This tin tray is covered in japanning, a combination of asphaltum and shellac that imitated the lacquerwork from Japan and other Asian countries. Japanning also alleviated the tendency of tin to eventually rust. The japanned item was then hand-decorated, with stencils and one-stroke painting. These decorated wares were called tole, derived from the French “tole peinte” which means “painted sheet metal.” The decoration was then given a layer of varnish to protect it. The varnish on this tray has alligatored over many years; alligatoring is a crackling of the surface resembling the scales of an alligator.
This tray measures 17 inches by 13 ¾ inches and is one inch high. The lovely designs and the rim, which is rolled, are painted in a metallic copper-bronze color. There are small areas of paint loss on the front of the tray; the reverse, as usual with these items, shows the greater amount of wear. There is a ½ inch wide dimple on the center top, which can be felt on the back but is not especially obvious on the front.
This late 19th century tray will grace any shelf in your home.
By: Linda Henrich
Photos: By: Wayne Henrich