The cabinet shown in Figs. 520 and 521 dates from the reign of George I, the carved stand being a free adaptation from French sources. The ground is a red lacquer, with ornament raised in gold, well drawn and executed. This example closes the series of cabinets on gilded stands, the fashion after about 1745 being to design the stand to accord with the cabinet, and to lacquer it to correspond.
Fig. 518. Picture Painted On Glass (English) In The Chinese Taste. - 2 ft. 8 ins. high by 1 ft. 10 1/2 ins. wide. Date about 1750.
The Chinese cabinets, now so rare, were obviously accepted as models by the English artists, and the time when they were imported coincides with the best period of the English work. It is not the fact that, with the development of the fashion, greater skill in execution followed as a natural course. Not only is the taste displayed in the eighteenth-century lacquer work of a lower order than was manifested in the late seventeenth, but the time which was necessary to produce a fine ground was also begrudged. It is from 1670 to about 1700 that the finest English lacquer-work was produced, in all probability by the Dutch artists of this period who were domiciled in the East Anglian counties. When we remember that the drawer sides and bottoms, both outside and inside, and the drawer cavities themselves, were always lacquered and finished with sprinkled gold dust in these early cabinets, and that the running of the drawers produced a considerable friction, it is a testimony to the quality of the lacquer work itself that it has persisted for some two hundred years with comparatively little evidence of wear.
The later lacquer, that of the closing years of the seventeenth and nearly the whole of the eighteenth century, differs from the early work in one important respect; it becomes merely an incidental decoration. The early cabinets, and even some of later date, such as those illustrated here, were specifically intended for lacquering; no alternative finish is possible if we exclude marqueterie, and even with inlay of any kind the gilt stands would have been very incongruous. During the eighteenth century, however, we find lacquer used merely as an alternative to veneering. Another important difference between the early and much of the later work is that in the latter there is little or no attempt made to produce a true lacquered ground, after the Chinese or Japanese manner; it becomes merely decorative painting and nothing more. With this work we return to familiar pieces which we have seen in earlier chapters, here lacquered instead of being veneered. It is with this work that considerable knowledge and experience is required to detect the modern copy, that is, the old and probably dilapidated piece, one which has lost much or all of its original veneer, and has been lacquered as an alternative and cheaper " restoration." In the wood, form or construction there is, obviously, nothing to guide the collector. Lacquer work of good or high quality, such as the bureau cabinet from the Victoria and Albert Museum, shown here in Fig. 522, may be regarded as above suspicion. A good red ground is rarely produced in the modern forgery. The deep sealing-wax colour, and especially the transparency, of the old work may be too costly; certainly it is rarely, if ever, imitated. Bureau cabinets with the familiar double-domed cornice of the early Queen Anne period, especially when the lacquered ground is either green or blue, are always to be suspected, and if any evidence exist that any portion other than the lipping of the fall, which surrounds the lining of the writing bed, be veneered, then the piece can be dismissed, almost with certainty, as a forgery. One should beware, however, of rejecting any example of lacquer-work merely because it corresponds in form and detail with others either veneered with walnut or inlaid with marqueterie; this alternative finish was frequently adopted in original work. Thus the mirror from Lyme Park, Fig. 523, is of a type usually found either veneered with walnut in oyster-pieces or inlaid with marqueterie in panels, yet is an original example of a lacquered frame, and of finequality. With the later square cabinets, either on chest stands, such as Fig. 524, or on tables with square-sectioned legs, such as Fig. 525, we have the brass mounts as some guide, and there is also the evidence of the design itself that no other finish than lacquer is possible. When the work is of fine and costly quality, such as on Fig. 524, the piece may be accepted as original, although following the general lines of the veneered furniture of the same date.
C. 1690. Capt. The Hon. Sir John H. Ward. K.C.V.O.
Fig. 519. Cabinet Of Green Lacquer, With Gold Decoration, On A Carved And Gilt Stand.
Fig. 520. Cabinet Of Red Lacquer On A Carved Gilt Stand. - Date about 1720. C. H. F. Kinderman, Esq.
Fig. 521. The Cabinet, Fig. 520, Shown Open.
Fig. 522. Bureau Cabinet In Red Lacquer. - Date about 1700. 368 - Victoria and Albert Museum.
Fig. 523. mirror with frame of black lacquer. - Date about 1700. Capt. The Hon. Richard Legh.
The eighteenth century was essentially the age of Chinese fashions, not one, but several periods being marked by a recurrence of the Oriental taste. In the early years the art was confined to lacquer and to imitations of the Chinese paintings on glass, such as Fig. 518. Sir William Chambers carried the manner into buildings and summer houses, Chippendale and Sheraton both designed in the "Chinese Taste." Horace Walpole levelled several diatribes at the "Chinoiserie" of his age, but as he perpetrated Strawberry Hill, after having referred, scornfully, but justly, to Batty Langley's Gothic, he can scarcely be regarded as a qualified critic of style. The vogue for the Oriental ran riot eventually, as such crazes usually do, and culminated in the Pavilion at Brighton, after which comment is needless. It inaugurated, however, the taste for Chinese wallpapers, many of which are deserving of high praise, both as regard design and execution.