RICHARD WINTERTON AUCTIONEERS MYSTERY OBJECT STEEPED IN HISTORY

. August 31, 2012

Can anyone guess for what purpose this mysterious object is for? Probably dating from the eighteenth century the hollow body is made from a gourd which has been moulded to shape and has Chinese script on the surface. The cover is made of ivory with a pierced tortoiseshell dome set into it. For those intrigued to know please read on.


Cricket Cage

It is in fact what is known as a cricket cage, in other words a vessel for housing a cricket insect. Keeping crickets as domestic pets emerged in China in early antiquity and were kept for their songs. From the twelfth century the Chinese began holding cricket fights. The Chinese were more interested in insects than mammals as they were symbols of bravery or resurrection. Therefore cages or homes for the cricket were required and these became prized and expensive objects.

Gourd cricket homes such as this were custom made and were originally an exclusive monopoly of the Forbidden City. The ovary of the gourd was placed in an earthenware mould which would force the fruit to take that shape. Each gourd was made to house a specific species, for example larger gourds for the larger species and so on. This art was perfected by the eighteenth century and were a symbol of the highest social standing. Once inside the cricket would ‘sing’ and the sound would resonate from the inside through the pierced cover.

The ancient secrets of cricket handling were largely lost during the Chinese Civil War and the Communist regime deemed cricket keeping unacceptable. The practise has re-emerged and Shanghai today has over twenty cricket markets.

Cricket cages are a rarity in prized possessions. This example along with another similar was discovered alongside a large haul of antique Chinese jade and porcelain at a valuation day at Richard Winterton Auctioneers in Lichfield. They will be offered for auction in the November Fine Art Sale. Cricket cages can fetch in excess of £300 when they appear at auction.

Themed antiques and collectables valuation days are held at locations throughout the region. Contact Adrian Rathbone, Associate at Richard Winterton Auctioneers for further details on 01543 251081 or lichfield@richardwinterton.co.uk

More information: 01543 251081 or visit
www.richardwinterton.co.uk

Category: Auction News

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