Very attractive Chinese cloisonné playing card box for 2 decks, date unknown, with enamel on brass. The central design of the lid depicts a Chinese garden scene.
Wikipedia describes the cloisonné process:
“Cloisonné is an ancient technique for decorating metalwork objects, in recent centuries using vitreous enamel, and in older periods also inlays of cut gemstones, glass, and other materials. The resulting objects can also be called cloisonné. The decoration is formed by first adding compartments (cloisons in French) to the metal object by soldering or adhering silver or gold wires or thin strips placed on their edges. These remain visible in the finished piece, separating the different compartments of the enamel or inlays, which are often of several colors. Cloisonné enamel objects are worked on with enamel powder made into a paste, which then needs to be fired in a kiln.
“The technique was in ancient times mostly used for jewellery and small fittings for clothes, weapons or similar small objects decorated with geometric or schematic designs, with thick cloison walls. In the Byzantine Empire techniques using thinner wires were developed to allow more pictorial images to be produced, mostly used for religious images and jewellery, and now always using enamel. By the 14th century this enamel technique had spread to China, where it was soon used for much larger vessels such as bowls and vases; the technique remains common in China to the present day, and cloisonné enamel objects using Chinese-derived styles were produced in the West from the 18th century.”
The box measures approximately 150mm x 120mm and is 20 mm high. More important, however, are the dimensions of each interior section that houses a deck of cards. Each interior section is approximately 112mm x 74mm, but is only about 16mm high. What this means is that each section inside will accommodate the length and width of decks that are significantly longer and wider than conventional modern decks, including the boxes of those decks, but has a difficult time accommodating the thickness of conventional 52-card decks, with their boxes, because of height limitations. For example, the Dondorf No. 303 deck for sale in this shop (T00002085), with its box, fits comfortably inside one of the sections of this piece, where it would not fit inside many typical card boxes; however, that deck is only a 36-card deck. In contrast, the Banco deck for sale in this shop (T00002080) is too thick to fit with its box, even though an interior section is easily long enough and wide enough to accept it.
The lid is “scrolled” in front to assist in opening the box.
There are 2 or 3 very small places within the central design on the lid that show slight enamel loss. Otherwise, the piece is in excellent condition. The brass might benefit from a polish, but in the years I have owned the box I have not attempted it.
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