#15305 A Pair of Rare and Exceptional Large Size 17th Century Lacquered Gilt-Painted Cabinets

(一對明代朱漆地金彩繪畫平面大櫃)Photos shown are a pair of exceptional 17th century Chinese lacquered cabinets with wider depth in thick red lacquer back ground with elaborate painting in gold. The paintings on the two cabinets depict full scenery of various activities of a court life with many figures. The gold material that is used for the paintings was first hammered into very thin sheets (薄金, 金箔), cut down or broken down in various smaller sizes (片金), then adhered to the red lacquer substance underneath the gold before the lacquer was totally dried out, then, further taken down and reduced with tools such as small sharpened knife or a bamboo stick, and twisted stuffed cloth as well, to bring the shapes of the objects to the desired degree. Such technique is called Qiang-Jin(熗金) (See Mr. Wang-Shi-Xiang's 髹饰彔解说, an interpretation and explanation of the Ming Dynasty‘s 髹饰彔 written by Huang-Cheng (黄成),the only written and recorded literature about the detail of the Chinese lacquer working and its style and design). 髹飾彔 is beautifully written in classical Chinese language. For those of you who read in Chinese and enjoy classical literature, it is more than a “working” literature to enjoy for its poetic way of using Chinese language. Mr. Wang-Shi-Xiang's interpretation and explanation is wonderful and certainly makes it much easier to understand the original. As for the English version, hopefully there is one or will have one soon.

Back to the cabinets, one can see in some of the detailed photos, there are marks of gold being eliminated other than its wear. However, part of the painting was also painted or drawn with both gold threads (線金)as well as powdered gold (泥金). Though these cabinets are in fairly good condition, considering they have lasted for several hundred years (and still stay as a pair), because of the age and wear on the lacquer surface, it is hard to tell if the objects or composition, of the painting, or part of it, were first created by carving into the thick lacquer and filled with more lacquer before the gold was applied to as some of the objects where the gold is worn feel a bit higher than the red lacquer surface if one traces the surface of the cabinets with a finger. But it is possible that that is merely an effect or illusion from the way the gold is adhered to and the way the surfaces were worn. Partially also because these cabinets might have been refinished with more clear lacquer coating before they were exported. That makes it even harder to tell. Also, worth noting, part of the paintings on these cabinets were also created with both gold and black outlines around some of the objects or figures, especially at the bottom front of the cabinets underneath the doors. This seems to be a common feature on some of the painted old Chinese lacquer cabinets. Nevertheless, whatever combined techniques used in painting this pair of cabinets, one can only imagine how elaborate and lavish the colors might have been when these cabinets were first created before the gold was lost or worn! These exceptional cabinets still retain their original large size white brass fittings and circular plates, with a cut-out design of a Buddhist's “Wan, 萬”symbol on the door pulls.

While Chinese lacquered objects with gold painting can be traced back to over 2000 years ago, there are very few old examples of lacquered Chinese cabinets from the early age like this pair have survived the time!

These cabinets measure 57” x 74” H x 24” D for each.
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