Queen Anne Japanned Pier Mirror
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About this piece
The divided upright bevelled arched mirror plate engraved at the centre with a stylised pineapple surrounded by repeat scolloped flowing forms, with a contained crack to the right side.
The moulded gold and black japanned border with raised decoration in the oriental manner with figures, dragons and pavilions surmounted with Christian crosses, all within a carved outer strapwork edge, with some minor restoration to revive the finish. The lower mirror plate is replaced.
English, circa 1710 - 1720
The inclusion of Christian Crosses on the pavilion roofs make for an interesting cultural appropriation (please see image 2). Christian missionary work was yet to target the Far East, and would not for another century or more, so the crosses are largely the work of imagination (with a dollop of artisan jesting) and emphasize the European origins of the mirror's production. They are also a confident visual assertion of presumed cultural hegemony, marking Europe's increasing move towards Imperialism in the 18th Century.
As the taste in Orientalism grew, to service demand the European market began imitating Asian lacquer with a technique which became know as Japanning. This used layers of varnish which were then polished to a glossy finish, as opposed to the former where the preparation is based on the dried sap of the Toxicodendron vernicifluum tree, which was not available in Europe.
True Asian lacquer work was rare in early 18th England, undoubtedly expensive and was often rec-cycled from exported chests and screens, then cut-down to fit frames, often paying little regard to the coherence of the design or composition. On the encouragement of home-grown japanning over the mis-use of imported lacquer-ware, John Stalker and George Parker, in their A Treatise of Japanning And Varnishing of 1688 (see image 2) observe that the … 'finest hodgpodg and medley of men and trees turned tospie turvie' would often result, the cost and exoticism of the lacquer far outweighing any considerations of beauty and proportion. (see image 3)
Provenance: Sir George Donaldson, Wateringbury Place, Kent & Kensington Square, London; by descent
H 115cm x W 51.5cm
H 45½" x W 20½"
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