A Large & Attractive Black-Japanned Early Victorian Papier-Mache Tray c.1840

Origin: English
Period: Early Victorian
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1835-50
Width 28.5”
Depth: 21.5”
Height: 2”

The deep dished rectangular black japanned papier-mâché tray with rounded corners having a black ground inlaid decorated with a bird amongst trees, heightened with gilt overall, with printed and impressed mark for ‘Club Fine’ trade mark to the reverse survives from the second quarter of the nineteenth century.

In comparatively good overall condition, there is patchy wear with crackling and some small losses to the edges of the tray though with around 80% of the inlay remaining in good condition to the central section with the whole showing a well established patination to the lacquer. To the underside the stamp is clearly seen in scarlet, whilst the corners have the most wear.

Papier-mâché itself became an industry in England in 1772 when Henry Clay of Birmingham took out a patent for its making. The process for making papier-mâché furniture was achieved either by pasting multiple layers of paper over shaped cores, or by pressing paper pulp between dies or molds to form a variety of shapes. Once dried, the resulting raw material could be carved and polished and was intended to be japanned and inlaid with mother-of-pearl, glass, or stones. The black lacquer on this tray would have been made up of amber, linseed oil, resin and asphaltum (thinned with turpentine this was a bitumous substance from the Dead Sea).

“Among the many inventions of modern times for diffusing the luxuries, and even the conveniences of life, there are few which have greater claims to our admiration than papier-mâché. Whether it meets the eye in the shape of furniture, or in articles of domestic utility, its beauty and agreeableness are equally striking and effective. Nor is it less so when applied to ornamental purposes” - The World In Its Workshops, by James Ward, 1851.

An undeniably pretty example, the best of its type and also amongst the largest.