Investigations into Chinese export lacquerware: black and gold, 1700-1850

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University of Delaware
This dissertation characterizes black and gold export lacquerware from Canton (Guangzhou), made in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, through documentary and material analysis evidence. ☐ A group of 40 wooden objects from European and North-American collections, was analyzed using cross-section optical microscopy (OM), thermally assisted hydrolysis and methylation pyrolysis-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (THM-Py-GC/MS), and scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS). This multi-technique approach permitted the identification of similarities and differences between the objects and the establishment of patterns of production. ☐ Concurrently, archival research focused on the objects included in this study to reinforce connections of the objects with the city of Canton; in this way, the combined data from analytical techniques and documentary evidence can be used to characterize Cantonese lacquerware production of particular importance in attribution discussions. ☐ Research results demonstrate that Toxicodendron succedaneum lacquer species was the main source for Cantonese black and gold lacquerware during the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century, this same species continued to be used in different combinations with Toxicodendron vernicifluum. The nature of these materials is discussed as well as their technology of application. The use of Gluta usitata is reported for the first time in Cantonese lacquerware. ☐ Materials applied in the lacquer coating, manufacturing technology, and material constraints in Cantonese lacquerware are discussed. Information on Cantonese lacquerware manufacturers, sellers, and consumers elucidate the relationships between foreigners and Chinese during the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries. ☐ The combined data from analyses results, documentary evidence, and stylistic characteristics create a representative corpus of knowledge for Cantonese export lacquerware production from the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries that can be applied to the study of related pieces. Acknowledgment of the role of Cantonese lacquerware in the economic and cultural relations between European countries, the United States, and China places this form of material culture as a primary heritage to be preserved.
Canton, China trade, Guangzhou, Laccol, Lacquer, Lacquerware, Cantonese lacquerware, Material culture