Featured Antique chest or recent reproduction?

Discussion in 'Furniture' started by hrgquest, Sep 17, 2023.

  1. hrgquest

    hrgquest New Member

    Hi all, I got this chest at an antique store in South Carolina. It was labelled as an "English blanket document chest" and the cashier told me (after purchasing, so I don't think he was trying to trick me into buying it) that it was possibly late 1600s. I did some digging later, and I think it's much more likely to be Asian, possibly Indonesian, and definitely not 1600s. But I'm having a hard time determining the age. The lock was removed and hinges were replaced, and I'm not sure if the bottom of the chest may have also been replaced because the wood doesn't seem to fit with the rest. There might also be some mold in the corners, unfortunately.
    I posted pictures on a different antique forum, and it was suggested to me that the chest might have been made in the past few decades and intentionally distressed/made to look old. But there's definite oxidation around some of the old nail holes, so I really don't know. Are there any clues that might help narrow down the age? There's no mark or label that I can see. Thanks!
    Dimensions are 23 x 12, and it's 10 inches tall.

    Attached Files:

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  2. verybrad

    verybrad Well-Known Member

    It may have some decent age but think it is an import. Indonesia (Bali) is a likely source.
  3. verybrad

    verybrad Well-Known Member

  4. hrgquest

    hrgquest New Member

    Thanks - it's nice to know I wasn't too far off about potential origin! Any ideas on a general age? I really like the paint and the carvings (especially on the lid of the candle box, if that's the right term), but I'd feel a little silly if it turned out to just be a very recent fake.
  5. Any Jewelry

    Any Jewelry Well-Known Member

    Definitely antique Indonesian, and a beauty. You have a good piece there.
    However, it is much more likely to be from Madura, especially with that green (Islam) on the sides. I would say 19th century.
    Madura is north of East Java, Bali is east of Java.

    The carving around the lock, or rather lack thereof, looks inspired by the type of iron locks on 17th and 18th century Dutch chests. You wouldn't see that on Bali, because it was only colonised in the 20th century, when those Dutch chests were no longer used.
    Madura was colonised in the 18th century, and Madurese carvers are known for incorporating Dutch elements in their art.


    Stylistically Balinese art is related to that of Java and Madura. In the Middle Ages Bali was colonised by the East Javanese Majapahit empire, of which Madura was an equal partner. East Javanese culture became the dominant culture in Bali, and much of it is still visible in Bali.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2023
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  6. Any Jewelry

    Any Jewelry Well-Known Member

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  7. verybrad

    verybrad Well-Known Member

    I stand corrected. Thanks, AJ! Great superior knowledge of the nuances in Idonesian arts. I know just enough to get myself in trouble ;)
  8. hrgquest

    hrgquest New Member

    Thank you so much - that's wonderful information! It's so pretty despite the rough patches here and there. I got it on sale for $160 and was really hoping it would at least be antique and not a fake. Nice to know it's not a Pier One Imports knock-off, anyway! ;)

    Would it have been made for a particular purpose, or just as a general container? The lid on the inner compartment looks to me to have a carving of two upside down fish on it; would that be a typical/symbolic design for the region, or just a neat addition? I haven't found any other examples of these chests with decorations on that lid, although I'm certainly no expert. And any ideas of what the wood might be? There's definite damage and probably white mold in some areas, and I'm not sure how best to treat it without damaging the paint or the already-damaged areas of wood.
    Thank you again for the information and for indulging my questions!
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2023
  9. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

    Dear Brad :
    Going toe to toe with AJ , is most often a humbling affair !!
    I've learned long ago....if it's in her wheelhouse......I hit the bricks !!!

  10. hrgquest

    hrgquest New Member

    And just because I've gone down a rabbit hole and am curious now: I've been trying to do some more research, and this particular chest keeps popping up as one of the results: https://www.rubylane.com/item/22481...HxfF-2gnNuT-z-vSiIjiXrb3A2rnCEc0aAqPGEALw_wcB

    To my very untrained eye, it doesn't look mid-1800s--mostly because the wood doesn't seem to have much wear, especially at the bottom, and it looks like they just left a space to mimic where the lock would go. But I could very easily be wrong. In your opinion(s), is this a recent replica, or is it an actual antique in really good condition that just looks different to the few examples that I've seen?
  11. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

    u search the web.....but remember.....the web is not the world and unless someone uploads a photo to the web..........a match may not be found....

    it's ilk may reside in a catalog.....somewhere.

    & of course...AJ...is not trying to sell u something.
    Her insight is not to be taken lightly..;)
  12. Ghopper1924

    Ghopper1924 Well-Known Member

    For what it's worth, I don't think this is a reproduction, though certainly not 1600s as you mentioned.

    I would vote for 1880s on this, due to the aesthetic movement sunflowers or daisies illustrated. If, as AJ says, Madura chests were produced in a culture that incorporated Dutch elements into their work, then that may make sense. The aesthetic movement was certainly international, though I have no idea how much it might have encroached into Madura on its own. However, artists in Holland would certainly have been aware of it, and it might have made it into Madura in that fashion.

    My .02
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  13. Any Jewelry

    Any Jewelry Well-Known Member

    Indonesia has many cultures, with many nuances, so it isn't easy to pinpoint an origin without some background knowledge.
    Most Indonesian furniture we see in the West is from Java and Madura. Java mainly colonial style, Madura mainly traditional style with some Dutch colonial influences. The Madurese are known as great craftspeople specialised in intricate carving.

    Balinese export furniture is often chunky bamboo furniture, or "tribal" style cabinets, made for a specific home decor market.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2023
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  14. Any Jewelry

    Any Jewelry Well-Known Member

    A container for clothing, bedlinen, that kind of thing.
    Madura is a group of small islands. The Madurese lived off the sea, mostly maritime trade, but also fishing. On the main island, also called Madura, they had salt fields during the dry season, which were used as fish farms during the wet season. It is possible this chest came from that region, near the town of Sumenep.
    Very nice classic Madurese dowry or wedding chest. And you're right, it has the same "Dutch lock" space. It is an original chest, not a replica. My guess would be first half of the 20th century.
    They wheeled such chests down the streets in a festive parade to show everyone the dowry or wedding presents.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2023
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  15. hrgquest

    hrgquest New Member

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! :shame: One last question (hopefully - unless I think of more): what would be the best method of cleaning it? I think the outside should be alright with just a dry dust cloth, but like I mentioned the inside seems to have some white mold in the corners. Would white vinegar be alright, provided it stays on the inside and away from the paint, or is there a better option? The wood seems fairly porous, and I just want to be sure I don't damage anything.
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  16. Any Jewelry

    Any Jewelry Well-Known Member

    I think that would be alright, as long as you keep a cloth at hand to soak up any excess vinegar.
    Do it outside though, and wear a mask so you don't inhale any spores.

    Brad might have a better idea though, so let's wait for him.
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  17. verybrad

    verybrad Well-Known Member

    No harm in using vinegar on the inside. If there is any lingering mustiness, you may need to seal the wood with something. Oil varnishes are great for this.
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  18. Lark

    Lark Well-Known Member

    My parents brought one back for me from Jakarta that is very similar and indeed old. My daughter has it now. Nice chest.
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