Chinese Cinnabar Lacquer Box, ca. 1750

Value (2012) | $15,000 Auction$25,000 Auction
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GUEST:
Well, I had this great friend in Charleston who was a commercial artist for 40 years. And after he retired, he opened up his own antique business. And his love was Asian arts. And about somewhere between 15 and 20 years ago, he gave this to me because we had become great friends.

APPRAISER:
Well, you know, even at the time that he gave it to you, that was a very, very generous gift. And it was probably something that was in his own personal collection because it's an item that's just beautifully made. It's cinnabar lacquer, and it's Qianlong. It was made between 1735 and 1796. But are you familiar with the fruit that's on there?

GUEST:
Not really.

APPRAISER:
It's, I think, called a Buddha's Hand citron, and it's a lemon that grows with those tendrils like that on the end. And the Chinese refer to it as the Buddha's hand. And then it's all beautifully engraved with, like, these diaper patterns, every inch of it. This thing was a very complicated method of manufacture. What they used to do was, like, build up one layer of lacquer, then they had to let it dry under ideal conditions. And then they polished it, and it was another layer, and another layer, and another layer, and another layer.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
So there were hundreds of layers of lacquer built up for this kind of surface.

GUEST:
Incredible.

APPRAISER:
And then they took the piece and carved it. Well, this is the interior of the box, which is just black lacquer. You can see that little area where the wood is exposed for the material on the edge. And you can also see where there's, like, a kind of a crackling to the lacquer, which they usually call an alligator peel that you want to see on a piece. Well, this has some condition problems in that there are a few little chips on the interior. But it's something that could be easily taken care of. It's just a finely, finely made object, and probably from a scholar's table. Well, when he gave it to you, it was probably worth $1,200 or $1,500. So it was a good gift.

GUEST:
Nice gift.

APPRAISER:
But nowadays, a box like this is worth between, like, $15,000 and $20,000.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
And that value would be an auction estimate on that, yeah.

GUEST:
$15,000 to $20,000.

APPRAISER:
Yeah, yeah, it's a beautiful box.

GUEST:
I'm overwhelmed. I guess it'll go back to where it was, but...with a lot more reverence. Maybe a little velvet and better light.

APPRAISER:
Yeah, yeah.

GUEST:
I'm thrilled. I'm overwhelmed, it's wonderful.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
James D. Julia Auctioneers
Fairfield, ME
Appraised value (2012)
$15,000 Auction$25,000 Auction
Event
Myrtle Beach, SC (June 23, 2012)
Period
18th Century
Form
Box
Material
Lacquer, Wood

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