A rare Japanese export lacquered Federal-style side-table for the American market
Nagasaki or Kyoto, the table possibly USA, 1799-1803
The Chippendale/Hepplewhite style side-table, black lacquered and decorated in silver and mother-of-pearl, with scattered flower sprays, the top with a rectangular depiction of four people in a landscape with flowering trees, four houses and the sea with sailing ships in the distance.
H. 84.7 x W. 92.4 x D. 48.5 cm
Private collection, United States
This late Georgian period, Chippendale or Hepplewhite style, also known as Federal style, side table, is not what the Dutch would have ordered in Japan, but it is certainly something an American buyer would order. The provenance of the present table is an American collection, and undoubtedly it came straight to the United States from Japan around 1800.
In 1795 the French-orientated Batavian Republic was established and Stadholder Willem V escaped to London, which resulted in war between Holland and England. In 1799 the Netherlands were occupied by the French and became part of the Napoleonic Empire. In 1814, when the Netherlands were liberated, and the son of the old Stadholder returned as King Willem I from exile in England, the Netherlands ceased to be at war with England. Between 1796 and 1816 trade between Batavia and Japan was minimal because Dutch ships were intercepted at sea by the British navy. To maintain a minimal trade with Japan the Dutch chartered American ships, belonging
to a neutral country, to maintain the annual voyage between Batavia and Deshima which had to lower the American and rise the Dutch flag upon arrival in Nagasaki Bay. In 1797 and 1798 the Eliza from New York, captained by William Robert Steward sailed from Batavia to Nagasaki under the Dutch flag. However, the Eliza never returned to New York. In 1797 Eliza’s cargo was dropped in Batavia and in 1798 the Eliza disappeared after leaving Nagasaki. In 1799 the Franklin, under captain James Devereux from Boston, sailed to Japan; in 1800 Massachusetts also from Boston, under captain William V. Hutchings, followed by the Margaret from Salem in 1801 under captain Samual Gardner Derby. In 1802, the Samuel Smith under captain G. Stiles was chartered, and in 1803 the Rebecca from Baltimore under captain James Deal. In 1800 Massachusetts brought Willem Waardenaar to Deshima as Opperhoofd and in 1803 his replacement, Hendrik Doeff arrived aboard the Rebecca. Doeff had to stay in Deshima till 1817 because no more ships arrived. Between 1811 and 1816 Java was occupied by the English, and all traffic between Batavia and Deshima ceased, except for two failed attempts in 1813 and 1814 by Raffles, as Lieutenant-Governor of Java, to take possession of the Dutch factory at Deshima.
Some of the American captains and officers conducted their own private trade in Japanese lacquer work. Both captain James Devereux of the Franklin and captain Samuel Garder Derby of the Margaret, sailing to Japan in 1799 and 1801 respectively, well documented their private trade of Japanese lacquer, but other American captains and officers undoubtedly also acquired lacquerware while in Deshima. Devereux established his own private trade in exclusive Japanese lacquered furniture in Salem, selling in the United States and abroad. After his death, his son donated the rest of his collection to the Peabody Essex Museum which also acquired many pieces from captain Derby’s collection. Particularly Devereux opened up a new market for Japanese lacquered furniture after models or drawings of English/American style furniture that would be produced in Japan in the first half of the 19th century. However, pieces in this pure Federal-style rarely appear at the market.