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Coromandel Screens

What are they?

Coromandel screens are folding screens made of wooden panels covered with carved Chinese lacquer. The lacquer surface is carved away exposing a sub-stratum of white gesso which is painted to make a design. Screens often have as many as twelve leaves hinged-together to form one vast, integrated composition.

Why are Oriental lacquered screens called "Coromandel"?

The screens became popular in Europe starting in the 17th century. They were shipped to Europe by way of India's Coromandel coast. The name derives from this point on the Country Trade Route.

Are all Coromandel screens old?

No. Coromandel screens and other pieces of similarly carved & painted furniture are still being produced today with black, cinnabar red or white backgrounds. They can be found in shops for as little as $800 for a small, 4-panel screen.

How do I judge the quality/value of a Coromandel screen?

First consider the overall design: does the piece read well as whole? Next, look at the details: A complex, finely-detailed screen is usually considered of better quality than a simple, plain one. (Most Coromandels are carved both front and back with a detailed scene on the recto side and a simpler--often floral scene--on the verso.) Finally, look at its age: fine, large 17th or 18th century pieces with subtle patinas and rich colors are considered very desirable and will trade for six figures.


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