Keeping up with the Jansens

Dutch family taking tea, c. 1680, attributed to Roelof Koets II (c. 1650-1725). ©Sotheby's

Dutch family taking tea, c. 1680, attributed to Roelof Koets II (c. 1650-1725). ©Sotheby’s

The 17th-century Dutch family shown in the painting above are clearly very proud of their tea things. The wife and the child are dressed to the nines and the splendid Javanese lacquer table is filled expensive-looking tea utensils.

Javanese lacquer table in the Duchess's Private Closet at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Javanese lacquer table in the Duchess’s Private Closet at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

At this time the drinking of tea was still a relatively exotic and glamorous activity in Europe – perhaps reflected in the fact that it is the husband in the painting, the head of the household, who demonstratively holds the teapot. And it was obviously deemed appropriate to have a trendy oriental lacquer table to go with this trendy oriental drink.

Javanese lacquer table in the Balcony Room at Dyrham Park. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Javanese lacquer table in the Balcony Room at Dyrham Park. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Javanese lacquer tables from that period haven’t survived in large numbers, but they can still be found in a few English and German public collections.  I have just published a little article about them in the May 2013 issue of the National Trust’s Arts, Buildings and Collections Bulletin.

6 Responses to “Keeping up with the Jansens”

  1. style court Says:

    Thanks for the link. The article will likely address this, so I’ll click right over, but I’m intrigued by the mix of leg styles: barley twist under slightly cabriole? (At Ham House.) Intriguing. And those lacquer chairs were definitely on-trend :)

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes all (or at least as much as we know about these tables) is revealed in the article :) And yes in general the western cabriole leg is thought to have been originally inspired by the Asian cabriole leg,

  3. style court Says:

    Just read it. Makes perfect sense now. I think I’m partial to the non-raised example at Dyrham Park :) Also, I like how you note that some of the designs found on the lacquered furniture echo those seen in Javanese batiks.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Oh you are such a purist :)

  5. Susan Walter Says:

    What I have never understood is how you drank tea, made from boiling water, from those incredibly fine, handle-less cups.

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    That is a very good question. I don’t know exactly when teacup handles first came in. There is a Hogarth painting in the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester, entitled ‘The Wollaston family’ and dated to 1730, in which people still appear to be holding handleless cups (http://bbc.in/LTg11z). They are also showing off various elegant and meaningful ways of holding the cups and saucers, such as holding them aloft on thumb and forefinger and turning the cup upside down to indicate that one has had sufficient.

    Regarding the heat issue, one of the functions of the saucer seems to have been to act as a barrier between the hot tea and the fingers. And the cups were small so the dainty quantity of tea would cool quickly. And apparently sometimes people would pour the tea into to the saucer to speed up the cooling.

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