China, probably Guangzhou, 1730s
Wood, gold, lacquer, silver, brass
Ivory sculpture of Christ on the Cross: India, Goa, late 17th or early 18th century
Asian Civilisations Museum

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 front of the lower section folds down to create a desk. The interior is enhanced with red and gold lacquer for the serpentine columns and framing elements.

The Crucified Christ was carved in Goa around 1700; and figures of Saint Francis and Saint Anthony 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.


  • Title: Bureau shrine

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