In a previous post on the East Asian textiles at Osterley Park, I also mentioned the lacquer furniture there. The above secretaire, attributed to Thomas Chippendale, incorporates panels of Chinese lacquer as well as English japanning. It seems to have left Osterley at some point between 1922 and 1949.
After turning up at auction in Gateshead in 1993 its Osterley provenance was re-identified. An export licence application for it was deferred, which allowed the National Trust to purchase it in 1996 with the help of a private benefactor, the Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund.
As Simon Jervis writes in his article on the secretaire in the June 2006 issue of Apollo, the secretaire relates to two commodes attributed to Chippendale which had remained at Osterley.
The commodes also incorporate lacquer panels, the decoration of which is so similar to those on the secretaire that they may all have been taken from the same Chinese lacquer screen by the Chippendale workshop.
The straight lacquer panels were gently heated and painstakingly bent by Chippendale’s craftsmen to fit the curves of the commodes. English imitation lacquer, called ‘japan’ at he time, would then have been produced to fit the other surfaces.
The style of the commodes and the secretaire is French, which was considered to be advanced taste in Britain at that time. As simon Jervis notes, it was also French practice to combine a commode with a secretaire en suite, i.e. with the same decoration.
Moreover, the paterae and guilloche motifs on the secretaire are echoed by similar painted decoration in the Etruscan Dressing Room at Osterley.
Robert Child, who inherited a banking fortune on the unexpected death of his elder brother, employed Robert Adam to substantially rebuild and refurbish Osterley in the 1760s and 1770s. Adam often used Chippendale as a supplier of furniture and furnishings.
With thanks to Carl Deacon who located some of the images.