The suite in bamboo, rattan and wicker, comprising a pair of chairs, the backs with a central fan design, each with a cane-bottomed seat, with fretted scrolls and typical motifs; together with a table, the split cane fretwork frieze with angular bamboo brackets over four straight legs, the lacquered wooden plateau decorated with a landscape, bordered by an open gallery, the feet joined two by two by stretchers.
Bamboo furniture became highly fashionable in the West and particularly in England after the completion of the Royal Pavilion at Brighton, created by architect Henry Holland (d. 1806) around 1801 for George, Prince of Wales, future King George IV. The vogue for Chinese design and bamboo furniture developed in England following the publication of William Chambers’ ‘Designs of Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines, and Utensils’ in 1757. Chambers travelled to China three times in the 1740s with the Swedish East India Company and produced the volume, the first in Europe to methodically study Chinese architecture, gardens, clothes, machines, furniture and domestic objects. The form of this suite is comparable to furniture illustrated in William Chambers' book, pl. XIII and XIV.
Chairs of the same model were part of the exotic furnishings at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, which may have been purchased by John Crace from an East India Company merchant around 1802.
A similar suite (which includes eight similar chairs) dating from the first quarter of the nineteenth century can be found in the Chinese Room at Claydon House, Buckingham, which was constructed in 1769.
The table is of similar form to two in the Royal Collection which were acquired by George IV and originally displayed in the South Lobby at the Royal Pavilion (RCIN 26078 and 26079). One has decorative canework panels to the frieze, which differ from our table only in their arrangement.
The tables in the Royal Collection can be seen on the back wall in Nash’s view of the interior of the Pavilion painted c. 1824.
The fashion for the ‘exotic’ can be seen in other parts of Europe in the 18th and early 19th centuries, most notably for The Chinese Pavilion at Drottningholm in Sweden. Built between 1753 and 1769, it was a prefabricated building transported on rafts from where it was built at Arsenalsgatan as a surprise for the Lovisa Ulrika's birthday on 24 July 1753. A similar table can be found in Lovisa Ulrica’s collection for The Chinese pavilion. Another example in the collection is round with an octagonal frieze. Gyllensvärd writes ‘The tops are in both cases lacquered black and undecorated, and the legs are of natural bamboo while the frieze is more ornate. In both tables the joining is done entirely by wooden pegs and plugs…. In 18th-century interiors lacquer tables and stands are frequently mentioned in connection with arrangements of porcelain. These were often sets of tables of a kind now in the Bedchamber of the Chinese Pavilion. They are purely European in design, and of a type common during the late Baroque period in Germany, Holland and England.’ (Bo Gyllensvärd, The Chinese Pavilion at Drottningholm, p. 144)