Red Lacquer Floral Sideboard
Dongbei, circa 1920
This brightly painted sideboard would have started off as a storage chest, with the inside being accessed by a removable lid in the top rather than via the doors. The front would instead have been a single fixed panel, providing a large, uninterrupted canvas for the wonderful paintings of flowers and scrolling patterns in green and gold. The doors have been added more recently by cutting into the panel and adding an additional frame underneath for them to fit into. Door hardware has been added, in keeping with the style, and removable shelves fitted inside for practicality.
The colours and style are very much in keeping with the distinctive red lacquer furniture of Dongbei - the northeast region of China - and are similar to those seen on furniture from neighbouring Mongolia. Painted peonies and other flowers are framed with swirling, scrolling patterns on the front of the doors and there is an inscription in the centre above which essentially reads 'Wish Chairman Mao Lives Forever'. Given that the cabinet would have been produced long before Chairman Mao came to power, this detail can only have been added at a later date. Most likely this would have been done during the Cultural Revolution and the campaign to the 'Four Olds' of Old Ideas, Old Culture, Old Customs, and Old Habits. Many items of furniture handed down through families at the time was either repainted or refinished in an effort to make it look new or, as seems likely in this case, updated with pro-communist slogans to avoid being destroyed by the red guard.
With an unusual history and repurposed for modern use, this would make an eye catching sideboard and add colour and interest to any interior.
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