A Rare Group of Five George III Period Simulated Satinwood Papier-Mâché Boxes c.1790

Origin: English or Jamaican
Period: George III
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1790
The Largest: 7.5” wide x 4” deep x 2.5” high
The Smallest: : 2.5” wide x 2.5” deep x 1.75” high

The beautifully hand decorated papier-mâché boxes, of various sizes with three being square and two rectangular, each decorated to simulate satinwood with central oval painted medallions of classical female figures to bell flower pendant borders, opening to reveal black lacquer interiors, some filled with exotic shells, the group surviving from the last quarter of the eighteenth century and possibly of Jamaican origin.

Remaining in good overall condition considering their relative fragility, the decoration has a glorious crazing and patina to it and is untouched. There are some small repairs, with three of the lids having been previously damaged and repaired. There are small chips to the inner flanges.

The presence of the shells and the quantity of 'African card counters, 6d per sack' indicates these could be of Jamaican origin. The designs and style is very much of the 1790s.

Papier mâché became an industry in England shortly before these boxes were made in 1772 when Henry Clay of Birmingham took out a patent for its making and as a result produced the inexpensive plastic of its time, easily be molded into desired shapes. As indicated by its name, it was mashed or pulped paper, which was first, molded, then baked, to drive off the moisture that had reduced it to pulp. When it became firm and hard it was finished with an enamel-like coat of paint and was then ready for a wide variety of decorative treatment.

Rare and simply exquisite.