Lap Desk, English, with a port scene, ca. 1780

wood, velvet and reverse glass painting
12 x 10 x 2 (short side) x 4 (taller side) inches
Notes: One of the hinges on the box is broken, box shows all-over wearing, particularly on the corners. The layer of glass the painting is painted on has been broken and the painting is flaking. There is one more, intact, piece of glass covering the painting.
The materials in the case are for Chinese ink brush painting, however the existing compartments would have been for an ink bottle and bag of sand for drying the ink.
Portable boxes for writing materials had existed for many centuries and in many cultures. However it was not until the last decades of the 18th century that the socio-economic circumstances in England necessitated the wide use of a portable desk in the form of a box which could be used on a table or on one's lap. Hence "Lap Desk". The writing box was an item of style and fashion yes, but it was also an item connected with intelligence, commerce and world awareness.
From the end of the 18th, to the end of the 19th century, the writing box featured prominently on military expeditions, travels, libraries and in drawing rooms. Great literature as well as dispatches, contracts, letters and postcards were written on its sloping surface. Through it both business and personal activity were transacted. Unlike the writing desk or table it was a personal and not a household possession.
The few which were made before 1780 were rectangular and had sloping tops. However by the last decades of the century writing boxes were necessary in many non-domestic situations and the tops became flat in order to facilitate transportation.

Taken from:

Lot Name
Lap Desk, English, with a port scene
wood, velvet and a reverse glass painting
12 x 10 x 2 (short side) x 4 (taller side) inches
ca. 1780

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