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  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1688 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cabinet of pine and oak, with japanned decoration; stand of silvered pinewood, with a yellow glaze of gum resin; engraved brass

  • Museum number:

    W.29:1 to 14-1912

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 56c, case 3 []

Object Type
The cabinet is fitted with drawers, although their handles are later 18th-century replacements. The original external hinges are different in character from the corner mounts and central lock plates, which are pierced and engraved with Chinoiserie designs. The form of the stand with the coarsely carved caryatid figures is typical of English late-17th-century carving.

Materials & Making
The scale and drawing of this cabinet's japanning is na‹ve, suggesting that it pre-dates 1688, when the most common source book for this type of decoration appeared. Published in Oxford by John Stalker and George Parker as A Treatise of Japanning and Varnishing, this book was intended to assist amateur decorators as well as professional cabinet-makers.

The cabinet belonged to Robert Weymiss Symonds (1889-1958), an architect and designer of furniture and interiors. Symonds was also an outstanding furniture historian who published extensively; his first articles appeared in 1922. He advised a number of important collectors. This acquisition, which was made by the V&A when Symonds was just 22, demonstrates his early interest in English furniture.

Physical description

Cabinet of black lacquer on wood with brass mounts, on carved and silvered stand. The cabinet is enclosed in front with two doors, each mounted with five brass hinges, lock-plates and angle pieces of openwork and engraved brass, the cabinet having eight similar angle pieces, and two edge plates. The decoration on the doors consists of flowers, figures and geese in gold lacquer and coloured, gilt and silvered composition in relief, the sides being similarly decorated with houses and trees. The interior of the doors and the fronts of the eleven drawers are decorated in the same manner. The stand, which is covered with silver leaf, has four cabriole legs carved with terminal figures of cherubs and terminating with bold acanthus scrolls. The front and sides of the stand are carved with the heads of cherubs and birds and foliage of openwork. The handles of the drawers are not original.

Place of Origin

England (made)


ca. 1688 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Cabinet of pine and oak, with japanned decoration; stand of silvered pinewood, with a yellow glaze of gum resin; engraved brass


Height: 159 cm

Object history note

This object was formerly the property of Rev. J. Dene of Horwood House, Bideford. It was purchased by the V&A for £450 in 1912 from Robert Weymiss Symonds (b.1890), an architect and designer of furniture and interiors.
Condition on acqusition "Portions of raised composition missing from the outside of the doors. Silvering worn on stand."

Historical context note

This piece shows the experimental character of early attempts at imitation of oriental lacquer. The greens employed are of a viridian tone, never repleated on later examples. The stand is carved in the florid baroque manner of ca.1675.

Comparable objects
Japanned cabinet on stand (1675-1700), at Chastleton House (National Trust), in Adam Bowett, English Furniture 1660-1714, (Woodbridge, 2002), plate 5:16, p.156
Stand supporting a cabinet at Parham House (green ante-room, 2002)
Charles II black japanned cabinet on a carved silvered stand, Bonhams London 'Fine English Furniture and Works of Art', 12/03/2014, Lot No. 202
Cabinet on stand, Christie's, 04/12/1984, Lot No. 156

Descriptive line

Cabinet on stand, pine and oak, Japanned, England, ca.1688

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Honour, H. Chinoiserie: The Vision of Cathay(London: John Murray)
p.53; p253; pl.30
CESCINSKY, Herbert & Ernest Gribble: Early English Furniture & Woodwork. Vol. II. (London, 1922), pp.348-9; dated to about 1670-80
E. Alfred Jones M.A., F.R, Hist.S., Some Old English Furniture Makers, part 1, in Connoisseur May1920 (vol. LVII), p.23-27, ill. p.23

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This cabinet has been painted, or 'japanned', in imitation of lacquer from Japan and China. Japanned cabinets on European gilt stands such as this one were very fashionable after about 1670 throughout northern and central Europe. They were often placed in a room decorated in oriental style and containing a collection of Eastern porcelain. [27/03/2003]
Black lacquer on a carved and silvered stand.
English; about 1675. [1968]
Japanned beech cabinet on a carved and silvered stand.
English; about 1675

The cabinet shows the experimental character of early attempts in this country to imitate imported oriental lacquer, although it should be noted that the exterior has undergone considerable later restoration. The stand is strongly influenced by Dutch examples. [06/1989]


Pine; Oak; Brass


Japanning; Lacquering; Gilding; Engraving; Glazing

Subjects depicted

Cherubs; Houses




Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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