Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Design for a Chinese-style Lacquer Cabinet

Anonymous, German, 18th century
Manner of Martin Schnell (Central European, Bremen ca. 1675–1740 Dresden (?))
ca. 1720–30
Pen and black ink, brush and gray and brown wash
sheet: 15 13/16 x 12 3/16 in. (40.2 x 30.9 cm)
Drawings, Ornament & Architecture
Credit Line:
The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1960
Accession Number:
Not on view
This design for a lacquer cabinet reflects the European interest in the Orient, which emerged in the 17th-century when trade routes to the East were more and more frequented. Especially during the late Baroque and Rococo periods, designs inspired by Asian art were incorporated in the interior and lacquer work furniture, or imitations thereof, were in high demand. In the German speaking regions, where this design was made, there were two main centers of lacquer work production in the early 18th century: one in Berlin led by the Flemish artist Gerard Dagly (Flemish, Spa 1660-1715 Berlin), and one in Dresden run by Dagly’s pupil, Martin Schnell (Bremen, ca. 1675 – 1740 Dresden (?)). The design of this cabinet is so close to certain pieces produced by the latter, that it seems likely to have been made in Dresden, possibly even in the workshop of Schnell himself. The drawing, which seems to have been made to enthuse a client, is particularly interesting because it contains contemporary inscriptions which describe the execution of the piece in great detail. The cabinet was to be executed in lacquer work and was painted on all four sides. The interior of the cabinet counted 15 drawers, all of which were painted as finely as the exterior of the cabinet. The base color was black, while the landscapes were executed in various colors and finished with gold paint. The metal mounts were all fire-gilded and decorated with enamel. In most cases, a customer would buy not one, but two identical or very similar cabinets, which would be placed in a symmetrical arrangement against the wall.
Inscription: Inscribed in pen and brown ink at top margin, according to transcription included with mount (typed): "Oben auf können procellan Podellien oder Statuen zu besserer Zierath gesetzt werden."
At left: "Die Tiefe dieser zwei Cabinetten sind nach den hierbei gezeichneten Scala 3 1/2 viertel Ellen, auch von hinten ist es so kostbar als [formen?] geschildert".
At right: Die Beschläge diese chinesichen Cabinet sind alle in Feuer vergoldt und dan gar künstlich daruf amulirt (emaillirt?) die gezeichneten Landschaften sind erhaben mit allerhands coloren gold nach der florierten Indischen Arts gearbeitet, an sich selben ist es schwartz inwendig mit 15 Schubladen alle wohl geschildert wir die Thuren ausswendig also sind sie und inwendig sehr schon gearbeitet"
Elisha Whittelsey Fund; Donor: Elisha Whittelsey Fund
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Living in Style: Five Centuries of Interior Design from the Collection of Drawings and Prints," June 17, 2013–September 9, 2013.

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