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A true treasure chest – Japanese antique coffer proves its worth

Sometimes working at Paul Fraser Collectibles, it can be hard to see the value of a particular item.

As they say, one man’s trash is another’s treasure, and occasionally it can be hard to find the unique selling point of a collectible.

But with others, the reason why it is so coveted is immediately apparent…Japanese. treasure chest. antique. coffer, box, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, Paris, Rouillac

Today (July 11), we were hit with the news that a majestic Japanese antique chest that had been used as both a drinks cabinet and TV stand has sold for over £6m at auction.

The owner, who bought it for just £100 in 1970, was unaware of its true value, despite its outstanding workmanship and gilt lacquered designs.

Japanese, Treasure chest, chest, auction, rouillac, Victoria & albert Museum, antique, coffer

Unbeknown to him, it had been sought by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London since the 1940s. Adding another twist to the tale is the fact that he had lived less than a kilometre from the museum in South Kensington for decades.

But what really struck me about the sale is just exactly how the engineer never once suspected that the chest was worth millions in his 40 years of custodianship. Its worth is immediately apparent to me – take a look at the pictures to see for yourself.Japanese, antique, treasure, chest, Nagashige, Paris, Auction, Rouillac, Victoria & albert Museum, coffer, treasure, chest

The piece’s remarkable tale begins in 1640, when the head of the Dutch East India Company in Japan commissioned a number of coffers of the highest quality from master craftsman Kami Nagashige.

Nagashige created 10 examples of varying size, using his masterful hand to manipulate the cedar wood into a true work of art. The chests are decorated with magnificent scenes from Japanese folklore, such as the Tale of Genji, which is widely considered the world’s first novel.

Besides all this, the piece has a fascinating provenance, having been owned by a French first minister, British poet William Beckford and the Duke of Hamilton. Its disappearance at the start of the Second World War only adds to the intrigue.

Thankfully, Paris-based auction house Rouillac were on hand to inform the misguided owner and it was snapped up by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (much to the chagrin of the Victoria & Albert Museum, I imagine).

The public now have a beautiful antique to enjoy for years to come, while the owner has more than enough left aside from the sale to buy a new TV cabinet.

by Joe

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About paulfrasercollectibles

Expert opinion, news, views and interviews allowing you to collect and invest with confidence.

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