Google+ House Revivals: J is for Japanning

Thursday, March 25, 2010

J is for Japanning

Japanning typically refers to a technique of lacquering and polishing a piece of furniture or metal ware, wood, or paper mache.

Most popular in the eighteenth and 
nineteenth centuries, Japanned work was created as a way to "knock off" heavily lacquered and decorated pieces being imported from the East -- primarily China, Japan, and India. 

For an informative article on the history of Japan work written by Louise Devenish, click here
photo courtesy 1stdibs website
This secretary is an example of a piece you will see in her article.

A term you will often see associated with 
Japanned goods is chinoiserie.  "Chinoiserie" comes from the French, and refers to European or Western items that have been decorated with fanciful interpretations of Chinese scenes.  

Examples of chinoiserie can be found in painted wall coverings, textiles, applied and structural decorations, and painted accessories and furniture.  
 
photo courtesy Made in the Black Country website
This tilt top table, depicting a stylized "Chinese" scene is an excellent example of Japanned chinoiserie.


The red Japanned and gilded chinoiserie table shown here is a stunning piece.
 You can learn more about this piece, made for Louis IV, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art website.

The detail on this drawer front is just incredible.


Although different interpretations of Japanning techniques were developed in other countries, parts of England became especially well known for their Japanned products.
photo courtesy Wolverton Art and Museums website
Of course, not all Japanned articles are furniture, nor was it made only for kings.  The crumb tray and brush shown here, is an example of a utilitarian piece that would have been produced for the rising middle class. Even in the photograph, the visual depth achieved by layering the decorative elements and lacquers is evident.


This paper mache box is another example of a small utilitarian piece.
Photo courtesy Gasoline Alley Antiques
 The decoration depicts a Father Christmas, with Eastern inspired designs on the borders of the box.


The tin tray shown here is an example of Japanning on tin ware, often referred to as tole (not all tole is Japanned, however).
photo courtesy Wolverton Art and Museums website
In this case, the decoration is achieved through one-stroke folk painting techniques rather than by depicting a chinoiserie motif.  The border is painted in a simple, Gothic inspired quatrefoil design.


This teapot stand is another example of a utilitarian piece produced for the middle class.
photo courtesy Made in the Black Country website
An interesting article about the social implications of items as simple as this trivet can be found here, on the Made in the Black Country website.

My favorite piece, however, is this unapologetically non-utilitarian wall plaque.
photo courtesy Wolverton Art and Museums website
First of all, it is not in the least bit pretentious.  It feels like a nice "homey" bit of folk art.  This is definitely "art for the masses" (perhaps we'll see some knock-offs of this piece in a Pottery Barn catalog someday). The faux bois detailing is absolutely charming.  This piece represented "art for art's sake", but pieces like it were accessible to anyone.

Art for art's sake has been important in all levels of society -- whether it be in a king's palace, in the parlor of a member of the rising middle class, or in the living room of a peasant worker.  I think that is why I am drawn to Japanned items -- not only did the inspiration for the technique span continents, but access to Japanned items spanned socioeconomic levels.

This post is being linked to Alphabe-Thursday, at Jenny Matlock's blog, and to Colorado Lady's Vintage Thingie Thursday.

28 comments:

  1. I want the wall plaque. We have the silent auction coming up soon at the spring fling, and I would put all my money on that plaque. It wouldn't be the first piece you and I fought over...Yes...I realize we are no longer fighting over pieces or organizing events together. But as I read your weekly blogs, I treasure the memories we built and I feel connected. Thanks.

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  2. I have never heard the term before, but I have always love the look of it!
    Great Post!

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  3. What an interesting and educational post! Found you through Alphabe-Thursday and will be following now because we have many of the more important pieces of life in common. I'm looking forward to getting to know you in days to come! :)

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  4. How interesting and what beautiful pieces. Great post for VTT! Have a wonderful day!!!

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  5. There is real art work in those pieces. Just beautiful. I've never heard of the term before. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. Japanning, thats an interesting term. Like the pieces very much. Happy VTT
    Ann

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  7. Japanning- now that's a term I never heard before even though I do see a lot of it

    learn something new today, thanks,

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  8. Some of it is a little too intricate for my taste, but I'll take the tin tray! Very interesting and informative post.

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  9. Great information in your VTT post, as always! I agree with you on the wall plaque--my favorite too!

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  10. I went to a museum once where they had examples of each stage of the process. Very interesting post Here is my J

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  11. What an interesting post! I'd never heard the term Japanning before. I love the wall placque - I can definitely see PB doing knock off of this. And the tin tray is beautiful. Great post! Kathy

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  12. I love japanned pieces and you have some wonderful items in your post. Be still my beating heart! Great J post.
    ~Maggie~

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  13. I love this look, you could build a room about each piece! Thank you so much for your prayers for my SIL Cindy!

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  14. Wow...did I learn something new! Such a super post...nice blogsite too...thanks for your visit and comments on my "Jiffy Jeff" post...Peace

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  15. wow, these are gorgeous pieces, TFS :D

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  16. I have heard of the term before but never knew what it meant. Thanks so much for the informative post!

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  17. Thanks for sharing this interesting post with such wonderful photos. It's always fun to learn new things.

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  18. Interesting, thanks for the info. I have heard the term Japanning before but didn't know what it was.

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  19. You have so many precious items, and I love the information you've provided too. Wonderful and fantastic post, Amanda!

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  20. Thanks for this informative J post.

    I actually thought Japanning applied only to the oriental style. But I, too, love that bottom piece. Is that in your own collection?

    I totally love that.

    Thanks for helping make J day so interesting!

    A+

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  21. Hi Amanda, I realized that the bottom one was from a private collection.

    I think what I meant to ask that my brain was not helpful with was...

    Have you done an interpretation of that?

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  22. What an interesting post! Years ago The Great Dane and I rented the gate house on an estate on the Philadelphia Main Line. Our landlady had the most amazing houses and was generous with her invitation to stay in New York and Jupiter, and in one of those houses she had a chinoiserie secretary. I've always remembered that piece - so elegant, timeless and seemingly layered with history.
    Which Island am I on? - Vancouver Island!

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  23. What a fun J for sure. Thanks for stopping by..

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  24. I am way behind on my comments and at this rate I might be done in time for everyone's K post.

    I love all those pieces especially the tilt top table and the wall plague. Your post was very informative, I really enjoyed it.

    Have a great week.

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  25. Wonderful "J" post! Love to read and learn...thanks for sharing!

    Blessings & Aloha!
    (thank you for stopping by! I have been out of town so am just now catching up on blog reading (just like Squirrel Queen!)! Yay for a mid week day off! have to catch up on housecleaning and drawing orders too...)

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  26. What an interesting post. I love oriental things and I had never heard of this term. The items in the photos are so unique and lovely. Thank you for teaching me something new.

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  27. Love the desk. French furniture is very ornate and detailed.

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