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Vernis Martin (French for “Martin varnish”) is a japanning or imitation lacquering technique named after the four Martin brothers—Guillaume, Etienne-Simon, Robert, and Julien—who operated the leading japanning factory in France during the middle of the eighteenth century, and were even appointed vernisseurs du roi, or varnishers to the king.
The technique approximates Chinese and Japanese lacquerware, which had become especially popular in France during the reign of Louis XIV. Furniture adorned with vernis Martin often includes pictorial panels illustrated with scenes in the Baroque and Rococo styles, from images of Venus aloft clouds to quiet portrayals of courting couples. Pieces decorated with this lustrous, beautiful varnish remain exceptionally collectable to this day, and the below selection demonstrates well the beauty of this technique and the resulting antique vernis Martin furniture.