Lacquered bronze figures such as these were deliberately decorated to resemble the finest and most expensive 17th century Japanese lacquer, arguably eflecting one of the most sophisticated phases of the 'goût Chinois'. Traditionally, such lacquered bronze figures have been associated almost exclusively with the Martin dynasty, both as a result of contemporary documentary references--such as the 1753 reference in the Inventory of the comtesse de Mailly--as well as the fact that they were granted a Royal Patent to protect the vernis technique which they had invented. The latter patent is further enhanced in 1744 by a renewed one for lacquer wares 'en relief dans le goût de Japon et de la Chine'. It has been argued, however, that there were no doubt other unknown craftsmen supplying such figures to the marchands-merciers, and Parisian almanachs of the period often list several specialists in vernis. (See C. Sargentson, Merchants and Luxury Markets: The Marchands-Merciers of Eighteenth Century Paris, London, 1996). Furthermore, Jean-Félix Watin in his Le Peintre Doreur et Vernisseur of 1772, stated that ten different recipes for lacquer were being employed in Paris at that time, as well as going on to say that by the 1740's the Martin family was suffering from widespread competition, which had inevitably resulted in the prices for lacquer wares being forced down.
A similar pair of chinoiserie figures from the Alexander Collection was sold in these Rooms, 30 April 1999, lot 36. Also, a mantel clock incorporating figures of this type and mounted with French porcelain was sold in the same sale, lot 35.