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.
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 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.