Subject:Re: Old Cinnabar Lacquer
Posted By: Moyra & Doug Sat, May 10, 2008
Yes, that large CHUN box (SPRING character) currently on eBay is a modern plastic reproduction. We told the seller what it was, but the seller would rather plead ignorance and sell the piece. Six bidders so far - all of them haven't got a clue what they are looking at.
It is actually a copy of a well known Qianlong piece in the National Palace Museum. Get a copy of the book "Masterpieces of Chinese Carved Lacquer in the National Palace Museum". In addition to being a terrific period piece guide, many of these pieces were reproduced and sold by the museum in their gift shop. They are realistic copies, but you can readily identify them in this book. Some of these copies are being doctored by fakers by adding black and red lacquer overlays and fake reign marks. Disgusting.
Real carved lacquer pieces may sometimes show white under chipped lacquer - but that is a chalky substrate over cloth. A base coat of substrate is what the lacquer adheres to.
Cracks are common in lacquer. The older the piece, the more likely there will be cracks. No cracks is a big warning flag. A good seller will show close ups of any cracks, because it shows how the piece is constructed and authenticates it.
As far as color goes, usually older pieces have faded from brighter red to dark orangish brown. But be careful. Digital cameras are sensitive to red, and photos often appear redder than they really are - especially if a flash or strong lighting is used.
Best way to familiarize yourself with Cinnabar lacquer is to purchase a few real but inexpensive pieces and study them. For less than $40, you can find real export pieces on eBay all the time. They are usually square boxes with rough carving painted CHINA on the bottom.
Moyra & Doug