Cabinet (China (for export)), ca. 1810
This small cabinet of lacquered wood was produced in China for export to Europe. The panels are painted in tones of gold, pale green, and red, and ornamented with Daoist symbols and elaborate landscapes which would have appeared delightfully exotic to Western consumers. The cabinet has three rows of drawers hidden behind a pair of doors that are decorated with ivory pulls and flowering trees. The low stand appears to have been made separately, although it has similar decoration.
Lacquer is a beautifully lustrous material made from a hardened resinous trees sap that is usually applied to a wooden base. Vulnerable to damage, the jewel-like interiors of lacquer cabinets often fare better than their exteriors. Although the Chinese lacquer tradition is over six thousand years old, Europeans first developed a taste for the material during the sixteenth century. During the eighteenth century, merchants in Beijing and Suzhou began to produce wares specifically catering to European markets. Large quantities of coveted lacquer objects were shipped off the Javanese port of Bantam or the Coromandel Coast of south east India, destined for fashionable European homes. These luxury imports had a formative influence on Western design and the development of the chinoiserie style.
Its dimensions are
H x W x D: 46 x 46 x 23.5 cm (18 1/8 x 18 1/8 x 9 1/4 in.)
It is inscribed
Inscription reads "Tai-shan" (Island, East China Sea, south of Shang-hai)
Cite this object as
Cabinet (China (for export)), ca. 1810; lacquered and gilt wood, ivory; H x W x D: 46 x 46 x 23.5 cm (18 1/8 x 18 1/8 x 9 1/4 in.); Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Wiesenberger; 1968-160-1-a/g