Ming Red/Black Lacquer Mid-Size Cabinets (pair)

17th Century (late Ming), original lacquer over core wood, original hardware, Shanxi
35¾” h. 30¾” h. 17½” d.

The pair was constructed in the traditional four-sides square style, with black lacquer on all sides and a pair of red doors in front, with courtyard scenery painted in “Miaojin”style (lit. “traced in gold”, which incorporates traditional paintings and motifs using fine gold lines).  This painting technique became popular during the Ming period and was an expensive technique, employed commonly on furniture for wealthy families.  Now the paintings on this pair of chests have faded with age.  The front black frame borders have scrolling seasonal flowers design, also faded.  The main body of the cabinet sits on a two-tiers base, with the bottom part separated from the top tier by a sharply molded black lacquered stretcher.  A “waist” below this stretcher has three red ‘taohuan’ panels with lobed ends against a black frame.  The bottom base is lacquered black with a recessed red ground below its curvilinear edge.  The double-base goes around the corners to the sides.  The brass lock-plate and door hinges with boss-head nails are original.

From the way it was constructed and decorated, this pair of Ming chests was made for an elite family.  The patina is excellent.  Furniture with toned-down faded paintings often blend better with contemporary decoration.  Put side-by side with a piece of marble or granite on the top to tie them together, this pair would make a marvelous long credenza.