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Antique Polychromed Chinoiserie Sewing box with embossed side handles and feet Circa 1820

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Reference: Sb425

Description:
SB425:  Sewing box with 
Japanned, raised and polychromed decoration on this sewing box depicting  a truly golden vision of Cathay. Figures relax in a garden with a distant rock in the background and the ho-ho bird above. This is a relatively late example of such work and it does not have an overall varnish. Note how the gold and the colors have remained brighter than in earlier examples. 8.5" wide.  Circa 1820.

Origin: UK

Circa: 1820


Size:  21.5 cm wide:   8.5 inches wide .

Condition: some wear but good over all, working lock and key.  see photos

 

SB425:  Sewing box with  Japanned, raised and polychromed decoration on this sewing box depicting  a truly golden vision of Cathay. Figures relax in a garden with a distant rock in the background and the ho-ho bird above. This is a relatively late example of such work and it does not have an overall varnish. Note how the gold and the colors have remained brighter than in earlier examples. 8.5" wide.  Circa 1820. Enlarge Picture

 

 SB425:  Sewing box with  Japanned, raised and polychromed decoration on this sewing box depicting  a truly golden vision of Cathay. Figures relax in a garden with a distant rock in the background and the ho-ho bird above. This is a relatively late example of such work and it does not have an overall varnish. Note how the gold and the colors have remained brighter than in earlier examples. 8.5" wide.  Circa 1820.  Enlarge Picture

The inside of the lid is covered with ruched blue silk which has a document wallet behind. 

The lift out tray is compartmentalized and covered in its original blue paper. 

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This box is illustrated on page 25 of our book

Antique Boxes, Tea Caddies, and Society, 1700--1880 
Antigone Clarke & Joseph O'Kelly,
ISBN: 0764316885

 

The land beyond, somewhere in the east, was generally called Cathay and was perceived as nothing short of miraculous. Marco Polo (1254-1324) was the first to bring the world of Cathay to the attention of Europe . Although this work appeared centuries before chinoiserie was first attempted in the west, the descriptions of the splendors of such places as the winter palace of Kublai Khan with its fabulous Green Mount garden, had a profound influence in the many attempts at recreating the fairy tale world of the paradoxically arranged 'natural' landscape of the east.

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The Stalker and Parker book epitomizes the confusion which prevailed in Europe regarding anywhere east of the Mediterranean Sea . The title reads: Treatise of Japanning and Varnishing. The designs are Patterns for Japan-work in imitation of the Indians! The advice given in the book was most probably deduced from Chinese imported lacquer and from Dutch craftsmen who had observed Chinese and Japanese lacquer workers.

Confusion of terms apart, the contribution of this book to the spread of japanned chinoiserie cannot be overstated. Arcane information about the properties of gums and varnishes was freely given. Instructions on how to coat a wooden surface and how to varnish to a mirror like finish were explained in detail. Pigments to be used for the attainment of different colors were listed with their properties. The reader was also tutored in the use of metal dusts for creating special effects, a direct copy from Chinese and Japanese practices. The different instruments needed were also described. These were such things as quills, varnishing pencils and Dutch rushes (a horse tail used for polishing).

The gist of the instructions and of similar instructions given in other publications was that the surface of the wood should be coated in whiting and parchment size in as many layers as was necessary. Each layer should be dried completely before the next coat was applied. If the decoration was to incorporate raised parts, these were to be built up with a paste made of gum arabic, water and whiting. For extra hardness, fine sawdust could also be mixed into the paste. A rush pencil stick was to be used to build up and shape the raised surfaces which were to form the artificial rocks, mountains and other features in the landscape. People, birds, buildings, animals and plants could be given a three dimensional effect by first raising and then incising and painting their shapes.

 

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All text and images and linked images are 1999-2007 Antigone Clarke and Joseph O'Kelly. If you require any further information on permitted use, or a licence to republish any material, email us at copyright@hygra.com