A wonderful English chinoiserie decorated Papier-Mache Cutlery Tray. Papier-Mache is a composite material consisting of pieces of paper or pulp bound together by glue, starch or wallpaper paste. It has a long history which began with the Chinese during the Han dynasty. They were the first people to use an early form of this composite material around 200 AD which was soon after they had acquired the knowledge of how to make paper. Snuff boxes, warrior helmets, and ceremonial masks were a few of the items that were first produced by them. Many countries all over the world soon learned of this material and experimented with it. The 2 English men Henry Clay in 1772 and Theodore Jennens in 1847 perfected this technique to help make papier-mache become what it was by the 1860’s.
At this time very little was known of the Far East and thus there was much interest in it. Chinoiserie with its many intricate designs became very popular. The English especially loved chinoiserie and used it in many different variations. Decorative articles, fabric, wallpaper, paintings etc. all used different variations of chinoiserie. This cutlery tray is a wonderful example of one of the designs that was used quite often at this time in England. The figures’ faces and gold bodies as well as scenery against the black background stand out very distinctively and makes this piece quite striking! Although this article is known as a cutlery tray, it can be used for other things such as a desk accessory or just as a wonderful decorative object to display.