Chinese Cinnabar Lacquer box going under the hammer.

Friday 30th October 2020 - Belle Gait


Chinese Cinnabar Lacquer box going under the hammer.

An item found underneath the owner's bed turns out to be worth thousands!!

Charterhouse Auctioneers & Valuers is a family run auction house located in Dorset. They run monthly auctions of Fine Art and Antique items and their next sale is running on3rd, 4th & 5th December. 


One of the prize lots is the upcoming sale is Lot No 775 – this Chinese red cinnabar lacquer box. This beautiful crimson item has been valued between £2000 and £4000, but can you believe it was found underneath a bed? 


Yes, it’s true. The owner of this heart shaped box, wasn’t really looking to make a small fortune but rather decided to utilise the recent national lockdown as a way to tackle clutter and have a clear out. Despite moving a few years ago, as many of us can probably sympathise with, the owner still had a few unpacked boxes remaining. These boxes, squirreled away under the bed had some antiques and silver items in them but it turned out they were also home to this beautiful red box which Richard Bromell said “… stood out like a sore thumb head and shoulders above all the other items.” 


The box itself is made of red cinnabar lacquer; cinnabar being the only important and in fact, toxic, ore of mercury. The naturally existing bright reddish-orange colour has been used as a pigment and carved into vases, ornaments and jewellery for thousands of years. Seemingly developed in the 12th century the process of creating a cinnabar lacquered item is certainly an extremely time consuming one. The beautiful objects usually start with a wood- based item such as an ornament, in this case a heart shaped box, which is then coated with multiple (often thirty to thirty-five, but even up to 200!) thick layers of the colourful cinnabar varnish. Once the varnish has set and dried it can be carved to create beautiful landscapes, scenes of birds, geometric designs; it seems the possibilities are almost endless. Considered a luxury product, these items are in high demand not only in their native home of China but in fact across Europe and even the U.S. 


This heart shaped beauty is no exception; having survived two World Wars, numerous moves and relocations and of course travelling several thousand miles to finally make It to the Charterhouse sale next week. The sale will be held entirely online and this intricately carved beauty is expected to draw interest from around the world. You can view the full catalogue here.


Whether its cinnabar lacquer you’re looking for or perhaps something else you’re in the market for, remember that the easyliveAuction platform makes it incredibly easy to search for the trinket of your dreams.