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Excellent, English Victorian Papier Mache Sewing / Writing Box Ca. 1850

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An exceptional, large, English Victorian Papier Mache sewing / jewel chest with writing slope, circa 1850.

In the period beginning around 1840 English artists and craftsmen developed a way of building luxury objects of papier Mache. In the more substiantial pieces like this a wood frame was covered with many layers of glue and/or starch impregnated paper and the result, when the mteril dried, was papier mache. In 1847 a British patent was issued for a method of steaming or pressing papier mache into molds. The finished papier mache was then laquered producing a smooth hard surface quite receptive to gilt and colors. Somehow craftsmen of the period devised a way to inlay very thin veneers of mother of pearl into papier mache. Slicing mother of pearl into veneers was a most difficult process in itself.

The products of this difficult and time consuming process could be very impressive and beautiful. The highest quality pieces, such as this chest, became very fashionable status symbols to exhibit in the homes of the rich and powerful during the Victorian period.

This magnificent piece is a rarely encountered example featuring serpentine front, sides, and back complemented by a molded top. The surfaces are inlaid with mother of pearl and abalone. In addition borders are banded and decorated with exceptional quality gilt floral decoration having central designs heightened with polychrome enamel floral images. The top lifts to reveal its original paper lined sewing implement compartments. The body of the chest contains four graduated drawers, the front of each drawer decorated in gilt and polychrome designs. The third drawer down with its original paperlined compartments, the lower drawer contains a fold-out writing slope, and two drawers are empty. The exceptional quality of its decoration and its rare form set this chest apart from other pieces of the genre.

Condition: This beautiful piece has been very well cared for and is in excellent condition. The papier mache exterior retains its original laquered surface with excellent gilt,polychrome and inlay. The surface shows some very light wear, aging and minor touch-ups to the paint. The area around the lock escutcheon shows evidence of an old repair as does a small section of the edge of the base near the left front corner. The shell inlay exhibits some age cracking but is all there and tight.

Few Papier mache pieces of this size and quality have survived in the excellent condition of this example. This rare and beautiful object is clearly an example of the best-of-its-type.

Dimensions: 12 1/2" wide, 13 1/" high, 13" deep.

Price: $1250.00

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