High Chest

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Boston, Massachusetts
High Chest, 1700–30
Japanned maple, pine, and other woods, with brass hardware
60 × 38 × 28 1/2 in. (152.4 × 96.52 × 72.39 cm)
Gift of Bob and Jo Wagner M2000.202
Photo credit: Larry Sanders
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One of the most striking characteristics of global commerce during the early decades of the eighteenth century was the production of japanned furniture. These glowing objects featured Asian motifs of figures, flowers, or landscapes. Layers of varnish created their highly polished backgrounds and were meant to approximate the lacquered surface of Japanese furniture. Sometimes the furniture itself duplicated Asian pieces in shape, but mostly it remained clearly Western, as in the example here. Americans who incorporated such Asian-inspired objects into their homes understood japanned furniture not as an exotic curiosity but as one of the many global products that signaled their participation in transatlantic commerce and trade.

This information is subject to change as the result of ongoing research.