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Red and black lacquered scholar's chest

Early 19th century

Red and black lacquered scholar's chestOrigin: Shanxi province

  • elm wood
  • 740mm wide x 405mm deep x 870mm high


In ancient China the scholar's studio was not only a place of study and contemplation but most importantly was a place for displaying art artistic objects. It reflected the individual's life-long pursuit of literature, poetry, music and painting excellence. The furniture in the scholar's studio played a more artistic role as well as being functional.

This cabinet is an example of understated elegance. It is well proportioned with simple lines. The recessed bottom panel protected the contents from damp ground.

The tree sap based lacquer was mixed with natural oxides to produce the rich deep black on the top and sides. The deep red on the front of the cabinet comes from the precious mineral cinnabar. The lacquer has been applied to base of linen and fine clay, a time-consuming and difficult process undertaken on pieces considered extra special to the owner.

The brass fittings on the cabinet have cloud and fish motifs. They symbolise good fortune and prosperity.

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