5126

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Chinese Gilded-Silver Opium Storage Box

China
19th century

height: 9cm, width: 3.6cm, weight: 110g

Available - Enquire

Provenance

UK art market

This fine silver box is for holding the opium block. Such blocks were small (but of high value). They also tended to ooze in warn conditions, so a heavy-gauge box was needed to store them, preferably with a heavy, or tight-fitting lid. Opium also needed to be kept in air-tight conditions, so again, a good lid was needed.

This rectangular box here is of solid silver that has been gilded (gold-plated). Years of use has seen the gilding largely worn away.

The sides are decorated with applied silver plaques – two show dragons and two show phoenixes. The lid is surmounted by a finely worked mythical chi-ling lion.

The base is stamped in Chinese with the word for ‘silver’.

References

Bertholet, F.M., Opium: Art et Histoire d’un Rituel Perdu, Fonds Mercator, 2007.

Delalande, D. & E., Memoires d’Opiums/Memories of Opium, Somogy editions, 2011.

Lee, P., Opium Culture: The Art & Ritual of the Chinese Tradition, Park Street Press, 2006.

Martin, S., The Art of Opium Antiques, Silkworm Books, 2007.

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