Multi Panels Tibetan Chest with Floral Medallions

19th Century
Pine, mineral pigments
42¼” h. 52½” w. 18” d.

This is an authentic handcrafted Tibetan chest painted with natural mineral color pigments. The brown lacquered top consists of two wood panels with cracks showing on the front panel due to age and weathering. The front edge tapers down and is painted orange decorated with gilded trailing floral design. Below the top is a narrow recessed neck painted green top with relief carving of gilded angular continuous-life design. The framework has the mortise-and-tenon construction, with tenons and wooden nail-heads exposed on the surface.

The front of this chest consists of recessed panels, six big square ones on the top and three taohuan panels at the bottom. Each square panel is decorated in the middle with a stylized floral medallion, with trailing floral design at each corner. The floral designs are in mineral colors of orange, blue, white touched with red and green. The taohuan panels are also decorated with similar floral design and colors. The framework separating all the decorated panels are painted like bamboo slats, colored green with bamboo-like cutouts sections painted orange. The green sections have floral motifs with gilded scrolling stems and stylized flower head in white. A set of panels on the top level , and one below act as doors to the interior storage space . The panels beside each set of doors are stationary. The doors swing open and shut on wooden pegs and can be lifted out by pivoting them to a 90-degree angle.

This chest is an authentic piece of antique, which is very hard to find as a result of the Chinese Cultural Revolution when so much religious and cultural relics were destroyed in a “class struggle”. World demand for the charming painted furniture also depletes the supply. Due to political turmoil, many Tibetans sought exile in neighboring Nepal, where many of them got busy making furniture and thangka reproductions to sell to unsuspecting tourists. The reproductions might be decorative but are not antiques and has not much value in the antiques market. An evident of authenticity is in the patina, which in Tibetan furniture is in the show of grease spots left on the surface of the wood. The grease is from yak butter used as fuel in lamps and as cooking oil. Over time, an accumulation of grease covers everything in the room. It is an arduous job to remove the grease. This “imperfection” actually is a proof of antique authenticity.

This chest survived in excellent condition and has that aging patina. It is a rare piece as hardly any antique is coming out of Tibet today. The value of Tibetan antique furniture is in its colorful paintings. This chest with its vibrant and refreshing colors would add charm to any room.