Antique Jewelry Box with Auspicious Symbols, China (16782BKE)
H: 8.5″ W: 15″ D:5″
This vibrant jewelry box containing five draws with tear drop pulls is decorated with well recognized auspicious symbols to bring blessings and good luck to its fortunate female owner: red, the color of “fu” symbolizes blessings for a virtuous and blissful life; the carved young women on the doors holding lotus stems symbolize beauty and purity; and the five bats surrounding a longevity character on the top mean ““May you have a harmonious marriage with the Five Blessings.” With its propitious meanings, this charming box was probably a wedding gift for the optimistic bride.
The well-crafted lacquer covered jewelry box is a fine example of Chinese vernacular furniture created during the late Qing Dynasty in the 18th – 19th centuries for China’s emerging middle class of merchants, trades people and bankers who rejected strict formal Ming design. This newly emerged furniture style was made from softer woods such as elm, often brightly colored in red, lacquer surfaces, intricate and sometimes extravagant designs and full of symbols easily recognizable by generally illiterate populations. As stated by McCormick, “This furniture also, sadly represents the end of a cultural era…of a well-honed; craft and prolific industry in China for over a thousand years.” (pg.11). The brilliantly carved door panels on this elegant jewelry box are highlighted in gilt and are each adorned with a young woman holding the stem of an over-sized lotus symbolizing beauty and purity. Brass teardrop door pulls are used on the doors and on the five deep drawers. The top of the box has five carved bats surrounding a longevity (shou) roundel, a wish for a long life frequently used as a decorative design element for birthday gifts. The combination of five bats (wufu) around the shou means “May you be granted a long life and the Five Blessings or Happinesses (wufu pengshou) which are health, wealth, longevity, virtue and a peaceful death and can be expressed by the word (fu). When depicted on a box, it becomes yet another word combination which translates as “May you have a harmonious marriage with the Five Blessings” (wufu hehe) (Bartholomew, p.24) as the box (he) signifies completeness, togetherness and harmony. Given the auspicious images on this unusually fine functional-and-utilitarian piece, it probably was a wedding gift for the fortunate bride. This piece is in the VA Accessories-and-Furniture Collection.
Terese Tse Bartholomew, Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art, San Francisco, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, 2006.
|Dimensions||9 × 15 × 8.5 in|
|Place of Origin||
Antique, Qing Dynasty
Late 19th Century
|Materials and Technique||
Carved wood, polychrome, lacquerware
Ht: 8.5” W: 15” D: 9”
Ht: 21.59cm W: 38.1cm D: 22.86cm
In very good condition, no repairs or restoration, minor chips and scrapes showing age and use.
|Shipping Box Size|