It is during the early Chippendale era, which may be said to commence about 1750, that this taste for Chinese forms and decoration extended to the bedroom. At this period the Chinese furniture at Badminton and elsewhere was made, where the design as well as the decoration is in the pseudo-Chinese manner as popularised by Chippendale, and especially by Matthias Darly. The wardrobe shown here in Fig. 526 is somewhat earlier than this, when the decoration was inspired from Persia or India rather than from China. In the hands of Thomas Chippendale, the Chinese forms became a design-basis rather than a mere surface decoration, his more familiar motives being the applied fret, the lattice, either in glazing bars or in open fretwork, and the pagoda. To this period belong the remarkable pair of hanging cabinets from Rainham, one of which is shown here in Fig. 527. The entire spirit of the design, as well as the superb execution, suggest the hand of Thomas Chippendale himself. Beginning each with a nucleus of four Japanese panels, which are used for the backs, these cabinets are, otherwise, entirely of English make, with the lattice of the doors and the ribs of the pagoda gilt, and the flat surfaces everywhere enriched with finely drawn ornament on a black ground. Late as these cabinets are, they represent the zenith of English lacquer, and are, truly, a remarkable pair in every respect, and may 'fittingly close the illustrative material both of this chapter, and the book itself.
The detection of modern lacquer-work, which has been "faked" to give an appearance of age, is a matter rather for the trained expert than for the amateur collector, as already pointed out. Such signs as texture of woods, and methods of construction, are hidden by the lacquering itself, and as quality, in the original pieces themselves, varies from the highest to the very lowest, - often a mere daubing with black or coloured paint and a crude design traced in gold or colours, - this criterion is equally of no avail. Modern work, executed within the past one or two years, can be detected by the familiar trick of rubbing the piece with the milled edge of a coin placed in a single fold of a white handkerchief, - when, if the white linen be marked by the paint of the lacquered ground, the piece is unquestionably of recent make. With spirit varnishes or shellac polishes, which dry thoroughly in a week or two, however, this test will not answer. The smell of polish or varnish, which cavities, such as drawer interiors or cupboards, harbour for a long period, is suspicious, and it is no less suspicious if artificial perfumes have been used, presumably, to hide this smell. As a general rule, however, a minute acquaintance with the technique, methods of gesso-raising, and design-forms are absolutely necessary weapons in the armoury of the expert, and these cannot be acquired other than by the examination and handling of many authentic examples, such as at Badminton and elsewhere. Nearly every ancestral house of any note contains some specimens of seventeenth and eight-teenth-century lacquer, and, where opportunity presents itself, these should be carefully examined and studied at leisure.
Fig. 524. Black Lacquered Cabinet. - Date about 1700 - 5. - Messrs. Gregory and Co.
In the carved gilded stands of the square cabinets of the Stuart period, the original finish is always a gold lacquer on silver leaf, and the metal itself is always very economically used. Thus, on the back, and the parts of the ornament which are not readily seen, such as the underneath or the reverse of the pierced and carved " aprons," the wood is always left in the yellow preparation. Where the " gold " has worn on the exposed faces, as is nearly always the case, the underlying preparations should be red or yellow. Blue burnish was never used, and is always a sign of recent gilding, and, probably, of recent manufacture also, as nothing can be so quickly and easily " aged " as gilded carving.
Fig 525. Black Lacquered Cabinet. - Date about 1750 - 60. - Messrs. Gill and Reigate.
Fig. 526. Wardrobe In Black Lacquer. - Date about 1730.
Original metal work of the period, such as hinges and lock-plates, is always of hard brass with a considerable alloy of zinc. These hinges and lock-plates were almost invariably fixed with round-headed brass pins; rarely, if ever, with screws. If an opportunity occur of removing one of these hinge plates, the back, and the place which it has covered, may afford a good deal of evidence of age, or otherwise. The locks are nearly always of the multiple-bolt variety - from four to six bolt-tangs being quite usual, - and the key, if purporting to be original, may be carefully examined with advantage. Where a cabinet is in movable parts, such as a square one on its gilded stand, or in two or more carcases, these should be removed and examined on the touching surfaces, as such cabinet must have been moved from place to place, and this would be done piecemeal. Drawer-cavities and the inside of cupboards, especially in the corners and interstices, may yield some information. Above all, always suspect the minutely crazed lacquer surface; a coating of strong dextrine applied, before the ground is thoroughly hard, allowed to stand for a week, and then washed off, will produce a beautiful crazed pattern. The usual hints, which apply to other furniture, may be observed with advantage, especially if allied with strong common sense and an absence of prejudice.
Fig. 527. Lacquered Hanging China Cabinet. - (One of a pair.) - 4 it. 10 1/2 ins. total height; 2 ft. 61 ins. wide; 9 1/4 ins. deep outside. - Date about 1750-5. - The Marquis of Townshend.