This is an extraordinarily decorative lap desk in chinoiserie style. It is created from black papier mache and has intricate mother of pearl features on virtually every surface. The lid has a beautiful scene which has a feature of a temple surrounded by foliage in gilt and glowing mother of pearl. This is surrounded with a gilt, scalloped frame with intricate mother of pearl inlay into the surface of the papier mache. The front, sides and back also have similar complex decoration. When opened, a burgundy velvet writing surface is revealed with gilt hinges and gilt accents around the edges of the velvet. Even the rocking lidded compartment for small items has similar decoration and there are two compartments for original glass inkwells with screw brass lids. The lock is marked ‘Patent’ and two crowns – one with ‘VR’ underneath and the other with ‘VR’ under the crown but this is rubbed. There is a lifting tab to reveal a larger storage compartment which has a beautiful mother of pearl and gilt feature on the under surface and the compartment contains a blackened treen rolling ruler. This box has suffered some damage over the years and this is not uncommon with papier mache items. Half of the corners have some loss. There is one area of loss of the mother of pearl on the lid and some slight crazing to the papier mache. The velvet writing surface shows wear at the hinge and adjacent to the lifting tab. There is a maker’s mark on the bottom (see image) but the first name is no longer legible. This is obviously an item that has been well-loved and well used. The overall impact is of a stunning and quality decorative papier mache item of the mid-19th century. 13.25 ins (34.9cm) x 10.5 ins (27.75 ins) x 3.5 ins (9cm). Weight 2315 grams. This item appears in my book, “Antique Boxes, Inside and Out” on page 373.
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