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Antique Chinese Lacquer fully fitted Chinese export lacquer sewing box Circa 1800

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Reference: SB498

Description:
SB498: An early 19th Century  fully fitted Chinese export lacquer combined sewing and writing box of rectangular form opening to a fully fitted sewing tray with turned and carved ivory tools and having a drawer fitted for writing. Circa 1800

Origin: China

Circa: 1800

Materials:

Size: 34 cm wide by 23.8 cm by 12.3 cm:  13.4  inches wide by   9.4 inches by   4.8 inches.

Condition: some wear to corners and rubbing consistent with the age of the box. See images.

 

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The box shown open. The box was made of thin wood and then lacquer was applied in several layers. Each layer was sanded down after it had been carefully and slowly dried. After this long and arduous process was complete the box was given to the decorating artist. 

The artist who decorated this box used both gold and colours. 

The interior images give an accurate picture of the colour scheme. 

The technique both of the lacquer work and the painting is rooted in Chinese tradition. 

The design makes some concession to European taste.

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Another view of the interior showing the original fittings and also items added during the life of the box.

 

A view showing the bottom drawer with the writing/drawing/painting surface held up and the brush tray and inkwells.
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The original turned thread barrels.
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This is the picture on the writing surface which has been protected and has survived well. It depicts an important man (beard means kudos) followed by a merchant(?) and an assistant carrying the goods. It is amusing that the two boxes he is carrying in the traditional Chinese way are of the same shape as this box.

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Clamps and other tools.

 

The spools and thimble slot into place.
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The inkwell and pounce pot are original. It is very rare to find these in this type of box. 

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The front of the box showing figures in a landscape and the front drawer.

 

One side showing more interesting vignettes.
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The back of the box with figures indulging in the pleasure of drinking (tea?) and smoking.
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 The other side.

 

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The box open from the back.

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The top of the box depicts figures and animals in a characteristically Chinese formal garden with pavilions. This is a good image to demonstrate the type of decoration which places the box in the context of its time and culture. The framing of the box is in raised lacquer with symmetrical cartouches in Chinese lines, set in a patterned gold background. This style of patterned rather than pictorial work, suggestive of brocade, was a concession to European taste. Some 18th century boxes are decorated mostly or even entirely in patterns. As the Europeans began to appreciate oriental work and be seduced by the magic of the exquisite gardens and the activities of the exotic people they encountered, they wanted their boxes to reflect their experiences. This desire to capture the Cathay experience resulted in commissioning work with scenes from oriental life. On this box the Chinese scenes are framed in the European taste, pointing to a period late in the 18th, or early in the 19th century.
There is an empty round cartouche in the centre. This was so that initials or a family crest could have been inserted.
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The front of the box showing more figures. The often, artificial rocks found in Chinese gardens are prominent in this scene.

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A vignette of a lone figure with a cool hat.

 

Lady and deer. Deer is important in Chinese symbolism. It denotes riches and longevity. It is also an animal interwoven in Chinese folk tales.
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Detail of the seated figures drinking and smoking.
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Strange fowl!

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Details of internal images (drawer) showing the subtle colours, with a splash of bright red and the characteristically Chinese style of flat painting and drawing. The faces delineated with only a few lines, nevertheless have quite distinctive expressions.

 

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The interior lids are also well preserved with the gold and colours depicting two charming garden scenes.
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Seal found in the box.

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Embroidered band.
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Watch with a distinctive Irish motif.

 

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The watch has a simple cylinder escape. There is movement in the escape which indicates the the watch was probably dropped.

 

 Beautiful and elaborate watch chain.

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 Turned bone needle case.
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Things in the box.

The round wooden box is English (Tunbridge ware) but the most unusual lacquer round boxes are Chinese and of the same work and period as the box.

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 The little lacquer box contains corral beads.

The stud is enamel and of very high quality.

 

The stud is enamel and of very high quality.

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This is a box with hints of the history of a wealthy and discriminating owner. 

Carved ivory earrings but without loupes.

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More little treasures, The spool is Dieppe work, probably made in England.

 

 Pin cussion and sewing clamp

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 Cards of mother of pearl buttons

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 Turned steel and bone stiletto.

 

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 Half a ticket to I know not what

 

All text and images and linked images are 1999-2010 Antigone Clarke and Joseph O'Kelly. If you require any further information on permitted use, or a licence to republish any material, email us at copyright@hygra.com