A Superb and Rare 18th Century European Japanned Chinoiserie Chest on Stand with important provenance.
English Circa 1780
Villa Guaita, Cadenabbia, Lombardy (Italy)
Sold by Galleria Pesaro of Milan in a house sale conducted on the premises in 1936 lot 347 and illustrated as plate 16 in the catalogue. We have pages clipped from the catalogue showing our piece in an interior room setting, presumably by the purchaser in 1936, and a pdf of the entire catalogue excluding illustrations is also available to the purchaser.
This fine chest on stand retains the original japanned (or European lacquer) finish which has been executed in a very unusual choice of colours. A pale green ground is employed throughout with chinoiserie decoration in gold, red and black depicting figures, birds, exotic gardens and floral vases. The piece employs a combination of nine drawers and two small cupboards with two drawers behind, each of these being surrounded by bands of diaper work used in the manner of cross banding on a veneered piece of furniture. The original floral engraved plate handles are all present and the cupboards open using the key as a handle and thus not interrupting the decoration in these areas. The decorative motifs used throughout are very much in the manner of those suggested by Stalker and Parker in their famous and influential A Treatise of Japanning published in London in 1688 but popular throughout Europe.
Unusually for a cabinet or chest of this sort, just as much time has been taken in designing the stand as the cabinet itself. Some cabinet / chest stands are very simple and perfunctory but this stand is anything but. Employing distinctive and highly interesting chamfering on the outside corners of the legs (a Chippendale design) rather than the more usual inside surfaces, these areas are further highlighted with the addition of japanned diaper work panels.
There are also several mouldings on the legs and feet simulating bamboo and painted the requisite colour. Interestingly these mouldings are even used on the back of the back legs-though they are not painted in this case. The use of mouldings on the back of a piece of furniture designed to stand against a wall and not be seen is a sign of additional quality as the mouldings could easily have been applied merely to the front in order to save time and money.
The elongated scroll brackets, of particularly large size, are a very attractive and unusual feature with other aspects of the design and decoration pointing to an English origin. The style of japanning is definitely English, therefore if seems an English origin as most likely. Our research has not uncovered any directly comparable stands or cabinets made using this same colour scheme so it is very difficult to be entirely definitive about the origins of the piece although we know it is definitely European. It is likely that this piece was produced for a “Chinese room” in the home of an 18th century connoisseur. Perhaps this room employed pale green Chinese wallpaper which would have been the perfect complement to this wonderful piece of furniture.
Villa Guaita, Cadenabbia
Built in 1922 (see Le province di Como e Lecco: il Lario, le ville, i parchi, Bellagio, Menaggio, Varenna p.71), the Villa survives today as a museum and tourist destination. On the shores of Lake Como, the villas in this area were holiday homes for families of great wealth and distinction and the art collection inside the villa reflected this. The collection was both luxurious and wide-ranging, taking in old master paintings of various schools, a large collection of engravings, Chinese, European and English, particularly Rockingham, porcelain and furniture from all of the great European centres such as London and Paris as well as plenty of Italian pieces. The auction catalogue produced for the sale was highly luxurious in itself with 800 numbered copies being produced and, as a result, many museums and libraries worldwide have copies of the sale catalogue in their collections as they were treasured by collectors of the period and saved for posterity.
Cadenabbia was a favoured holiday destination for British travellers from the 19th century onwards and it is here that the first Anglican church in Italy was built in 1891.
Width 44 inches – 112cm
Height 66 inches – 168cm
Depth 24 inches – 61 1/2cm