Carved Shanxi Elm Coffer
Shanxi, circa 1860
This stunning chest is from Shanxi province, where it would have been used as a coffer to store money and valuables. Made from elm wood, it dates from the mid 19th century and still has the original finish, worn in places to the paler wood underneath. The chest has some wonderful carved decoration both on the five drawers and on the apron and spandrels. The relief carvings on the drawers show floral patterns and vases, and this motif is repeated on the side spandrels in relief and open carving. Traces of the old, once brightly coloured lacquer is still evident on the spandrels, including a blue pigment on the vases. When the coffer was produced only the two upper drawers would have been included. The space behind the lower panels could only have been accessed by removing these, and would have been used to hold especially prized or valuable items. The chest would have been made by a highly skilled carpenter and is still in wonderful condition today.