Antique Lacquer and Gilt Straits Chinese (Peranakan) Shrine Cabinet, China (3986BKE)
H: 16.375″ W: 13.625″ D: 5.75″
This intricately carved black and heavily gilt antique cabinet is a fine example of a Straits Chinese furniture made in Guangdong for the Southeast Asia market. Carved openwork panels with phoenixes and lotuses are symbolic wishes for harmony, blessings, rank, good fortune; outstretched wings wish for harmonious marriage, many sons and the inside decoration a wish for status and successful career. Although flamboyant for todays taste, it is a unique accent piece and gift for newly weds.
Peranakan refers to mixed-blood Chinese living in former British settlements in Penang, Malacca, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia whose forefathers were early Chinese traders, sailors and laborers. Many Chinese traders, laborers, and merchants remained in Southeast Asia during monsoon season before returning married local women living a two-family life. This wealthy population favored Chinese vernacular lacquer coated furniture with ostentatious show of wealth with auspicious symbols. This shrine rests on a low pedestal with curving gilt lines and florals. Each hinged door has three carved openwork panels: top and bottom horizontal with florals centered with a lotus pod filled with seeds expressing a wish for many sons and a tall center one with a phoenix flanked by peonies. The phoenix was a popular Chinese symbol in Southeast Asia as one of the four divine animals presiding over the southern quadrant. A pair with outstretched wings represents harmony between a husband and wife and a wish many sons. When the phoenix “king of birds” is paired with peonies, the “king of flowers,” it symbolizes harmony, blessings, good fortune, and prosperity. The inside wall has a painted outline of a gilt table holding a Chinese screen with two scholars admiring a natural setting of mountains, water and vegetation and a scholar in his studio contemplating scholars objects. Knapp (p. 99) observes that pairs of similar ancestral shrine cabinets were placed on home altar tables holding two generations of spirit tablets. Covered with marriage and blessings symbols, it probably was a gift for newlyweds to be used later as an ancestral shrine and is still is the category of great wedding gifts. It is in very good condition despite expected signs of age and use: minor chips and wood losses, cracks, lacquer losses, and dings; a crack on the vertical length of the painting on the rear wall.
Maria Khoo Joseph, “Auspicious Designs: Batik for Peranakan Altars,” Be Muse, Volume 7, Issue 3 – Jul to Sep 2014
Ronald Knapp, The Peranakan Chinese Home: Art and Culture in Daily Life, Singapore, Tuttle Press, Singapore, 2017.
|Place of Origin||
Antique, Qing Dynasty
|Materials and Technique||
Wood, polychrome, lacquer
Ht: 16.375" W: 13.625 D: 5.75"
Ht: 41.59cm W: 34.61cm D: 14.60cm
Very good, no repairs/restorations (see description).
|Shipping Box Size|
12” to 17.9”