Illustrated FURNITURE Glossary

Lacquered furniture

Lacquer: A colored or opaque varnish made of shellac dissolved in alcohol, sometimes with pigment added.

Lacquerwork: Articles covered with a lacquer surface on which flat or relief designs are drawn. A fashionable furniture finish and form of decoration in Europe from the mid-17th to the late-18th century.

Chinese and Japanese lacquer is a hard varnish made by applying a recipe which contains sap from the Rhus tree - sometimes known as the "lacquer tree" - to wooden surfaces. The process is repeated many times and rubbed down between each coat.

The resultant surfaces, after curing, are durable, capable of taking a high shine, and will resist boiling water and acids.

Lacquer objects over 1000 years old have been found in China and Japan.

Although the subject matter of European lacquerwork originally derived from oriental prototypes, the motifs used gradually became more Westernized.

Lacca povera: The laborious preparation of the lacquer and the high costs of working with these traditional techniques forced craftsmen to invent a more speedy and less costly method. Instead of drawing and painting decoration and figures on furniture, they glued them on. The method consisted of of applying to the furniture engravings, taken from popular catalogs, then printed on paper and cut pout. These would then be covered by layers of varnish to level and finish off the surfaces.

Japanning: An 18th-century finishing process. Furniture and metalwork were enameled with colored shellac, the decoration shaped in relief and painted in color and gilt. The technique was an imitation of the Japanese work imported by the Dutch into Europe during the 17th century.

See also: chinoiserie ..... Lacquer (Search Antiques)

Photos and their arrangement © 2005 Chuck LaChiusa
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