This beautiful early eighteenth century japanned bureau-cabinet would have been a significant commission by a patron entranced by the exotic art of the Orient. Appropriate for the furnishing of a bedroom apartment, it is exotically decorated in the Oriental manner with gold on a glossy red ground, painted or 'japanned' in imitation of lacquer. It is decorated overall with vignettes inspired by contemporary Chinese screens and chests in the Chinoiserie style, in the fashion promoted by Messrs. Stalker and Parker whose A Treatise of Japanning and Varnishing, was published in 1688.
After the restoration of Charles II in 1660, trade with the Far East flourished and the supply of Chinese lacquer screens, cabinets and chests with Chinese ornament could not satisfy the high demand.The London cabinet-makers’ trade in such japanned wares was much boosted by the great difficulties in trade with China, making the acquisition of authentic lacquer extremely difficult at this date, whilst trade with Japan was impossible as they had largely closed their borders to the west.
Consequently, lacquer work was imitated by English and Continental cabinet-makers and amateur painters. This fashion reached its peak in the first decades of the eighteenth century, when this cabinet was produced. After this period, the craft declined as Oriental lacquer panels were once again incorporated into English cabinetwork. Examples of this later technique can be found in the work of the most prominent cabinet-makers including John Linnell at Badminton House and Thomas Chippendale at Nostell Priory and Harewood House.
Related bureau-cabinets of similar form include one sold Christie's, London 13 November, 2018, lot 159 (£106,250), another with the same waved apron sold Christie's, London 9 July 1992, lot 159 (£61,600) and a green gilt japanned bureau-cabinet with similar apron sold Christie's, New York, 19 April 2012, lot 42 ($302,500).