A rare and extraordinary set of four English Victorian Papier Mache nesting tables with a black lacquer finish embellished with abalone shell inlay, hand painted floral bouquets, and gilt tracery. This set epitomizes the Victorian Rococo style when papier mache decoration had begun to simulate Continental tastes as opposed to the earlier Oriental motifs.
Papier Mache (literally, chewed-up paper), stuck together with a wet paste, had been used for centuries both in the Middle and Far East to make small decorative items, and in Japan and India to add decorative elements to pieces such as armor or shields. Around 1725 in Europe and England, Papier Mache began to replace plaster or carved wood as a cheaper means of decoration. Henry Clay of Birmingham, England patented a process in 1772 of treating laminated sheets of paper with linseed oil to waterproof them, and Theodore Jennens patented a process in 1847 for steaming and pressing these laminated sheets into various shapes. Because of its improved strength, larger pieces such as chairs, tables, and structural panels began to be manufactured. The Victorian era saw a thriving business in the beautifully decorated lacquer pieces that were created for an appreciative market, however, by the end of the 19th century, Papier Mache had fallen out of favor. Artisans are still practicing the art of Papier Mache, but those highly decorated Victorian pieces are the ones most cherished by collectors.
The tables are in excellent condition; they have had some minor museum-quality restoration work done to the top of the larger table and to a few nicks on the smaller tables. Some of the tracery has been updated and the structural joints reinforced. They look superb, but still retain most of their original finish and workmanship.
Size: 25" Height by 20" Width by 15" Depth (Largest Table).
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