Historic Japanese chest fetches 7.3 mln euros at French sale

CHEVERNY – An Edo-era Japanese chest belonging to Cardinal Mazarin, France’s chief minister from 1642 to 1661, was snapped up at an auction Sunday for 7.3 million euros by Amsterdam’s famed Rijksmuseum.

The black-and-gold lacquer chest, with silver and mother-of-pearl decorations, dates back to the start of Japan’s Edo period and was acquired by Mazarin in 1658, auctioneer Philippe Rouillac said on Sunday after the sale in France’s Loire Valley.

Rouillac found the chest when he was contacted by some people who wanted to sell their parents’ home in the Loire Valley. The chest had been used as a bar for the past two decades.

Photographs dating back to the late 19th century confirmed that it was one of four chests bought by Mazarin, a great art collector who was Louis XIV’s godfather.

Its starting price at auction was a mere 200,000 euros ($264,000) but ended up fetching far more.

“It is the biggest auction sale of the year in France,” Rouillac said, adding that “the Rijksmuseum had the intelligence to gather the support of the biggest art patrons” to acquire the piece.

Born Giulio Raimondo Mazzarino, the Italian Catholic cardinal, diplomat, and politician succeeded his mentor, Cardinal Richelieu, as France’s chief minister.

He was also a noted collector of jewels, particularly diamonds. His personal library was the origin of the Bibliotheque Mazarine in Paris.