This screen is a very fine example of an object made in Europe in the mid to late 1700’s and then sent to China to be decorated. The pine panels and the carved frame were probably shipped by the Dutch East India Company in the 1760’s. The European figures in the decoration are in Dutch East India Company livery and it is probable that a cartoon of the picture to be painted was sent with the screen.
The Chinese lacquer artists then produced the decoration. As can be seen from the close-up shots the style of the painting is not European and this is a common feature of oriental interpretation of western motifs. The carved gilded and lacquer frame shows the crowned double-headed eagle of the Habsburg Monarchy and it may be that the screen was a gift from the Dutch East India Company to the Habsburg Court.
This style of pierced carving is rather delicate and losses are very common. The image of the screen in the workshop shows all the replacement carving being coated in white gesso prior to water gilding.
These ten 17th century carved and painted wooden horses are on view in the White Tower at the Tower of London. They were commissioned by the Crown and made by the best carvers including Grinling Gibbons, John Nost and Marmaduke Townson.
The horses were last on show during Victorian times when the display was known as The Line of Kings.
The Line of Kings was re-established at the White Tower in 1997. The horses are mainly constructed in oak and exhibit a range of construction methods. The torso’s are hollow and are either of coopered construction or have four quadrants. The quadrant construction can be clearly seen on the chest of the horse by John Nost. The head, neck, legs and tails were added after the torso was constructed. All the horses were originally painted naturalistically.
More information about the history of these horses can be found in:
Heads and Horses- Two Studies in the History of the Tower Armouries by Alan Borg, Society of Antiquaries, 1976.