Black Lacquered Jewelry Cupboard
This exquisite early 19th century table-top Chinese jewelry cabinet is finished in a black lacquer with fine traditional paintings and gold leaf accents. Four slender figures and delicate foliage adorn the exterior panels. Their shapes each follow a rhythmic line, a derivative of the Chinese courtly style of the late Zhou – early Han period (1046–256 BC). Twist the silver key to reveal more gold figures and bamboo trees in the interior panels. Five drawers display blooming flowers, punctuated by small bullseye knobs. This cabinet can host precious jewelry, stationary and other fine keepsakes. Or simply use this cabinet as an object of admiration for its own jewel-like quality. Asian Lacquer originated in ancient China, a technique in which craftsmen build up numerous coats of sap of the Rhus vernicifera tree, a plant indigenous to China, Malaya and Japan. This technical process was soon adopted by the Japanese, where black lacquered furniture also continues to be a part of the national aesthetic. Fascinated by its glossy texture, 18th-century European traders from Portugal and the Netherlands developed a technique to imitate Asian Lacquer, called Japanning. Japanning, and other forms of chinoiserie (European imitations of East Asian artistic traditions), became popular throughout the Western world in the mid-18th century, and re-emerged in 19th-century Europe. However, chinoiserie obtained classic status in Europe and the Americas for its worldly sophistication. With a style that is still celebrated by designers, artists and connoisseurs, this fine cupboard is ensured to withstand the test of time.
At this time in China, Empress Dowager Cixi (1835–1908), one of the most powerful women in Chinese History, was active. Although Cixi began her time in court as a low ranking concubine, she ultimately acted as regent to two successive emperors beginning in 1861, upon the death of Emperor Xianfeng (1831–1861). She effectively controlled the dynasty from this point forward, until her death in 1908. During this time, the Empress Dowager introduced a number of reforms and restorations that allowed the Qing Dynasty to last until 1911.