12 Jul 2013

17th Century Japanese Chest, Once Owned by Cardinal Mazarin, Sells For £6.3 million

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Daily Mail:

Company, had been sought after by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum since 1941

The story begins in 1640 when the head of the Dutch East India Company’s Japanese office commissioned an order including ‘four extraordinarily fine coffers’.

They were sold 18 years later with other lacquerware to French First Minister Cardinal Mazarin, and added to his extensive collection.

Two were later acquired by British poet William Beckford. Beckford’s daughter Euphemia married the Duke of Hamilton and the coffers would form part of the Hamilton Palace contents sale of 1882, staged to raise funds for the palace upkeep.

The V&A bought one coffer and the other, a larger one, was sold to collector Sir Trevor Lawrence, then to Welsh colliery owner Sir Clifford Cory.

When Sir Clifford died in 1941, as one expert phrased it: ‘It disappeared off the radar.’

Unknown to the art world, a London-based Polish doctor called Zaniewski had bought it at a bargain price – and later sold it to a French Shell Oil engineer in 1970 for £100.

The French engineer took the chest home with him to the Loire Valley, where his children used the chest to hide in, and where it served for years as a television stand and later as a liquor cabinet.

Finally, after the owner’s death, his now-in-her-50s daughter called in the Rouillac Auction House which recognized the chest as one of the most sought after art objects in the world.

It was purchased at auction on June 9th for £6.3 million ($9.5 million) by the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum.

Sun story

Rouillac auction Lot 80

The exterior features gold and lacquer decorations depicting scenes from the Tale of Genji, views of Ishiyama temple where Murasaki composed the Tale of Genji, while the interior is decorated with hunting scenes from the Story of the Soga Brothers.


en français


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