A well painted mid-19th century papier-mâché oval tray, the dished edge with finely gilded laurel decoration, the oil painted main panel depicting ‘Men of War’ in the 17th century style. On a modern base in black and gilt decoration. Signed Deanes of London Bridge.
Starting around 1725 in Europe, gilded papier-mâché began to appear as a low-cost alternative to similarly treated plaster or carved wood in architecture. Henry Clay of Birmingham, England, patented a process for treating laminated sheets of paper with linseed oil to produce waterproof panels in 1772. These sheets were used for building coach door panels, amongst other structural uses. Theodore Jennens patented a process in 1847 for steaming and pressing these laminated sheets into various shapes, which were then used to manufacture trays, chair backs, and structural panels, usually laid over a wood or metal armature for strength. The papier-mâché was smoothed and lacquered, or finished with a pearl shell finish. The industry lasted through the 19th century. Russia had a thriving industry in ornamental papier-mâché. A large assortment of painted Russian papier-mâché items appear in a Tiffany & Co. catalog from 1893. Martin Travers the English ecclesiastical designer made much use of papier mache for his church furnishings in the 1930s.