A high-quality imitation of Asian lacquer work was employed in a cabinet on stand from the Rijksmuseum collection, a characteristic type of Dutch furniture. The research and conservation focused on the identification and exposure of the original decoration.

About the project

In the 17th century, the European decorative arts were strongly influenced by art that was imported from Asia. The imitations included lacquer work, of which a Dutch cabinet from the second half of the 17th century in the Rijksmuseum collection is a very fine example. As was customary with Asian furniture, the lacquer work is black, with painted decorations, some of which were made by sprinkling metal powder on the lacquer while it was still wet. The decorations consist of Asian figures, flowers and plants, birds and small buildings. While the lacquer work was in a remarkably good condition, it was covered with a thick layer of varnish that was applied at a later stage and has since yellowed and darkened, largely concealing the richness of the original decoration.

Aim of the project

The aim of the project was to acquire knowledge about Dutch lacquer work, and about this cabinet in particular. Many lacquered pieces of furniture have perished in the course of time, which makes this cabinet a rare specimen, and a high-quality one at that. The project entailed a detailed analysis of the composition at different layers of lacquer and varnish, while at the same time distinguishing between authentic and later varnish layers. A method was developed for removing the later varnish layers safely, without affecting the original lacquer and decorations. The later, aged and degraded varnish were removed, and damaged areas in the black lacquer were retouched. The aim was to conserve the cabinet in such a way that it could be presented to the public.

7:32 min. - Brought Back to Life


Elise Andersson
Associate Furniture Conservator (until 11-2020)

Paul van Duin
Head of furniture conservation (until 10-2023)

Reinier Baarsen
Senior furniture curator (until 12-2022)

Partners and sponsors

This conservation is made possible thanks to the Mondriaan Stichting, Vriens Archeoflex, the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency and, through the Rijksmuseum Fund, thanks to the Florasina Fund, the Johanna Kast-Michel Fund and the Paul en Hanneke Van Den Hoek Fund.


  • E. Andersson and P.H.J.C. van Duin, 'Removal of Non-original Transparent Coatings on a Dutch Lacquer Cabinet', Postprint ELinC2018, European Lacquer in Context, Brussels, January 18-19, 2019. Studies in Conservation, 64: sup1, (2019) pp. 173-183.

  • E. Andersson and V. Cattersel. 'A Dutch 17th-century European Lacquer Cabinet: Material-technical analysis to gain insight into the deteriorated surface.' in: Material Imitation and Imitation Materials, Proceedings of the Thirteenth International symposium on Wood and Furniture Conservation, Amsterdam, November 18-19, 2016. Ed. Miko Vasques Dias, Stichting Ebenist, (2017).

  • J. Dorscheid, J. K√∂hler, M. de Vlam, I. Joosten, H. van Keulen and P.H.J.C. van Duin, 'Dutch inlayed aventurine decoration: study, analysis, and conservation', Postprint ELinC2018, European Lacquer in Context, Brussels, January 18-19, 2019. Studies in Conservation, 64: sup1, (2019) pp. 154-163.