Antique Black Painted Storage Trunk
Shanxi, circa 1890
This colourful blanket chest is of a type used by Chinese opera companies to hold props and costumes as they toured their performances. They were often painted with scenes from the operas they were showing, but this one is decorated mainly with various flowers in reds, oranges and creams. The main painting framed in a square on the front of the trunk shows Chrysanthemums and Lilies, each of which have symbolic meanings in China.
The word for Chrysanthemum in Chinese is 'jū', meaning to remain and 'jiǔ', meaning long time and is therefore used to represent long life. Similarly the characters for lily ('bǎi hé') sound similar to those used in a proverb about long-lasting union, and the flower is therefore a symbol for a long, happy marriage. Surrounding this main painting are further flowers and four circular longevity symbols. To the left and right are a female and male figure, presumably characters from the opera.
The trunk is made from 'wutong' wood in its original black lacquer finish and the paintings, while faded, are still bright against the dark surface. A simple metal clasp allows the lid to be secured in place. Great for unusual storage in a living room or bedroom or even as a side table next to a bed.
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