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What’s in the Box?

January 26, 2013

One of the most delightful aspects of the winter clean is getting to have a really good look at some of the furniture and objects that remain closed to view for most of the year. We need to clean and examine every bit of our collections to protect them from deterioration, but this is also a great opportunity for me to learn new things about certain objects. Whilst cleaning small items in the Octagon I saw a Canton lacquered box that sits on a table in the room opened for the first time and was surprised to see that it contained lots of little boxes and trays, all beautifully designed.

The Canton Box as we see it everyday...

The Canton Box as we see it everyday…

The box's beautiful interior revealed

The box’s beautiful interior revealed



It is an octagonal Canton lacquer box from around 1820, sat on clawed feet and decorated in red and gold with pagodas and Chinese scenes. Inside there are 3 rectangular boxes, 4 shaped boxes and six rectangular trays; two of the trays have a playing card decoration, two are decorated with Chinese scenes and the other two have a foliate decoration, one of which has ‘GAME’ on the centre of the tray.


The box has suffered some damage in the past and we keep the broken bits in the box so they won't get lost.

The box has suffered some damage in the past and we keep the broken bits in the box so they won’t get lost.



This tray says 'GAME'- sorry for the poor quality photos!

This tray says ‘GAME’- sorry for the poor quality photos!

 After admiring how pretty the box’s contents were, we began to wonder what they were used for. It would seem the box’s contents were designed for some sort of game, but just what that game would be we don’t know. Were there cards? Were there playing pieces kept in the boxes? I’ve attempted to research online the box and the sort of game it might have held, but haven’t had any luck finding any answers. So if anyone out there could tell me more, I would love to hear from you!

 Just thought I would share this interesting little object with you all.

 Chloe x

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