This spectacular bureau cabinet reflects the fascination with Japanese and Chinese luxury goods in the early eighteenth century, seen through a distinctly European lens. The bright red surface imitated Asian lacquer. The motifs evoke the people and sights of the Far East, but they reflect the limited knowledge and stereotyped views that Europeans held of these distant countries. At the time the cabinet was made, this style of imitation lacquer and decoration was called “Japanning.” The original owner may have displayed small Asian porcelains in the upper niches.


"Japanned" Bureau Cabinet

c. 1720

Oak, wood veneer (probably pear), pine; red and black pigments and varnish; areas of raised gesso; silvered, gilt, and painted decoration; brass.

89 × 40 9/16 × 23 1/4 in. (226 × 103 × 59 cm)

Acquired by the Clark, 2018