Large Italian Lacca Povera Vase & Cover
the baluster shaped vase made from terracotta, most probably made as a storage jar and with the original a turned wood cover surmounted by a ball finial, decorated all over with applied chinoiserie decoration of figures, temples and flowers on a grey-green painted ground.
Lacca povera is a decorative finishing technique, often used on furniture in the 18thC. It is essentially an Italian interpretation and perfection of the French decoupage technique.
Lacca povera is known by many other names such as arte povera, lacca contrafatta and, in England, “decalcomania” though this is more often applied to a similar practice of decorating glass. Regardless of its name the technique was the same: it was the art of decorating a surface often a piece of furniture or it could be a vase, a screen or even a carriage interior, with paper prints that were cut out and adhered (with fish glue) to a prepared and painted surface and then varnished 8-10 times over. The many layers of applied varnish made it difficult to distinguish between a lacquered surface and a lacca povera technique.
Lacca povera was probably first practiced toward the end of the 17th century and became especially popular during the 1720’s in Italy and other European countries, where it was used continuously throughout the 18th century. It reached its zenith and was especially popular in Venice during the Rococo period with its fondness for Chinoiserie and its expertise in whimsically interpreting the mysterious “Orient.”
With the mania that was Chinoiserie, lacca povera was intended to imitate the look of the more expensive lacquered Coromandel (Chinese screens exported through the Indian port of Coromandel) techniques. But today and somewhat ironically, lacca povera antiques are now comparable in value if not more valuable than many Chinoiserie pieces). But because it was originally done to create less costly pieces than Chinese lacquered, it was called “the poor (povera) man’s lacquer (lacca)”.