Les Jolités De Spa

November 19 2013, 11:02am

Carlton Hobbs LLC In the 16th century lacquerware from Asia and the New World was introduced to Flanders through trade with Portugal in the commercial cities of Bruges and Antwerp, and its incorporation into the Spanish-Habsburg Empire elevated its financial and commercial position. Through their exposure to lacquer objects imported from the East, Flemish artisans became familiar with the technique   Carlton Hobbs LLC In the late 17th century the Ardennes town of Spa, near Liège, emerged as a European center of lacquer. It was renowned as early as the 16th century for its healing thermal waters, and was visited by members of the leisured classes throughout Europe, making it “the perfect setting for the production of luxury goods for a discerning clientele.”1 The items for sale to visitors of Spa included snuffboxes, walking sticks, sweetmeats containers, tea caddies, cigar boxes and work boxes. Collectively, these receptacles and trinkets were known as jolités de Spa or bois de Spa. Carpenters and turners would manufacture the carcasses, made of beech wood, and deliver them to painter-lacqueres for decoration and varnishing. Raised sections were built up with layers of a viscous paste, followed by an application of up to ten coats of clear lacquer finish, and finally  polishing and light oil rubbing “[created] the soft, vitreous glow that was so highly prized as a finish.”2   Carlton Hobbs LLC In addition, the rise of lacquerwork coming into fashion in Spa was accompanied by  pen-and-ink drawings on vellum or paper. Landscapes of minute detail done in India ink with fine-tipped woodcock or “painters’ feathers,” and washed with sepia were replicated by draughtsmen onto the jolités de Spa, resulting in grisaille scenes highlighted with touches of gold or colorful gouache. The subject matter was determined in large part by trends in French art such as playful pastoral scenes  “immutably permeated with the feminine charm of the Rococo.”3 The 18th century saw the height of Spa lacquer, with important artists forming specialized painters’ guilds and, because their reputation was spread by important visitors to the town, earned commissions and appointments at foreign courts.   Carlton Hobbs LLC The present box takes a forme violon (‘fiddle shape’), a “stylistic novelty of the Louis XV period.” Unusually, the sides are decorated with views of the sights, springs, and excursion spots in and around Spa, described by captions and a numbered legend incorporated into the design, for example the Place du Pouhon, the Promenade de 7 heures, and la Sauvenière près de Spa. The rococo moment of manufacture can be witnessed on the beautifully detailed top whose entirety is decorated with a charming pastoral idyll, in the manner of Boucher (research ongoing). A related set of dressing boxes, also inscribed with views of Spa and their names, can be found in the Museum Für Lackkunst, Münster. Carlton Hobbs LLC