Shanxi Coffer with Three Drawers
Shanxi, circa 1850
This wonderfully carved chest is from Shanxi province in central China. It would have originally been used to hold valuables, but also as an altar for offerings to ancestors - the upward turning flanges at each end of the top surface denoting its religious purpose. The lacquer finish has been updated but the beautiful relief carvings are still intact. These include scrolling dragons on the upper drawers and side spandrels, and depictions of prized possessions on the lower drawer. The lower drawer itself has been added recently using what was a fixed panel as the front. The area behind this panel would once have been accessed only by removing the two upper drawers, creating a more secure compartment for more valuable items.