Art market Magazine March 2014

 
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH 
 
MUSEUM 
 
The secrets of French…
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH

MUSEUM

The secrets of French lacquer
elebrated forty years ago as a "moment of perfection" during the 1974 exhibition at the Hôtel de la Monnaie in
Paris ("Louis XV: un moment de perfection de l’art français"), the 18th century was one of the most flourishing periods for French art, where the decorative arts enchanted the Europe of the Enlightenment and were all the rage. Woodworkers and cabinetmakers vied with each other in inventiveness, creating a huge variety of furniture for every kind of use, and under the aegis of the marchands-merciers, boldly using unlikely materials like Far Eastern lacquer, porcelain, straw and wax. These marchands-merciers called on the talents of the finest craftsmen to embellish porcelains with splendid mounts in chased gilt bronze, and fostered the production of numerous objects that contributed to the elegance of the fashionable home. Among the novelties of this century, a major role was played by French lacquer, known as vernis Martin ("Martin varnish"). Although our European neighbours used the word "lacquer" to describe Far Eastern products and their imitations alike, France mainly

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used the term for objects imported from that part of the world, and used the word "vernis" for European products. “The secrets of French lacquer: vernis Martin". The title of this exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris thus proves its aptness and sums up its objectives: to remind us that vernis Martin is indeed a lacquer, and to reveal that its name covers not one but several techniques, applicable to a very wide range of different supports. The process may owe its name to the Martin brothers, but we should remember that they neither invented it, nor were the only ones to use it! After an introduction devoted to examples of Asian lacquer – a clear demonstration of why Europeans were so taken with it in the 17th and 18th centuries – which served as models for their own lacquerware, the exhibition moves on to several works attributable to the first Paris lacquer workshops set up in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. Fascinated by lacquers, and eager to perfect a material with similar hardness, depth and lightness, French lacquerers and their European counterparts sought to develop a formula on a par with Asian lacquer based on indigenous raw materials. This can be seen in the various

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Sweet box, pink background, anonymous, Paris, towards 1780-82, papier mâché ; black and pink lacquer, decorated with engraved band, floral detail in silver, decorated with translucent yellow,
red and green lacquer, miniature painting on ivory ; mounting in engraved and chiselled gold. Münster, Museum für Lackkunst.

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Art Market Magazine March 2014
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