Where in the World? Lacquer

January 31, 2023

Marie-Laure Buku Pongo, Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts, joins Curator Aimee Ng to investigate two cross-cultural cabinets from the 1760s. The pair of cabinets combines French materials and craft with elements made a century earlier and oceans away—eight sumptuous black-and-gold lacquer panels taken from imported Japanese objects. A traditional Asian art form, lacquerware was made through a time-consuming and dangerous process, and the mysteries that Japan held in Europe enhanced the material’s popularity in fashionable French furniture.

The Frick’s temporary move to Frick Madison has prompted new ways of looking at our works of art. The reframing of the collection sheds light on the fact that the Frick's art, although predominantly European, is undeniably linked to the world beyond Europe. In this series, we’re exploring some of these stories, asking "where in the world" we can find new connections to familiar objects.


To learn more

Brugier, Nicole. Les Laques de Coromandel. Lausanne, 2015.

Castelluccio, Stéphane. Le Goût pour les Laques d’Orient. Saint-Rémy-en-L'Eau, 2019.

Chasen, Jessica, Arlen Heginbotham, and Michael Schilling. “The Analysis of East Asian and European Lacquer Surfaces on Rococo Furniture.” In French Rococo Ébénisterie in the J. Paul Getty Museum, by Gillian Wilson and Arlen Heginbotham, edited and with an introduction by Anne-Lise Desmas. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2021. http://www.getty.edu/publications/rococo/lacquer/.

Dubon, David, and Theodore Dell. The Frick Collection: An Illustrated Catalogue: Furniture, vol. 5. Princeton, NJ, and Oxford, 1992.

Foray-Carlier, Anne, and Monika Kopplin, eds. Les Secrets de la Laque Française: Le Vernis Martin. Exh. cat. Paris (Musée des Arts décoratifs), 2014.

Kopplin, Monika, and Christian Baulez, eds. Les Laques du Japon: Collection de Marie-Antoinette. Exh. cat. Versailles (Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon) and Münster (Museum für Lackkunst), 2001–2.

Image credits

Views from Art de recueillir, de préparer et d'appliquer le vernis à la Chine. Paris, 18th century.

“Incisions faites sur l'écorce d'un arbre à laque.” From Les procédés industriels des Japonais: l'arbre à laque.  Paris, 1875.

Interior of a Chinese Shop, Netherlandish, 1680–1700, gouache on paper. Victoria and Albert Museum, London; given by Sir William Lawrence, Bt.


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