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Exceptional English Chinoiserie Campaign Chest, ca. 1890

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An exceptional English two part Campaign Chest of the late Victorian / Edwardian period decorated in superb quality English Chinoiserie laquer.

The 'Campaign Chest' was a furniture form developed in the late 18th century for British ship's officers, China traders, and British East India personnel traveling to and from Asia. During the 18th and throughout most of the 19th centuries travelers had to provide their own cabin furniture on ocean voyages which led to the invention of campaign furniture. Chests of drawers for this purpose were built in two parts so they might be conveniently carried aboard ship, manouvered up and down ship companionways, and set up in ship cabins and stowed in ship's holds. Upon arrival in a distant port, the chests were unloaded and used by their owners in their residences. Campaign chests were distinctive in that their drawpulls , handles, etc. were inset flush with their surface so as not to catch on anything while being moved or stowed aboard ship. The chests were also very well built with metal reinforcing bands at their corners and important joints to help insure their survival under difficult conditions. Campaign furniture built in England was generally constructed of mahogany or imported teak with oak secondary wood. A considerable amount of campaign furniture was also built in Asia based on English forms and constructed in exotic Asian hardwoods.

Chinese laquer art and decorative work - delicate complex figural and floral painting on a hard laquered surface - was considered a marvel when it was first brought back to England in the late 17th century. There were not enough Chinese pieces to satisfy demand and English artists and craftsmen developed their own kind of Chinese laquer work which came to be known as 'Japanned Work' and/or 'Chinoiserie' which became, 'all the rage', during the late 17th century, in two periods of the 18th century, and was again very fashionable several times during the 19th century with its popularity extending into the early 20th century. Chinoiserie pieces were high style exotic creations in their periods.

We believe this extraordinary example of English Chinoiserie was a specially commissioned piece built in the 1890 - World War I period otherwise known as The Grande Epoque. This chest follows the standard 'Campaign' two part form with flush mounted furniture and joint reinforcements however this piece was never intended to go into a ship's hold. While exterior construction utilizes 3/4" thick boards interior work follows the less rugged fashion of high quality London cabinetmakers of the period utilizing the best quality red oak. The top, sides, drawer fronts are heavy red oak while the backboards are pine. The hardware is very high quality brass with a very unusual dull nickel plated finish. Oak was seldom used as a primary wood by the level of cabinet makers who built this piece. However English red oak was invariably the choice of wood for British cabinetmakers building 'Japanned / Chinoiserie' pieces from the seventeenth century onward because English oak was very stable and an excellent base for chiooiserie laquering processes. This piece was built following tradition of English Chinoiserie.

This chest features exceptionally well designed and delicately executed chinoiserie representations of figures and floral scenes. The border decoration displays similar delicacy and considerable expertise. This beautiful example of English cabinetry was not created to be stowed in a ship's hold or set up in an Asian frontier outpost. It is much more likely it was designed and built to enhance a fine yacht's cabin or be part of the furnishings within an oceanside mansion. Chinoiserie pieces were luxury items, very few examples of campaign furniture were ever built/finished in Chinoiserie fashion.

CONDITION: This impressive piece is in excellent original condition. The surface has excellent patina with the top having one minor age crack. The hardware retains 90% of its original dull plating. The case shows proper drawer runner wear. Drawer interiors are excellent with proper aging (the left side of one drawer bottom shows a shrinkage repair). The chest retains its original low block feet.

A rare and beautiful piece that would be a standout in any environment.

Dimensions: width 42", depth 19", height 37"

Price: 1650.00