Restorers uncovered the silver carving beneath the cabinet's gold paint
A 300-year-old cabinet has had a lengthy restoration before being offered for sale on the London-based dealer Rolleston’s stand at this month’s British Antique Dealers’ Association fair in London (15-21 March).
When the third-generation, family-run firm, which specialises in English furniture and antiques, acquired the William and Mary-period japanned cabinet, its stand and cresting were covered in thick layers of gold paint. “When we first saw it, we realised the carving should be crisper,” James Rolleston says. They removed a postage-stamp-sized piece of paint and found that the crest and stand had been silvered and painted over.
Restorers spent a year stripping the paint. “It’s a bit like going to the dentist—it’s a painstaking process and it’s one of those things that you don’t want to rush,” Rolleston says. Only small areas needed to be resilvered as the silver was in good condition. The cabinet itself, which has its original lacquer, brass and handles, was also in good condition and just needed to be cleaned.
It is a rare survival story, Rolleston says. There are only two other examples in UK collections. Rolleston’s cabinet was made in England in around 1690, when there was a growing taste for goods from the Far East. “It acted like the internet for that generation,” he says. “People would be astounded to see the types of flowers, horses and clothing found on the other side of the world.”