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Wardrobe by Christopher Dresser, c. 1876

This wardrobe was part of a suite of furniture designed by innovative industrial designer Christopher Dresser for Bushloe House, near Leicester.

Dresser’s design theories are evident in the decoration of this wardrobe; for example, the stencilled frog motifs have been ‘flatly treated’. This two-dimensional approach was favoured by Dresser, who believed that this would allow for the object to be ‘more truthful to its form’.

Constructed out of pine, the wardrobe was ebonised, with painted and gilded stencilled decoration. The ebonising of furniture became fashionable from the 1860s for aesthetic furniture and shares visual similarities to Japanese lacquer. Dresser had travelled to Japan in 1876 as a representative of the South Kensington Museum and the British government to investigate local manufacturing and design. On his return, Dresser’s designs and theories became more informed by an understanding of Japanese aesthetics and use of materials.

Wardrobe, by Christopher Dresser, c.1876
Given by the American Friends of the V&A through the generosity of Joseph Holtzman
Museum number: W.8:1 to 7-2018 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2015

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