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  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1675-1679 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Japanned beech with caned seat

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    On display at Ham House, London

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.

Physical description

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.' and a countess's coronet). 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

London (made)


ca. 1675-1679 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Japanned beech with caned seat

Marks and inscriptions

Elizabeth Dysart


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

Notes from R.P. 49/1836

Listed on purchase form
as "chair - Japanned. From Ham House. English; about 1670.

10/8/49 letter from Mrs Tracey to Edwards
explains that the chair came from Ham House. Her father-in-law, the late Lord Sudeley, was Lord Dysart's first cousin and was brought up at Ham and married there. She writes about a black lacquer chair and believes it is one of 12, the other 11 still at Ham. Mrs Tracey offers to tell the story of how the chair came into her possession upon meeting Mr Edwards. She would like to sell it and wants it to go back to Ham.

17 August 1949 letter, Laver to Mrs Tracey
states that the chair is in very indifferent condition and there are already eight of these chairs; several in excellent preservation at Ham. He does not feel justified in giving more than £25 for it.

26 August 1949 letter, Mrs Tracey to Laver
accepts the offer of £25 as she is anxious that the chair should go back to Ham House. She enquires when she might visit Ham; she stayed there often in Lord Dysart's time.

2 September 1949 letter in response
thanks Mrs Tracey for enabling the return of the chair to its original home and advises her that the house is not yet open to visitors.

Descriptive line

Japanned and caned chair from Ham House, English, ca. 1675-1679

Production Note

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; Woodwork


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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