england , circa 1700


A very fine Queen Anne green japanned bureau cabinet of very rare small proportions. The upper section with moulded cornice above a single bevelled mirror inset door opening to reveal adjustable shelves, with a retractable candle stand. The lower section with a fall front opening to reveal a variety of small drawers and pigeon-holes, a paper-well and a silk velvet-lined writing surface, all above two small drawers and two graduated long drawers above a moulded edge and bun feet. Decorated throughout with wonderful gilded chinoiserie japanned decoration and highlights on a dark green background. 

The mercury silvered and shallow Vauxhall bevelled mirror plate apparently original. Retaining the original brass drop handles, knobs, steel locks and hinges. With secret drawers hidden within the lower section.

Stock number

Height: 78¹/₈ in (198.5 cm)
Width: 25¹/₄ in (64 cm)
Depth: 20¹/₂ in (52 cm)
Very rare in this small single door form, a very closely related japanned bureau cabinet can be sene on display with the National Trust at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk (NT 1398392).

John Stalker and George Parker were responsible for publishing, in 1688, the earliest book in English on the subject of European lacquer entitled A Treatise of Japanning and Varnishing. This influential publication offered recipes, technical advice, and ‘above an Hundred distinct Patterns for Japan-work in Imitation of the Indians, for Tables, Stands, Frames, Cabinets, Boxes, &c’. In the treatise they explain that the high gloss finish for lacquer has such an effect that ‘no amorous Nymph need entertain dialogue with her glass or Narcissus retire to a fountain’. The publication listed eight possible ground colours for japanned furniture, including green.

Japanned work had several advantages over imported lacquer pieces as it was at the time often less expensive and provided an opportunity to create designs that conformed more to European taste and fashion. Nevertheless, japanning was still a costly process and these objects tended only to be found in only the wealthiest households.

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