A fine painted lacquer games box and cover
Early 19th century
14 1/2 x 11 3/8 in, 36.8 x 28.8 cm
Of rectangular form, the box is fitted with five rectangular boxes and five bracket-lobed square trays. The top and sides of the box and cover, and the tops of the rectangular boxes, are painted in red and shades of gold lacquer in the Kodai-ji style with zigzag diagonal lines, with alternating patterns of grapevine against a small diaper, and flowers and butterflies, about central cartouches, each containing a coat of arms and initials, probably reading “HC”, all against a black ground. The sides of the interior boxes are painted in gold with simple sprays of flowers against a black lacquer ground. The trays are each painted with a central foliate cartouche of four butterflies around a blossom, reserved against a diaper ground scattered with more blossoms. The interiors of the boxes and the bases are lacquered black. The boxes contain five types of mother-of-pearl counters: the circular, oval and two forms of rectangular counters are all engraved with the coat of arms on one side and the initials on the other, within circular cartouches against hatching, and with decorative floral borders; and the fish with incised details and a circular cartouche on one side only containing a pair of birds.
The box is thought to have been the property of Major General the Hon. Henry Craven (1776–1836), the brother of the 1st Earl of Craven, who was a noted gambler.
The bold design of this box is associated with the Kodai-ji style of lacquer. The Kodai-ji temple in Kyoto was built in 1606 by the widow of the great Shogun Hideyoshi (1539–98).
Objects with similar diagonal decoration are illustrated in Jackson and Jaffer, Encounters: The Meeting of Asia and Europe 1500–1800, pl. 18.10, p. 243, a toilet glass; and in Jourdain and Jenyns, Chinese Export Art in the Eighteenth Century, no. 23, p. 65, one of a pair of cabinets in Mereworth Castle, Kent.
Note also examples of vine pattern in Crossman, The Decorative Arts of the China Trade: Paintings, Furnishings and Exotic Curiosities, pls. 146, 147 and 154.
See Clunas, Chinese Carving, fig. 26, p. 32, for similar gaming counters dated about 1775.