Painted Book Cabinet in Black Lacquer
Shanxi, circa 1860
Usually referred to as a book cabinet nowadays, this type of chest would actually have been made to sit on top of a larger armoire in a similar style, providing extra storage space in a bedroom or reception area for clothing and fabrics. This one dates from the mid nineteenth century and still shows its original black lacquer finish and paintings on the doors - now quite faded. The lacquer has moved over the decades, and has developed a crackled look in parts that only adds to the cabinet's character. The paintings appear to show various figures along with animals - a lion on the left hand door and possibly a elephant on the right. Note that the faces on each figure have been rubbed or scratched out - almost certainly during the 'Cultural Revolution' when anything with a historical narrative relating to China's old customs and culture was seen as borgeouis and therefore ripe for destruction. Surprisingly, the old door hardware and hinges has survived. There is a single removable shelf on the inside.