Dark Elm Altar Cabinet
Shanxi, circa 1860
At over two metres in length, this large sideboard would add impact to any setting. It dates from the end of the nineteenth century and was produced in Shanxi province. Made from elm wood, it still has the original dark lacquer finish, now worn at the edges and crackled in places to give a unique patina. This type of cabinet, with an extended top surface with everted, upturned ends, would have been used originaly both for storage and to hold offerings to ancestors. It would have been placed against the far wall in the main room of a home, with portraits of family members above.
This one has some wonderful detail, particularly the two large side spandrels, which are each carved in relief with beautiful matching floral designs. The central doors are fitted with the old, heavy circular hardware and hinges and the three drawers above each have round matching handles. What were once fixed panels at either side of the central doors have been converted into doors, opening up to provide easier access to the full space inside. The centre post is a feature that appeared later on in Chinese cabinets, mainly for aesthetic purposes, and is also removable.
With its old finish, imposing dimensions and unique character, the sideboard would be ideal as a dining room buffet or as a statement piece in a reception room, with plenty of storage space inside.
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