Lot 79
  • 79

A Venetian red lacquer and arte povera bureau bookcase Mid 18th Century

50,000 - 80,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • pine, lacquer, paper, glass
  • Height:  8 feet 7  1/2  inches
    Width:  5 feet 3 inches
    Depth:  28 inches
interior of upper section marbleized; interior of lower section with arte povera decoration


Antonio's Antiques, San Francisco

Catalogue Note

18th-century Venice was one of the leading centres in Europe for the production of furniture and small objects decorated in imitation of Chinese and Japanese lacquer.  The quality of Venetian wares rivaled the best japanned and Vernis Martin work of London and Paris, and the output of Venetian lacquer artists, called depentori alla chinese, was considerable: in 1754 over 25 lacquer specialists running workshops were recorded, and by 1773 their number had nearly doubled (Hans Huth, Lacquer of the West, London: 1971, p.55). 

This exceptional bureau-cabinet, of a classic Venetian form inspired by contemporary English furniture design, is unusual in incorporating two distinct lacquer techniques then prevalent in La Serenissima.  The exterior is painted with chinoiserie motifs in gold on a red ground using the typical Venetian sandracca varnish derived from the resin of the sandarac tree indigenous to North Africa.  The ornament is directly influenced by English japanned decoration derived from Stalker and Parker’s seminal 1688 publication A Treatise of Japanning and Varnishing.  The interior drawers by contrast are decorated by pasting figural and landscape scenes cut out from engravings and applying a protective varnish, a technique referred to in the 18th century as lacca contrafatta or arte povera because it was less time-consuming and expensive than traditional lacquer decoration.  Lacca povera was more often used to cover the entire exterior surface of Venetian bureau cabinets, seen on an example in the Castello Sforzesco , Milan, illustrated in Enrico Colle, Il Mobile Rococo in Italia, Milan: 2003, p.338.  Numerous printers specializing in engravings produced specifically for this purpose developed in the Veneto region, notably the Remondini workshop in Bassano.