A very rare and unusual Chinese export folding lacquer and bamboo tea table. The stand is constructed from finely wrought sections of bamboo, the upper frieze having pierced ornament. The bamboo itself is painted to enhance its appearance with stylised cloud patterns. Each element is numbered in both Chinese and English. The top is of fine quality black and gold lacquer and has a carved simulated bamboo gallery.
Inspired by Sir William Chambers.
Sir William Chambers was born in Gôteborg, Sweden, of Scottish parentage in 1723. At the age of sixteen, he joined the Swedish East India Company and voyaged to India and China for nine years. His architectural education began in 1749 under Blondel (1705-1774) in Paris and then in Italy between 1750 and 1755, where he went to see Rome’s ancient grandeur at first hand. In Rome, he met Lord Charlemont who was touring the Mediterranean, collecting artworks and books and was to be his greatest non-royal private patron. In 1757, back in England, he was appointed architectural tutor to the Prince of Wales from which position he became Architect to the King with Robert Adam (1728-1792), Comptroller in 1769 and Surveyor General in 1782. In 1770 he received a knighthood. This royal patronage allowed Chambers to experiment in small-scale architectural ornament for the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. This experience was to provide him with an essential background in the design of the Casino at Marino.
His style is best described as scholarly but eclectic, heavily based on English Palladianism but with overtones of the Neo-Classicism prevalent in France at the time. After 1759 and the publication of his first book ‘The Treatise on Civil Architecture’, Chambers had risen to the top of his profession allowing him lucrative commissions including the reworking of Buckingham House in London. His best known works are the Pagoda (1757-1762) at Kew Gardens and Somerset House in London and the Casino for Lord Charlemont at Marino in Dublin. Other works in Dublin included work at Trinity College where he designed the Examination Hall and the Chapel in the main college quadrangle. Apart from the Casino, Chambers also designed Charlemont House (1763) for Lord Charlemont, now the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Parnell Square, and Lucan House in County Dublin. Chambers completed these commissions even though he never set foot in Ireland during his lifetime. After Chambers's death in 1796, Lord Charlemont wrote these lines about the architect who had become his friend:
Sir William Chambers, Knight, Etc.,
Fellow of the Royal Academy,
And Professor of Architecture,
The Best of men, and the First of English Architects,
Whose Buildings, Modelled From His Own Mind,
Elegant, Pure, and Solid,
Will Long Remain the Lasting Monuments,
Of That Taste,
Whose Chastity Could Only be Equalled,
By The Immaculate Purity of The Author’s Heart,
James, Earl of Charlemont, His Friend
From Long Experience of His Worth and Talents,
Dedicates The Inscription
To Him And Friendship.
Sir William Chambers’ Designs for Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, etc (published in 1757 after he visited China in his youth), heavily influenced the interior decorative schemes of Brighton Pavilion. These interiors were designed by the firm of John Crace & Sons, who the Prince Regent hired to give the Pavilion a “Chinese look”. Originally it was furnished in 1802 with real bamboo acquired by Crace, possibly through the cargoes of Dr James Garrett. Garrett was an agent employed previously by the Prince at Carlton House to buy a variety of Oriental objects and decorations directly from China. The London firm of Elward, Marsh and Tatham were also commissioned at the same time, to make a large amount of furniture in beech simulating bamboo. In some cases these pieces incorporated real bamboo, Chinese lacquer panels and rattan fretwork into their designs.
In addition two tables with similar richly decorated bamboo friezes and legs are housed in the Chinese Pavilion at Drottningholm Palace, which is the largest residence of the Swedish Royal Family near Stockholm. The Pavilion was a birthday present to Queen Lovisa Ulrica from her husband King Adolf Fredrik on her 33rd birthday in 1753. Less than a decade later, the royal architect, Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz, was commissioned to build a new “China” and this is the pavilion which still stands. It has been described as “[a]n exquisite and unique monument to the passion for ‘the Chinese taste’ which swept through 18th century Europe, an extremely charming blend of the genuinely Chinese and of Swedish Rococo, with touches of Classicism, of French-inspired chinoiserie and ‘Chinese’ furnishings based on contemporary English prints.” During the 18th century attempts were made to create a convincing Chinese interior by using lacquer screens and wall coverings but the use of authentic Chinese furniture was rare. Two exceptions are bamboo tables in the Bedchamber and the Ante-room to the Cabinet on the upper floor. One is rectangular and the other one has an octagonal frieze. The tops are both of black lacquer with no decoration, the legs of natural bamboo while the frieze is more ornate. In both tables the joining is done entirely by wooden pegs and plugs, and the round table has folding legs. This type of furniture is wholly Chinese, but could very well have been used in 18th century exotic interiors. Bamboo furniture is to be found in several other Chinese milieux in Sweden, such as Godegård and Värnanäsm.
The round table is illustrated in Äke Setterwall (with other contributions), The Chinese Pavilion at Drottningholm, Allhems Förlag Malmö, Sweden, 1974, p. 145.
Äke Setterwall (with other contributions), The Chinese Pavilion at Drottningholm, Allhems Förlag Malmö, Sweden, 1974.
Clifford Musgrave, Royal Pavilion: An Episode in the Romantic, published by Leonard Hill [Books] Limited, London, 1959. Gervase Jackson-Stops, John Nash: Views of the Royal Pavilion, published by Pavilion Books Limited, London, 1991.
CONDITION REPORT ON REQUEST.