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A curvaceous Chinese export lacquer tea chest  with gold decoration Circa 1840

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Reference: TC581

Description:
TC581: A curvaceous Chinese export lacquer tea chest with undulating sides decorated with two colours of gold depicting scenes of of Oriental life opening to a single compartment containing two lidded pewter tea canisters with supplementary inner lids, the whole chest standing on feet in the form of dragon heads. Circa 1840.

Origin:  China; Circa: 1840;  Materials: lacquer on wood with pewter canisters.

Size: It measures 10.2 inches wide  by  7.9 inches deep and it is 6.2 inches  high including feet: 26 cm wide by 20 cm deep by 15.5 cm high.

Condition: good overall,  working lock and key,  see images. one foot is a replacement. 
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TC581:A curvaceous Chinese export lacquer tea chest with undulating sides decorated with two colours of gold depicting scenes of of Oriental life opening to a single compartment containing two lidded pewter tea canisters with supplementary inner lids, the whole chest standing on feet in the form of dragon heads. Circa 1840. Enlarge Picture

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TC581:A curvaceous Chinese export lacquer tea chest with undulating sides decorated with two colours of gold depicting scenes of of Oriental life opening to a single compartment containing two lidded pewter tea canisters with supplementary inner lids, the whole chest standing on feet in the form of dragon heads. Circa 1840. Enlarge Picture

The chest open to reveal all the curves of its incredible form.

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The top showing the flat upper surface sitting on curved and undulating sides.

The central picture depicts figures in a pavilioned garden contained within a framed cartouche.

Surrounding the central picture are dragons chasing a flaming pearl.

 

Each side features a scene in pavilioned gardens within a cartouche set within a rich assortment of various symbols.

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The front continues the theme of figures in gardens and rich symbolism.

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The side. The very organic form allows for light and shade to play with the gold painting. The butterflies, symbols of long life and beauty, flutter in the corners. 

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The back with seated figures and symbols.

 

Another side.

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The foot of a dragon, or bat, or Chinese lion face is carved in wood and gilded.  

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One of the feet is a later replacement..

 

Detail of the back showing the delicate fine painting in two colours of gold. 

The composition alternates from the rather free depiction of symbols, to the narrow formal motifs framing the cartouche, to the scenic composition in the centre.

The whole must have been carefully orchestrated to give such a rich and yet distinctive and clear impression of Chinese life.     

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The cartouche and decoration are in harmony with the form.

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A vignette on the top, the curves of the framing blending with the curves of the form.

 

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Another side.

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Another view. In the corners of the flat surface there are symbols of lucky coins.

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The lucky coins in detail.

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The tops of the canisters are engraved.

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The back.

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Detail showing figures in a pavilion within a garden. The Chinese gardens were social as well as artistic and cultural centers.

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Dragons chasing flaming pearls frame the central picture on the top.

The dragon was the richest symbol in Chinese culture. It was too complex to describe in here. It had its roots in mythology, cosmology, folk culture, superstition, phonetic links and magic. It was a positive force, denoting strength and power. The Emperor was the only person allowed to use Dragons with five claws as decorative motifs.  

 

Serving boys bringing refreshments.

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Ladies, one sitting on a garden seat.

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Drinking tea, or something stronger.

 

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The box open showing the top and back in all its curvaceous splendour. It is quite miraculous that such a complex form has survived without splitting. It has obviously been looked after and appreciated since it was made.   

 

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All text and images and linked images are 1999-2011 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