A rare pair of Chinese coromandel lacquer throne chairs, the incised polychrome decoration on a black lacquer ground, the prominent back splats and seats decorated with courtiers set in formal palace water gardens with pavilions, bridges and rock work, observed drinking tea, walking and fishing, flanked by stepped, archaistic pierced back and side rails all profusely decorated with birds among sprays of peonies, the stretchers similarly decorated, the legs terminating in stylised key pattern feet.
The lacquer decoration consolidated and refreshed.
The trend towards archaism was especially popular with the three great Qing emperors, Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong, who were all avid collectors and connoisseurs of antiques for their palaces. Numerous works of art commissioned in the style of ancient wares were produced throughout their reigns, and furniture was no exception. The angular and pierced shapes of these hall chairs originated from earlier panelled canopy daybeds used to receive dignitaries. They would have been manufactured in China and sold for export to Europe during the first half of the 18th century, when the taste for manufactured goods and curiosities from ‘the Indies’ was the height of popularity.
Coromandel was the term given in the 17th century to the Chinese trade of incised lacquer, in which the pictorial elements of the lacquered surface are defined by the different depths to which the lacquer has been cut revealing the ground coating, which is then coloured. In China it is known as ‘kuan cai’ which means ‘cut out and coloured lacquer’. This technique was first recorded in a document in Xiu Shi Lu; a 16th century book about the lacquer industry. It was often used on large screens, usually consisting of twelve panels. The production was concentrated in the Southern region of China close to the sea ports, namely in the provinces of Fujian, Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui. Coromandel itself is a misnomer because the lacquer did not originate from the Coromandel Coast of East India but from the Chinese coastal provinces surrounding Canton. The explanation for this term is that much of the British shipping sailed from the East India Trading Company's ports in India, directly to Britain, rather than from China, the lacquer being christened 'Coromandel' from its port of landing rather than from its port of origin. ‘Kuan cai’ or Coromandel lacquer was originally known in Britain as Bantam lacquer. The name comes from the fact that Bantam was an important trading post of the English East Indies Company in Java, when furniture decorated in this tradition started to be imported to this country.
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