Ming Black/Red Lacquered Chest

 

Mid 17th C. (Late Ming)
Original lacquer over core wood; original hardware
Shanxi
37½” h. 34” w. 21” d

This chest survived with unique original metalwork, which consists of slender triple lock-plates on the pair of door panels in front, and door hinge-plates with big, nail-heads that add decorative interest to the chest.  The door panels have paintings of the popular “Hundred Antiquities” design favored by the scholar-official class, but the colors have now faded, with only black outlines.  The main body sits on a two-tiers base, with each tier divided by a black ridged molding. The first tier consists of a recessed waist divided into four red “taohuan” panels with lobed ends, each separated by a strut. Below the waist section, the base panel has a broad black scrolling pattern above a slightly recessed red ground below.

The top of this piece originally has a very thick coat of black lacquer, which has thinned with age, as labor-intensive heavily lacquered pieces often do.  A marble slab is put there now to protect the thinned lacquered panel so any heavy item can be safely placed on the top without further damaging the original coating.  The piece is all-original and exhibits patina of old age.

Decorative metalwork on furniture seldom survives The Chinese Cultural Revolution as during that period, metalworks were commonly confiscated to be melted down for military and industrial use.  The survival of this original metalwork adds value to the piece.