China, probably Guangzhou, 1730s
Wood, gold, lacquer, silver, brass
[Ivory sculpture of Christ on the Cross: India, Goa, late 17th or early 18th century]
Artists in Guangzhou produced beautifully decorated lacquer furniture for export in the 18th and 19th centuries. But this is the only known Chinese lacquer bureau made as a Christian shrine.
This piece is derived from an early 18th-century English form called a “secretary” or a “bureau bookcase”. The interior is enhanced with red and gold lacquer on the serpentine columns and framing elements.
The Crucified Christ was carved in Goa around 1700; and figures of Saint Francis and Saint Anthony flanking him are replacements. The cross at the top and the crowned double-headed eagle (emblem of the Augustinian Order) signal the special function of the piece.