Portfolio

A carved red lacquer box and cover

Lacquer box

CL278

18th century
Width: 4 1/8 in, 10.5 cm

of peach shape with a flat base. The top is carved with a similarly shaped medallion of two peaches surrounded by five bats (Wu fu) against a ground of scrolling waves, all within a narrow border of scrolling foliage. The sides of both the box and cover are carved with a hexagonal rosette diaper. The interior and base are lacquered black.

The combination of peaches and bats represents a wish for blessings and longevity (Fushou shuangquan). Wu fu (The five blessings) are longevity, wealth, health, love of virtue and a peaceful death.

For small red lacquer boxes of this form, see Chinese Lacquer in the Palace Museum Collection, no. 60; and Chu, Auspicious Emblems: Chinese Cultural Treasures – 45th Anniversary Exhibition of the Min Chiu Society, no. 112, p. 207.

 

A rare carved red lacquer ovoid box and cover

Lacquer box

CL506

Ming dynasty, 16th century
Height: 4 3/4 in, 12.1 cm

the U-shaped lacquer box is supported on a very short, spreading foot; the cover is of conforming shape with a gently domed top. The sides of both the vessel and cover are carved with leafy lychee on a rosette diaper between bands of wavy lappets and key-fret. The top is similarly decorated with lychee issuing from rocks. The interior and base are lacquered black, now faded.

Formerly in a Japanese private collection.

This form is very rare, but for the subject on other Ming carved red lacquers, see Brandt, Chinesische Lackarbeiten, no. 57, pp. 106–07, a pair of bowls; Carved Lacquer in the Collection of the Palace Museum, no. 122, a rectangular box; Carving the Subtle Radiance of Colors: Treasured Lacquerware in the National Palace Museum, nos. 48 and 49, p. 66, two circular boxes; Garner, Chinese Lacquer, pl. 64, a circular box in the collection of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm; and Zhongguo Qiqi Quanji, Vol. 5, no. 78, p. 78, a tiered box in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing.

 

A painted red lacquer box with interior fittings

Lacquer box

CL316

Circa 1800
13 ¾ in, 35 cm square

of square section with cloud-lappet corners and straight sides supported on four bracket feet, set slightly back from the corners. The centre of the cover is set with a raised panel, the form of which imitates that of the box. The top is painted in muted, earthy colours and gilding on a red ground with leafy melon scroll, and four butterflies around the central panel, and with scrolling lotus to the corners. The sides are similarly decorated with panels of scrolling lotus alternating with small four-petalled blossoms enclosed by geometric fretwork to the cover, above a key-fret band to the box. The box is fitted with nine shaped black lacquer trays painted with lotus sprays; the interior and base are lacquered black.

A very similar lacquer box is illustrated in Chinesische Kunst, no. 777; and note a related painted lacquer example in Ho and Bronson, Splendors of China’s Forbidden City: The Glorious Reign of Emperor Qianlong, no. 317, p. 248. Such boxes can also be found in other materials: see, for example, Bamboo, Wood, Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Carvings: The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, no. 85, p. 93, in zitan; Liu, Lushun Museum, p. 97, in lacquer inlaid with mother-of-pearl; and Yang, Tributes from Guangdong to the Qing Court, no. 49, p. 87, in painted enamel.

 

An ivory casket

An ivory casket

1013-098

Early 19th century
Length: 7 1/2 in, 19 cm

Of rectangular form. The cover is carved with an elaborate scene of figures in pavilions, on terraces and in a boat, with various plants and trees, including banana and wutong, enclosed by a narrow border simulating bamboo, a frieze of floral scroll and a wider bamboo border. The sides of the box are carved with four similar panels, and the sides of the cover with narrow landscapes, all separated by narrow borders of blossoms and simulated bamboo.

Formerly in an English private collection.

For similar examples, see Allen, “Sir Victor Sassoon and his Ivories”, fig. 11, p. 104; Tardy, Les Ivoires, figs. 2 and 3, p. 283, in the collection of the Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul; and Watson, Chinese Ivories from the Shang to the Qing, no. 260, pp. 184–5, in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

 

A rare boxwood (huangyangmu) incense tool vase

A rare boxwood (huangyangmu) incense tool vase

1012-111

17th–18th century
Height: 3 7/8 in, 9.9 cm

After an archaic bronze hu. The square-section vessel has a spreading foot and rounded sides rising to a waisted neck, carved with two monster-mask handles suspending fixed rings, and terminating in an upright mouth. The wood bears a natural mellow patina.

Formerly in a Western private collection.

This rare vase takes its inspiration from a Han bronze original: see, for example, Laufer, Chinese Pottery of the Han Dynasty, fig. 35, p. 141, a line drawing.

A similar example in jade is illustrated in Xue, Zhongguo Yuqi Shangjian, no. 634, p. 327.

 

A mother-of-pearl inlaid black lacquer incense stand

A mother-of-pearl inlaid black lacquer incense stand
A mother-of-pearl inlaid black lacquer incense stand

1012-100

Ming dynasty
Height: 26 in, 66 cm

Of square section, the top, with a pierced, constricted waist and a shaped apron, stands on four hipped cabriole legs that are supported on a platform base, also with a pierced waist. The top is inlaid in mother-of-pearl with a square panel depicting a procession of three mounted figures and six attendants passing through a gate, watched by two ladies in a pavilion, and two attendants, one of whom peeks round the door of another pavilion in which stand an incense table, a censer and an incense-stick holder. The panel is enclosed by a geometric diaper border. The platform is similarly decorated with a panel of a peacock amid flowers and rocks. The apron is inlaid with cartouches of squirrels and vine, and the legs and waists with leafy flowers and diaper patterns.

For similar examples, see Bukchon Art Museum, East Asian Lacquer, nos. I-66 and I-67, pp. 122–3, dated fifteenth to sixteenth century, and no. I-68, p. 123, dated sixteenth to seventeenth century; Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Chinese Art, 1935–6, no. 1546, in the collection of the Musée Guimet, Paris; Chugoku No Raden, no. 46, p. 93, dated fifteenth century; Exhibition of Mother-of-Pearl Inlay in Chinese Lacquer Art, nos. 75 and 77, both dated fifteenth to sixteenth century, and the latter in the collection of the Itsu-o Art Museum, Osaka; Kwan, Chinese Lacquer, no. 42, pp. 168–9, dated circa early fifteenth century; and Wu, Selected Masterpieces of Asian Art: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, no. 167, pp. 178–9,dated early sixteenth century.

See also an octagonal lacquer tray inlaid with a similar scene in Watt and Ford, East Asian Lacquer: The Florence and Herbert Irving Collection, no. 58, pp. 131–2, dated fifteenth century.

 

A hardstone-inlaid black lacquer dressing case

A hardstone-inlaid black lacquer dressing case

0513-106

17th–18th century
14 x 13 1/2 x 10 1/4 in, 35.6 x 34.3 x 26 cm

Of rectangular form, and inlaid in hardstones and mother-of-pearl. The front is decorated with five boys playing, one with a sheng, one with a pipe, and one with a fan and a frog, with which he teases one of the others, in a landscape; the two shorter sides with antiques; the top with a bird in a magnolia tree and a butterfly hovering above; and the foot with dragons and flowers. The cover lifts to reveal a shelf, and the doors open to reveal four drawers; the long drawer and the shelf are decorated with fruit and floral sprays, and the three short drawers are inlaid in lac burgauté with trees and figures in landscapes. With brass fittings.

Formerly in a British private collection.

For large cupboards similarly inlaid in hardstones in the technique known as Zhou work, and bearing similar decoration of boys at play, see Clunas, Chinese Furniture, no. 82, pp. 93–4, one of a pair of cupboards in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum; Hu, Collections of the Palace Museum: Inlaid Furniture, no. 177, p. 259; and Luzzato-Bilitz, Oriental Lacquer, no. 40, the other cupboard of the pair in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Note also an inlaid huanghuali dressing case of this form and with related decoration in Evarts, Liang Yi Collection: Small Objects, no. 47, pp. 90–1.

 

A rare bamboo figure of a female Immortal

A rare bamboo figure of a female Immortal

0512-100

18th century
Height: 4 5/8 in, 11.7 cm

Holding a ruyi sceptre in her right hand and the belt of her long, windswept robes in her left. Her face is delicately carved and her features bear a gently smiling, benevolent expression; her incised hair is drawn up into an elaborate knot.

A similar example is illustrated in Ip and Tam, Chinese Bamboo Carving, Part II, pl. 99, pp. 288–9, in the collection of the Hong Kong Museum of Art.

Note also Keverne, Bamboo and Wood Carvings of China and the East, no. 144.

 

A fine painted lacquer games box and cover

A fine painted lacquer games box and cover
A fine painted lacquer games box and cover
A fine painted lacquer games box and cover
A fine painted lacquer games box and cover

0511-114

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.