Some favourite picks from our latest antique arrivals
Now that our latest container has arrived, fully laden with furniture and antique pieces chosen during my last visit to China, this seems like a good time to pick out one or two of our favourite pieces, now available to view here at our West Yorkshire showroom.
First up is a beautiful display cabinet from Qinghai province in western China - one of three similar pieces from the same region. Essentially a combination of storage sideboard and display shelf, this type of piece is fairly unique to Qinghai but now difficult to come by. They would have been used for storing valuable items, with the shelf section used to display prized objects and ornaments of the owner.
Over the years many similar cabinets were cut down by over-enthusiastic antique dealers in China, removing the upper shelf section to create a smaller, more practical sideboard that was easier to sell to the export market.
The three cabinets that we shipped with our latest container remain in their original size and shape, sourced from one of the first antique restorers that I met in Beijing nearly 15 years ago and that we still use. This particular dealer has held onto certain good quality pieces that are now hard to find elsewhere (he still has a nice selection of tiger chests, for example) but in moving premises he decided to part with some of these.
Finished in black lacquer, the doors and panels on the cabinet shown here are beautifully decorated with paintings of flowers and butterflies - symbols for long life and happiness. The soft oranges, reds and greens provide a lovely contrast with the black background and the same colours are repeated on the frames of the upper section.
These frames are also higly decorative, with open and relief carving of flowers. The whole effect is stunning, and whilst the cabinet is certainly vernacular rather than museum quality, court furniture, it is in wonderful, original condition.
Second on my list is this red lacquer cabinet from Shanxi province in north central China. Again, it is in an original condition, with the once bright gold decoration now dulled and faded to the black base underneath. Very different in style to the Qinghai cabinet, the doors and three lower panels are set back within deep frames and there is an extended lid over the top.
The decoration on the doors would have been painted and then gold leaf applied over the top in the 'miao jin' technique. The gold has worn and degraded over the years so that essentially only the black underneath is now visible, though it is still easy to make out the figures and landscapes of the original design. Various travellers, including a figure on horseback, are shown moving through a background of buildings, trees and mountains.
Again, it is unusual to find a cabinet like this in such good condition and still with the original decoration, albeit now faded. Often cabinets like this are retouched with new paintings, and not always in a way that does justice to the original artist.
The final item I've picked out is another piece from Qinghai, but quite different from the display cabinet. This large sideboard would have been produced to be quite functional - made originally for storing grain. Whereas the workmanship shown in the display cabinet suggests that it was made for someone of wealth and status, this is more rough and ready - made from pine wood with chunky frames and with a lot less finesse.
Even here though, in an item of furniture designed for a quite mundane purpose, there are decorative elements in the paintings on the doors of a vase and various flowers. Once in much more vivid colours, the overall look now is more soft and faded.
This is also another example of a piece of furniture being adapted for a new purpose as the doors and drawers have all been cut from the old fixed panels. Full of character and history, from being used to store grain in the far flung west region of China, the cabinet would take pride of place in a modern setting as a large sideboard.
We'll be adding even more Chinese antiques to our website soon, including pieces that we will be shipping over from China in the next couple of months, so be sure to keep an eye out for these amongst our new arrivals.