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Lot: 109

94th Tribal Art Auction

Wheeled "kuruma tansu" storage chest, late Edo period, 19th century


Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
H: 44.1 inch/ 50.2 inch (with wheels);
B: 57.9 inch;
T: 26.4 inch
5000 EUR
plus 27 % commission, VAT, transport and insurance

elm/ zelkova ("keyaki"), metal fittings with finish in blackened burned lacquer, front with two large sliding doors, two small drawers, one internal shelve, on solid wooden wheels

Consistent with Japan's minimalist aesthetic, traditional homes appeared rather empty. "Tansu" were not visible in the home except at certain times for specific situations. They were kept in storehouses ("kura") adjacent to homes or businesses, in storage rooms ("nando"), in house closet alcoves ("oshiire"), on raised platform areas of a shop ("choba").

For this purpose, the "tansu" had to be transportable, which is why they were made of lightweight wood and could either be carried on shoulder bars or ridden on built-in wooden wheels.

These "kuruma tansu" coffers on wheels are the oldest documented example of Japanese mobile cabinetry. They were the property of wealthy families. In the Edo period (1603-1868) they served noblemen and Samurai to demonstrate their noble status.