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Antique Chinese Export Lacquer fully fitted sewing box with gold decoration depicting scenes of Chinese life Circa 1835

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Reference: Sb474

Description:

SB474: A very fine Chinese export sewing box of complex curved octagonal form, with fine decoration of oriental scenes framed within cartouches standing on gilded bat feet. The background is filled with diaper designs of stylized flora. Inside there is a lift out tray with supplementary lids and   sewing tools  made of turned and carved ivory.   The box has gilded side handles and hinges. Circa  1835.

Origin: China, Canton.

Circa: 1835

Size:  36 cm wide by 27.2 cm by 16.5 cm:  14.2  inches wide by  10.7 high  inches including feet  by   6.5 inches high including feet.

Condition: Very good over all. some rubbing to top. see images. working lock and key.

 

SB474: A very fine Chinese export lacquer sewing box of complex curved octagonal form, with fine decoration of oriental scenes framed within cartouches standing on gilded bat feet. The background is filled with diaper designs of stylized flora. Inside there is a lift out tray with supplementary lids and   sewing tools  made of turned and carved ivory.   The box has gilded side handles and hinges. Circa  1835. Enlarge Picture

"This type of shaped box was imported from the beginning of the 19th century.  As the nature of the work is traditional, it is not absolutely possible to date such boxes with complete accuracy. However, such fine work is more likely to have been imported during the period when Chinese work was most valued in the first half of the century.

 

SB474: A very fine Chinese export lacquer sewing box of complex curved octagonal form, with fine decoration of oriental scenes framed within cartouches standing on gilded bat feet. The background is filled with diaper designs of stylized flora. Inside there is a lift out tray with supplementary lids and   sewing tools  made of turned and carved ivory.   The box has gilded side handles and hinges. Circa  1835. Enlarge Picture

"Lacquer decoration has always been revered in China as one of the great arts. Prized throughout the centuries above gold, it reflects the civilization that developed it, in that it is a patient and meditative process, requiring a variety of structured disciplines as well as intellectual and artistic input.

"Perceived as such a special reflection of the country's culture, it is not surprising that the art of lacquer decoration was a constant striving towards perfection. This art took many and varied forms throughout the four thousand years of its known existence. Archaeological evidence points to lacquer first used as a protective coating and by the second millennium BC as an in-fill in bronze incised objects, or adhesive for precious metals or stones."

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SB474: A very fine Chinese export lacquer sewing box of complex curved octagonal form, with fine decoration of oriental scenes framed within cartouches standing on gilded bat feet. The background is filled with diaper designs of stylized flora. Inside there is a lift out tray with supplementary lids and   sewing tools  made of turned and carved ivory.   The box has gilded side handles and hinges. Circa  1835. Enlarge Picture

"The early 19th century was the golden period for the Chinese lacquer box. The merchants associated with the East India Company were making vast amounts of money selling opium to the Chinese, albeit at times by circuitous ways. (See: teaand.htm ) More money was available for buying Chinese treasures to satisfy the demand for the increasingly prosperous people at home."

The box has a drawer in the lower part which is  fitted for painting on silk. 

The lid has yet another wonderful painting in two colors of gold.

 

 

Inside there is a lift out tray with supplementary lids  with carved ivory pulls, and   sewing tools  made of turned and carved ivory.

SB474: A very fine Chinese export lacquer sewing box of complex curved octagonal form, with fine decoration of oriental scenes framed within cartouches standing on gilded bat feet. The background is filled with diaper designs of stylized flora. Inside there is a lift out tray with supplementary lids and   sewing tools  made of turned and carved ivory.   The box has gilded side handles and hinges. Circa  1835. Enlarge Picture

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"During the latter part of the 19th and earlier part of the 20th century ignorance and prejudice, contributed to the neglect of many of these fine boxes. Many perished or were damaged beyond recognition. Even if the boxes were not neglected, the very nature of the decoration causes it to wear with usage. The soft gold gets rubbed off with handling; extremes of temperature cause the boxes to split. Very few if any lacquer boxes have survived totally intact. Very few have survived in very good condition. Most tops show signs of wear.

"This has had the effect of a good number of excellent examples being available at a reasonable price. Such boxes have escaped the mania for new looking antiques - a phenomenon of our times. Even if such boxes are worn, they are still very beautiful and have parts of exquisite decoration. A fragment of good lacquer represents hours of precious work."

This box retaining most of its original tools is exceptional.

 

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"By the time Jane Austen was writing, the work box had reached the height of its stylistic development, both in boxes crafted in England and those imported from abroad. Jane Austen herself had a large Chinese export lacquer box/table on stand, complete with fitted tray, which can still be seen in her house in Chawton."

This wonderful box is illustrated on  page 232 of our book 

Antique Boxes, Tea Caddies, and Society, 1700--1880 
Antigone Clarke & Joseph O'Kelly,
ISBN: 0764316885

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Detail of sewing clamp one of the carved ivory tools retained in this box.

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 The box has three turned and carved thread barrels. 

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Detail of the top of one of the thread barrels 

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This box is of the highest quality. The hinges are gilded. even the facings have elaborate decoration in gold lacquer.

 

The thimbles in Chinese boxes are usually tiny. Perhaps the carvers thought that European women had tiny fingers, like the oriental ladies they knew.

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The box has a drawer in the lower part which is  fitted for painting on silk. 

The lid has yet another wonderful painting in two colors of gold.

 

 

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 Detail of the writing surface within the drawer

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 Detail: one of the supplementary lids. They have wonderful carved ivory handles. 
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Side view.
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 The back view.

 

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The top is a little rubbed but the scene is still recognizable.
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 Detail showing one of the feet in the form of a bat.

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 Tea drinking scene in a wondrous background of pavilions  and gardens.

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All text and images and linked images are 1999-2007 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