One of the most exciting areas of collecting is that of the decorative arts of the China trade (excludes porcelain, which is an area on to its own). From the late 18th century, ships of England, Holland, France, Iberia, Scandinavia, and America were dispatched to China to acquire the fascinating and exquisite objects created by Chinese artisans specifically for western markets. Silver, lacquerware, silk embroideries, paintings, fans, ivory carvings, furniture and curiosities were eagerly sought after by the western traders who set up their headquarters in "Hongs" along the Pearl River at Canton. These exotic objects were purchased or exchanged by the captains and merchants for themselves or as special commissions or for resale at home. The China trade in decorative arts flourished for about 100 years. By the 1870s, workmanship deteriorated and enthusiasm waned and the vibrant China trade effectively ended.
Recently, there has been a strong renewed interest in the objects of the China trade, now offered by antique dealers rather than carried from Chinese ports by brigs and clipper ships. One marvels at the quality and diversity of the Chinese artist, ever challenged to meet the tastes and standards of foreigners they hardly knew.
Suchow & Seigel offer a number of rare China trade objects of the early and mid 19th century: a superb red, black and gold lacquered box (above) with its original pasteboard liner, meant for an embroidered silk shawl, a concentrically carved ivory ball atop an intricately carved ivory Kuan-Yin (goddess of mercy) and child, carved ivory card cases, a metal and enamel compass, and a silver-tipped ebony officer's baton in its original elmwood case.