Imperial Cinnabar Lacquer Box. Tops Roseberys London Auction of Asian Arts

Imperial Cinnabar Lacquer Box. Tops Roseberys London Auction of Asian Arts
Yareah Magazine

Imperial Cinnabar Lacquer Box. Top Roseberys London Auction of Asian Arts

Imperial Cinnabar Lacquer Box. Top Roseberys London Auction of Asian Arts

Imperial Cinnabar Lacquer Box. Top Roseberys London Auction of Asian Arts

London – Roseberys 10 December fine art auction saw an extremely rare and impressive 18th century cinnabar lacquer quatrefoil box and cover sell for an exceptional £30,600.

Roseberys Asian Art specialist Peter Greenway said: “We knew the quality of the materials and high level of craftsmanship used to create this stunning example would suggest that it was created for an Emperor, but the price achieved for this piece confirms it must have been made for the Imperial court. It is extremely rare to see a piece of cinnabar of this size and quality from the Qinglong period, and the realised price exceeded any other UK record that we are aware of.”

The highly decorative box measures 27.2cm diameter and is decorated on the lid with figures in a landscape, seated and on looking figures all enclosed within floral panels. The base panels are decorated with deer, herons and other auspicious animals, all enclosed within continuous geometric pattern.  Inside the box a gold four character mark read “Precious Music Box” and on the base it had a six character Qinglong mark.

From a Dorset manor house the box had been unseen since the 1920s and had remained the property of a family with strong diplomatic connections. Four telephone lines and strong absentee bidding saw the box ultimately sell on the telephone to an oversees buyer. [Lot 1577]

From the same manor house an extremely rare cloisonné hat box with zitan hardwood stand and cover sold to a different international buyer for £20,400. A beautifully decorated and attractive example of some exceptional cloisonné work, the box is decorated with a central flower enclosed within bands of stylised scrolling foliage, bats and clouds. As with many other examples of Chinese artwork from the period bats are included to symbolise happiness, joy and good fortune, and the clouds are an auspicious symbol meaning longevity in good fortune.

A strong Asian Arts selection complemented by good results for both Works of Art and Fine Furniture where a pair of late 19th French Empire revival ormolu four light candelabra sold for £12,000 [lot 885] and a large and impressive French bronze model of Minerva driving a chariot by the sculptor Emmanuel Fremiet sold for £8,400.  Fremiet is best known for his large-scale sculptures of animals, and was the leading sculptor of animals in his day. Many of his sculptures are displayed in public places France and include the first equestrian statue of Joan of Arc, erected in the Place des Pyramides, Paris in 1874, and “Jeune éléphant pris au piège” situated outside the Musée d’Orsay, also in Paris. [Lot 870]

A 1920s Steinway mahogany grand piano trumped the furniture section of the sale. Founded in 1853 in Manhattan, New York Steinway & Sons pianos are an iconic brand, known for making high quality musical instruments. Built in 1924 at the peak of Steinway’s production the piano sold for £6,720. [Lot 1170]

A large and impressive Queen Anne Japanned trunk was also a strong contender, selling for £4,800. English copies of Japanese furniture first became popular in the late 17th century to fuel demand for Oriental furniture. The Dutch India Company began importing furniture and other works of art from Asian during the first half of the 17th century. Through these works the Orient was imagined to be a place of peace, tranquillity and great beauty, and a growing fascination with art from the Far East fuelled Western material desires.

Most popular with European consumer were objects with a glossy red or black lacquer that had been decorated with gilded scenes of Oriental life.  European craftsman didn’t have access to lacquers from the East so they made use of the resins and pigments available to them, and adapted Western techniques such as gesso to replicate the fine gilt decoration. The term ‘Japanned’ relates only to furniture made in Europe in the style of Japanese lacquer work, of which this trunk is a fine example. [Lot 1167] 

The full results of the two-day auction can be found online at and Roseberys will be holding their next Asian Art auction in May 2015.

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