- Place of origin:
ca. 1675 (made)
- Materials and Techniques:
Japanned beech with caned seat
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
British Galleries, Room 56c, case 3
This remarkable chair, 'japanned' in imitation of East Asian lacquer, has also been given a form that the maker clearly imagined to be Oriental -- but which would have seemed just as bizarre to Chinese or Japanese eyes as to Europeans. It belongs to a group of chairs (of three slightly different patterns) at Ham House in Surrey. In the 1670s and 1680s several 'Japan'd backstooles [chairs] with Cane bottomes [seats]' were inventoried in the house, together with numerous other pieces of japanned and lacquer furniture. These chairs were clearly highly valued, for they were placed in the Duchess of Lauderdale's private closet and in the Antechamber to the 'Queen's Bedchamber' (in the apartment set aside for a royal visit). The caned seats were covered with cushions in expensive silk or mohair, trimmed with silk and gold or silver fringe.
The maker has not been identified, but could prove to be the London upholsterer John Ridge. The decoration of a set of armchairs by Ridge at Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, is reminiscent of the Ham House pieces.
On loan to Ham House.
Japanned beechwood with caned seat. Ornamented in gold and colours on a black (or dark green) ground. The legs and the uprights framing the back slightly curved in cabriole fashion. The cresting bears the coronet and cypher of Elizabeth Dysart (the initials 'E.D.L.' for Elizabeth Duchess of Lauderdale or Elizabeth Dysart Lauderdale and a ducal coronet, according to Rowell (2013) p.125). The splat ornamented with two water birds wading beside a tree. Between the legs on all four sides a shaped apron Japanned with floral motives. The front and rear legs connected by two flat shaped stretchers with a cross bar.
Modifications and Wear:
Metal corner brackets screwed on all 4 corners underneath the seat. All 4 feet touch the ground only under one 'toe'. The crest rail has a pronounced curve. The rear uprights taper at the foot and above the seat. The front legs taper at the feet. Large splatters of glue (?) on the stretcher.
Place of Origin
ca. 1675 (made)
Materials and Techniques
Japanned beech with caned seat
Marks and inscriptions
Height: 122 cm, Width: 48 cm maximum shoulder, Depth: 52.5 cm, Height: 53 cm seat
Object history note
Chair purchased from Mrs Hanbury Tracey, Eaton Square for £25.
See Christopher Rowell, Ham House – 400 years of collecting and patronage. (Yale University press, London, 2013), p.125 for a brief discussion of the 'set of japanned seat furniture bearing her cipher - this time 'EDL' ('Elizabeth Duchess [of] Lauderdale' or 'Elizabeth Dysart Lauderdale') beneath a ducal coronet) [which] was clearly made for her own private sanctum on the south-east corner of the ground floor, still known as the Duchess's Private Closet. Three [sic] of these exotically designed and decorated cane-bottomed faux lacquer backstools, c.1675, survive, and were probably from the set of 'six Japan'd backstools with cane bottoms' listed in her Private Closet in 1683. The cane seats were provided with cushions matching the wall hangings.'
See also Adam Bowett, English Furniture 1660-1714, (Woodbridge, 2002), p.156, "English japanning encompasses many grades of quality. In some case it consists of little more than paint varnished over with shellac...At the other end of the scale are examples such as the chair... of which there are two sets at Ham House. These were made for the Duchess of Lauderdale, one set being installed in her Private Closet and probably used en suite with the lacquered tea table [shown in fig. 1:12]. The curious design probably derives from the Italian sgabello chair, of which a number of English-made examples are known. The japanning is clearly not the work of an amateur, nor of a cheap workshop, and such skills were worth advertising..."
This chair was previously on display at Ham House. It returned in April 2017.
Japanned and caned chair from Ham House, English, ca. 1675
This chair is from one of three very similar sets at Ham House, comprising four of one pattern (National Trust, HH 115–c), four of another (HH 115d–f and V&A, W.48-1949; Fig. 75) and a singleton (HH 115g). They are probably survivors of the sets inventoried at Ham in 1677, 1679 and 1683, in the White Closet (four armchairs and one ‘back stoole’ in 1677 and 1679, but six armchairs by 1683); the Duchess’s Private Closet (six chairs); and the Antechamber to the Queen’s Bedchamber (twelve chairs by 1683, matching(?) one that was in place by 1679) (Thornton and Tomlin, Ham House (1980), pp. 78, 83, 138). A set of three chairs and two armchairs at Holyroodhouse (RCIN 27917.1–3; 27931.1–2) have japanned front stretchers of similar flat form and elaborately shaped outline to the components of these chairs. The Holyrood chairs have been associated with John Ridge’s 1682 account for a japanned suite supplied for the Duchess of Hamilton (Margaret Swain, ‘The State Beds at Holyroodhouse’ (1978), p. 59; DEFM, pp. 746–47; Ian Gow, Holyroodhouse (1995), pp. 18–19 (ill.); Adam Bowett, English Furniture (2002), pl. 5:14)
Furniture and Woodwork Collection