Definition: a process of furniture finishing, using paint, gesso or varnish, or a combination; the aim is to simulate the glossy look of lacquer; usually the color scheme is black (in the background) and gold (in the designs and motifs), but other colors can be used as well.
Japanning developed in the 17th century, as Europeans began importing ornate lacquered furniture from Asia, especially Japan. Since the sap used to make lacquer, from the Japanese lac or sumac tree, wasn't available to them, European furniture-makers, such as Sheraton, tried to duplicate the hard, shiny effect with other substances. And to add to the overall Asian air, the pieces were decorated with "Oriental" images and scenes. Sometimes the furniture itself tried vaguely to duplicate an Asian piece in shape (see chair photo, in More Images); other times, it remained clearly western, as in the pie-crust table in the photo above.
Japanned furniture flourished throughout the 18th century. The vogue revived after Japan fully opened trade relations with the West, in the 1860s.
Example: The black-and-gold japanned grandfather clock was a delightful example of East meeting West in design.