Tall Black Square corner Cabinet with Red Doors

Early 18th C, Elm, Shanxi.  Thick lacquer crackled with age; faded gilt paintings and auspicious carvings show its original value.
75½” h. 39¾” w. 20” d.

This tall cabinet has decorative characteristics typical of early to mid-18th century.  The black lacquer framework is finished with a decoration of what appear to be either scrolling dragons or floral motifs with a “long life” character in the middle at the top.  The designs are faded with age and hard to recognize, and the black lacquer is crackled and peeled off in areas.  Each of the two tall door panels has a black frame inset with three red panels, a large one on top and one at bottom with a taohuan panel between them.  The pair of top panels is decorated with gilded “bird-and-flower” scene, and the bottom one with landscape and garden scene.  The narrow middle panels have the antique bronze vessels designs.  All the gilding is now dull with age.  The apron at the base has raised relief of the running chi dragons, design typical of the period.

The inside of the cabinet is fitted with a two-drawer shelf unit at the top, another shelf dividing the open space below, and a lidded storage space concealed behind the long plain black horizontal panel in front.  The inside of each door panel is braced by four  stretcher bars, and is thickly lacquered in a brown color which now becomes leathery-looking with age.

The lock plates and door pulls as well as the door hinges appear to be original.  Both the lock plates and the hinge plates have the ruyi cut-out design at the corners.  The door pulls have openwork designs of the swastika (wan) and the ruyi (symbol for granting wishes), both Buddhist motifs and attest to authenticity of age.

This tall cabinet is thickly lacquered on the outside as well as the inside, a sign that this was a valued piece.  The thicker the lacquer coating, the more costly it is to make.  The problem with thick lacquer is that it crackles easily with age, but it is more appealing to many antique connoisseurs.  This cabinet is left the way it was found to preserve the integrity of this aged piece.