Cardinal Mazarin's lost chest was used as a bar counter

Cardinal Mazarin's lost chest was used as a bar counter


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During the early seventeenth century The Tokugawa shogunate government stimulated foreign trade, growing its fortune enormously between the years 1603 and 1635. But it was from this last year that the shogunate completely turned around and by introducing the Seclusion laws only allowed some foreign ships (Chinese, Korean and Dutch) to enter Japanese territory.

Ten years later the head of the mission of the Dutch East India Companies, François Caron, commissioned a group of gold boxes from Kaomi Nagashige of Kyoto, a master craftsman, who was part of the official decisions of the Tokugawa rulers.

In 1639 a set of 75 boxes had been created whose decoration featured scenes from the "Tale of Genji," which was a romance written in the 11th century by the nobleman Murasaki Shikibu and is often described as the first novel. This set of boxes is today a national treasure of Japan and part of the permanent collection of the Tokuwaka Art Museum in Nagoya.

Caron's commission commissioned a dozen boxes with scenes from the "Tale of Genji" as he shared great sympathy with Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu. In addition Caron ensured a high quality of the lacquer, similar to that normally seen in Shogun palaces. The process of making the boxes lasted at least two years and that was when the Shogunate established another law that prohibited the export of art objects and whose violation would be grounds for decapitation.

The law was promulgated on August 14, 1643 and it remained in force until 1864, however the boxes left Japan for the Netherlands. The high price of the boxes and the instability created by the Thirty Years' War made their commercialization very difficult. In 1658 the richest man in Europe known, then the cardinal Jules Mazarino bought two of them and transported them to France on a battleship.

Upon his death in 1661, the inherited chests were later sold to William Beckford who gave them to his daughter Euphemia, wife of the Duke of Hamilton. The boxes were kept at Hamilton Palace until they were sold in 1882 in order to make some repairs to the building.

The smaller of the two chests was acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum and the largest went to the President of the Royal Horticultural Society and collector Mr. Trevor Lawrence who, upon his death in 1913, liquidated his property, passing the chest into the hands of Mr. Clifford Cory, the latter dying in 1941 at which time the chest ended its long and tangled journey known to the crowd.

While the battle of England was happening this last chest was written off and V & A started a great search with the goal of getting the two beauties back together again.

Apparently the chest was sold back to a French engineer who used it as a support for his television and was later transferred to the Loire Valley where it was used as a bar counter. Knowing nothing of this, the family of the engineer called the auction specialists Rouillac to appraise and sell their goods and at the ninth auction in June held at the Castle of Cheverny the Mazarin chest was sold for a whopping 7.3 million euros . The winner of the big lot was the Rijksmuseum.

I was born in Madrid on August 27, 1988 and since then I started a work of which there is no example. Fascinated by both numbers and letters and a lover of the unknown, that is why I am a future graduate in Economics and Journalism, interested in understanding life and the forces that have shaped it. Everything is easier, more useful and more exciting if, with a look at our past, we can improve our future and for that… History.


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