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Gift of J. Paul Getty
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Stamped by Bernard van Risenburgh II
French, Paris, about 1737
Oak set with panels of black Japanese lacquer and painted with vernis Martin; gilt bronze mounts; sarrancolin des Pyrénées marble top
H: 2 ft. 10 3/4 in. x W: 4 ft. 11 3/4 in. x D: 1 ft. 10 3/4 in.

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Lacquer from China and Japan had been imported into France since the 1600s because its decorative patterns and exotic character immediately appealed to wealthy consumers. In the 1700s increasing quantities of cabinets, screens, trays, and other shapes reached Europe and were adapted for use in Western interiors. By the 1730s it became fashionable to cut and apply the lacquer panels to new forms as a type of decorative veneer.

On this commode, the central oval panel of lacquer on the front was cut from the doors of a Japanese cabinet. The rest of the surface was painted in imitation of lacquer in a technique known as vernis Martin, after the Martin brothers, who invented the most successful and widely used imitation lacquer in the 1700s.

In 1737 the royal inventories recorded that the ébéniste Bernard van Risenburgh delivered a commode applied with lacquer panels to Louis XV's wife, Marie Leczinska. That delivery date helps scholars to date this similarly decorated commode.

Detail Views

Stamp of BVRB
Stamp of BVRB

Central lacquer panel
Central lacquer panel