Pair of Circular Lacquer Panels, Work of Tonkin, circa 1880
This pair of circular lacquer panels represents butterflies, one of which is shown in front and the other in profile. They are documented thanks to the indications on the back of one of the medallions. It is a work of Tonkin, Tongkin or Tong-king, is a name formerly used to designate the northern part of Vietnam today.
The taste for exotic furniture qualified as orientalist results from the opening of Europe towards the East. From then on, the various European embassies travelling towards the East will bring home their memories of this fantasized East. The decorative arts will then receive the influence of this new opening on the world passing from the attraction towards in the east and its oriental charms.
The advent of universal exhibitions attracting a considerable number of visitors will open a window on the world and on previously ignored civilizations. Thus, the exhibition pavilions will try to reproduce in an almost identical way, Indian or Japanese interiors. Artists and intellectuals will therefore receive a large part of their inspiration from this fantasized orient. Besides decorative arts, painting, literature and fashion will also use certain oriental attributes creating a real artistic emulation around this geography.
This pair of decorative lacquer medallions testify to this attraction for Asian artsin France because one can read behind one of the two medallions that it is a commission.