Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
China, Room 44, The T.T. Tsui Gallery

Chest

1736-1795 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The chest would have been filled with ice and stood in the centre of a room to help combat the fierce heat of summer in north China.

The main body of the chest is supported by two kneeling servants. The pierced cover is surmounted by a lion finial. Chests of this kind were filled with ice to combat the fierce heat of summer. The ice was collected in the winter and stored underground.


object details
Category
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Ice Chest
  • Lid
Materials and Techniques
Cloisonne enamel on copper with gilding
Brief Description
Ice chest with cover, cloisonne enamels on copper, probably Yuanmingyuan, China, Qianlong period (1736-1795)
Physical Description
Cloisonne enamel rectangular box with a domed, partly openwork cover, supported by two kneeling bearded foreign-looking men. The cover is surmounted by a gilt lion finial.

Dimensions
  • Height: 72.4cm
  • Width: 109.9cm
Style
Object history
Purchased from Professor Stockbauer, Nuremberg, on 9 May 1876. According to registration records, the object came from 'the Summer Palace, Pekin', which refers to the imperial summer retreat Yuanmingyuan, north of Beijing. Yuanmingyuan was destroyed by British and French troops during the Second Opium War in 1860. Whether this object came from the Yuanmingyuan is difficult to verify, but given the early acquisition date and the imperial quality of the piece, it is likely to have come from the Yuanmingyuan.



Historical context
The chest would have been filled with ice and stood in the centre of a room to help combat the fierce heat of summer in north China. Another, more recent view, is that the vessel is an incense burner because the pierced cover and thin metal lining of the body meant that ice would melt too quickly.
Production
Beijing Palace Workshops
Summary
The chest would have been filled with ice and stood in the centre of a room to help combat the fierce heat of summer in north China.



The main body of the chest is supported by two kneeling servants. The pierced cover is surmounted by a lion finial. Chests of this kind were filled with ice to combat the fierce heat of summer. The ice was collected in the winter and stored underground.
Bibliographic References
  • lbert Lutz and Helmut Brinker, Chinese Cloisonne: The Pierre Uldry Collection, London, 1989, p. 56, fig. 33. Sir Harry Garner, Chinese and Japanese Cloisonne Enamels, London, 1962, pl. 71. Stephen Bushell, Victoria and Albert Museum. Chinese Art. Volume II, London, 1906, fig. 92.
  • Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Chinese Art, 1935-6, London : Royal Academy of Arts, 19352015
Collection
Accession Number
255&A-1876

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record createdSeptember 15, 2005
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