

    A CHINESE EXPORT BLACK AND GILT-LACQUER BUREAU-CABINET

    MID 18TH CENTURY

    Price Realised  

    A CHINESE EXPORT BLACK AND GILT-LACQUER BUREAU-CABINET
    MID 18TH CENTURY
    The upper paneled doors enclosing lacquer-fronted drawers, pigeonholes and two pierced sliding doors, the slant front opening to reveal lacquer-fronted drawers and a cupboard, above two drawers, a shaped apron and cabriole feet, decorations refreshed in areas
    97½ in. (247.5 cm.) high, 46 in. (117 cm.) wide, 27½ in. (70 cm.) deep


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    This bureau-cabinet demonstrates the success of the Chinese export trade in combining Oriental art with Western forms, which appealed to the European market during the 18th and 19th centuries. Since as early as the 16th century, Oriental lacquer has been prized in the West for its luminous, hard surface decorated with intricate gold and colored designs, Western scenes or Chinese landscapes. Portuguese exports of Japanese Momoyama-period lacquerware during the 16th century not only introduced the West to the exotic luxury goods, but also proved a viable market for subsequent Chinese imitators. The popularity of Eastern lacquer, made from the resin of the rhus vernicifera, and its consequent shortage of supply, inspired Western copies of the technique and decoration, a practice called 'japanning.' European japanned trays, dressing mirrors as well as larger seat and case furniture were fashionable accessories throughout Europe during this period.

    Lacquered furniture was made in such centers as Nanking, Tonking and Canton following Western forms, copied from actual examples sent to China or from printed European designs. While smaller export pieces such as sewing tables, tripod tables, dressing mirrors and tea caddies abound, larger pieces of furniture such as this bureau-cabinet are far rarer for the inherent difficulties and expense of construction and shipping, and so commanded extraordinary attention for their exotic and esoteric decorative appeal. Many larger pieces were actually commissioned, and were emblazoned with the initials or insignia of the patron.

    This cabinet is particularly magnificent with its elaborate banded oxbow-form scroll base and intricately pierced interior sliding doors in the upper section. Related examples of comparable grandeur with shaped base include one in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (illustrated in M. Jourdain and R.S. Jenyns, Chinese Export Art in the Eighteenth Century, Norwich, 1967, p. 85, fig. 24); one from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, sold Christie's London, 14 December 2000, lot 340 (£135,750 including buyer's premium); and another sold Le Goût Steinitz, I, Christie's New York, 19 October 2007 ($301,000 including buyer's premium). More simplified versions of this form include an example from the notable collection assembled by Sir William Plender of Sundridge, Kent, sold Sotheby's London, 7 November 1997, lot 22 (£100,500) (illustrated in R.W. Symonds, Old English Walnut and Lacquer Furniture, 1923, pp. 166-167, pl.XXXIX).

    Provenance

    Acquired from Hyde Park Antiques, New York.


    Saleroom Notice

    The cabinet was purchased from Hyde Park Antiques in 1983. A virtually identical cabinet was sold Christie's New York in 2000 ($110,000) but this was not the same object.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE FOR MRS. FREDERICK AYER II, THE HIGHLANDS, SEATTLE (LOT 20)