Chiswick’s Nov. 7 auction led by rare Aesthetic Movement cabinet that incorporates Dutch Old Master painting
LONDON – A rare Aesthetic Movement cabinet combining Japanese lacquer panels and a Dutch Old Master painting comes up for sale at Chiswick Auctions on November 7. Made circa 1875, probably to a design by Thomas Jeckyll (English, 1827-1881), it is expected to bring £40,000-£60,000 ($48,440-$72,670).
Although entered in Chiswick’s Asian Art Part 2 sale, the cabinet is very much a cross-culture object of the Victorian period. Mounted as doors within an English rosewood frame are four lacquer and mother-of-pearl panels (two in the side doors and two in the sides of the cabinet) of birds amongst stylized blossoms that date from Japan’s Momoyama period, circa 1600. Such panels (these probably once forming part of a religious shrine made for the Portuguese market) were known as nanban lacquer, a reference to the word the Japanese used for foreigners.
A third door is in actuality a painting dated 1627 that depicts exotic and domestic fowl in a rustic landscape. It is signed for Pieter Holsteyn, an artist active in Haarlem who specialized in depictions of birds. That the panel was not reduced to fit the cabinet door, suggests it was carefully chosen in terms of size and subject matter.
Furniture incorporating Japanese lacquer was not a 19th-century invention. However, this cabinet was created during the peak of the Japonism movement, prompted by the “opening-up” of Japan during the Meiji period. It was possibly part of a larger design project. Jeckyll, the English architect best known for his planning in 1876 of the Peacock Room at 49 Princes Gate, produced similar furniture for Alexander Ionides (1810-1890) at 1 Holland Park.
Although the cabinet’s early history is unknown, it was part of the exhibition “Japan and Britain, An Aesthetic Dialogue, 1850-1930” that ran at the Barbican Art Gallery, London, in 1992 and later at the Setagaya Art Museum in Tokyo. In 2007, it was acquired by Andrew McIntosh Patrick, former director of the Fine Art Society, and housed first at his flat above the Fine Art Society and later at his Georgian property in Charing Cross, London.