Within furniture design, the black lacquer from Japan was a sought after commodity during the 1700s in Europe. Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers in Copenhagen now presents a magnificent example within the genre in the shape of a George III commode, attributed to the English cabinetmaker John Cobb.
"Today, the cabinetmaker John Cobb (ca. 1715-1778) is regarded as one of the greatest figures of British furniture history. His specialty was to incorporate Japanese lacquerware from the Edo period in his furniture pieces – a trend that was more commonly seen in the works of French cabinetmakers. Cobb’s furniture can today be seen at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and at the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Liverpool. In addition, two furniture pieces attributed to Cobb have just been presented at the antique fair TEFAF in New York", says Anders Fredsted, valuation specialist in antiques at Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers.
Sublime Quality and Gilt Bronze Fittings
The offered commode was made around 1765, and its lacquered surface is decorated with fine landscapes, flowers and foliage in gold. When we ascribe the furniture to John Cobb it is due to the sublime quality of the work, but also because the gilded bronze fittings that in their shape match those known from his other furniture pieces. The commode comes from the art collector John Hardy, who was employed at the Victoria & Albert Museum for many years.
The Inclusion of Lacquer in European Furniture
Since the 1500s, Asian furniture and art pieces have been sought after in the West as a result of the increased trade with the Far East. It was during the Momoyama period that Asian works of art were exported to Europe courtesy of the Portuguese fleet. In the 1700s, the demand for the elaborate Japanese lacquer furniture was particularly pronounced.
The European cabinetmakers also tried their hand at making lacquer furniture with mixed results. For the application of the coveted lacquer one used the sap of the Rhus vernicifera plant. The technique was extremely laborious and time-consuming – the black, thick liquid had to be applied in thin layers up to 70 times with a slow drying and polishing process between each layer. The final part of the process was to sprinklethe furniture with metallic powder, in order to create the often elaborate decorations.
Other cabinetmakers went as far as hiring Japanese and Chinese lacquerers for their production, while others imported finished lacquerware from Japan and placed these on their own furniture pieces, which was adapted for a European standard and taste. This was also the case with the work of John Cobb.
More Exquisite Lacquer Furniture
At the auction we can also present other lacquer furniture. This includes an elegant Louis XV 'vernis martin bureau à pente'from approx. 1750 and attributed to the French cabinetmaker Jacques Dubois, as well as a Danish Rococo bureau cabinet attributed to Mathias Ortmann and believed to have been part of the interior at the Hirschholm Palace in Denmark.
Preview & Auction
Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers, Bredgade 33 in Copenhagen
Preview: 24 – 28 November
Auction: Friday, 2 December at 2 pm (Antiques)
Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers is one of Scandinavia’s leading international auction houses, and one of Denmark’s oldest. It all started on 6 October 1948, when Arne Bruun Rasmussen conducted the first traditional auction in the saleroom at Bredgade 33 in Copenhagen. Today, Jesper Bruun Rasmussen stands at the helm of the family-run business together with the company’s CEO Jakob Dupont.
In 2004, the first online auction was launched, and today the auction house has expanded to include departments in Copenhagen and Aarhus and representations in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Thailand and the US. About 100,000 lots are auctioned off each year at the eight traditional auctions and the daily online auctions. Here you can bid on everything from art, antiques, modern design and jewellery to books, coins, stamps, wine and weapons.