Seeing red at the Royal Pavilion

Detail from a panel in the south wall of the Music Room at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, painted by Frederick Crace, oil on canvas. ©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove, photograph Jim Pike

Detail from a panel in the south wall of the Music Room at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, painted by Frederick Crace, oil on canvas. ©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove, photograph Jim Pike

Another example of the decorative complexity of the Royal Pavilion, which Alexandra Loske discussed in her recent talk, is the ‘red lacquer’ used on the walls in the Music Room.

Coloured engraving of a Chinese city gate after William Alexander, published by G. and W. Nicol, London, 1798, and later included in the book The Costume of China (1805). ©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove, photograph Jim Pike

Coloured engraving of a Chinese city gate after William Alexander, published by G. and W. Nicol, London, 1798, and later included in the book The Costume of China (1805). ©Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove, photograph Jim Pike

As Alexandra explains, the motifs for this scheme were derived from illustrated books on China, such as William Alexander’s The Costume of China (1805).

Japanned cabinet imitating Chinese lacquer, at Snowshill Manor, inv. no. 1331909. ©National Trust/Claire Reeves

Japanned cabinet imitating Chinese lacquer, at Snowshill Manor, inv. no. 1331909. ©National Trust/Claire Reeves

The colour scheme, however, is clearly influenced by red and gold Asian lacquer, which had long been popular in the west.

The Japan Room at Frogmore House by Charles Wild, 1819. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

The Japan Room at Frogmore House by Charles Wild, 1819. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Both at Buckingham Palace and at Frogmore House on the Windsor estate there were chinoiserie interiors incorporating lacquer and lacquer effects, which may also have influenced the Prince Regent and his design team.

View of the Music Room at the Royal Pavilion, engraved by J. Agar, J. Stephanoff and J. Tingli after Augustus Charles Pugin, 1824, and used to illustrate John Nash’s book The Royal Pavilion at Brighton (1826). © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

View of the Music Room at the Royal Pavilion, engraved by J. Agar, J. Stephanoff and J. Tingli after Augustus Charles Pugin, 1824, and used to illustrate John Nash’s book The Royal Pavilion at Brighton (1826). © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

However, Alexandra also noted the artistry of the designers purely at the level of colour. The Music Room is dominated by the three primary colours red, blue and yellow/gold in pure, saturated tints. This combining of complementary colours was known from contemporary colour theory to produce a particularly brilliant effect.

6 Responses to “Seeing red at the Royal Pavilion”

  1. Mark D. Ruffner Says:

    Please feel free to omit my comment, but I would call red, blue and yellow primary colors.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Mark, yes but are we not saying the same thing? Or am I missing your meaning?

  3. robert dyer Says:

    Hello Emile,

    The inference is almost that the Chinoiserie interiors at Frogmore might be past tense. Is that so? I’m certain they’re not at Buckingham Palace.
    I might also add that the Japanned cabinet from Snowshill Manor is marvelous. I’m envious, but so glad it’s with the right caregivers.
    Cheers, Robert

  4. Michael Shepherd Says:

    Combining the themes of Chinoisserie and Chinese Wallpaper it may be worth having a look at the splendid “India Cabinets” in The Drawing Room at Boughton House. They are C17 lacquer cabinets on a white background with multi-coloured decoration rather similar to that used in the designs of later wallpaper. According to the guidebook they were recorded in 1690 as being in Ralph Montagu’s Bedroom. I will try and obtain a picture.

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Robert, yes those c. 1800 chinoiserie interiors at Buckingham Palace and Frogmore have disappeared.

    The japanned panels at Frogmore were created by Princess Elizabeth, one of the sisters of George IV, who was a talented artist. She appears to have taken them with her to Bad Homburg when she married the Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg in 1818.

    I am pleased you like the japanned cabinet at Snowshill. It is slightly puzzling in being more Chinese in style than is usual for a chinoiserie cabinet. There are lots of interesting cabinets at Snowshill, bot in real lacquer and japanned, as collector Charles Paget Wade seems to have had a penchant for them.

    Thanks very much Michael. Is this them: http://bit.ly/1qzr618 ? Yes there does seem to be a connection between the taste for Asian lacquer in Europe and the development of Chinese wallpaper. The fact that lacquer was sometimes inserted into wall paneling in the late seventeenth century may have given people the idea to commission large-scale Chinese ‘wallpaper’ rather than just buying Chinese pictures on paper and silk. But frustratingly the exact moment when western-taste Chinese wallpaper was born is still shrouded in darkness!

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