A fine and rare ivory box and cover

A fine and rare ivory box and cover


Yuan dynasty
Height: 2 3/8 in, 6 cm

Of ovoid form with a flat base and cover. The cover is carved with a cartouche depicting buildings beneath trees in various depths of relief. The box is decorated with five ogival medallions, of lotus and three types of chrysanthemum-like flowers, separated by groups of three vertical lines and cloud lappets, and with narrow bands of scrolling to the rims of both the box and the cover. The ivory bears a mellow, honey-coloured patina.

A very similar example, in the collection of Lady David, is illustrated in Lee and Ho, Chinese Art Under the Mongols: The Yüan Dynasty (1279–1368), no. 229, where it is noted that “the true analogs [of the medallions] must be the Yuan celadons with biscuit relief medallions, the underglaze blue and copper-red jar in the Percival David Foundation [illustrated in Pierson, Illustrated Catalogue of Underglaze Blue and Copper Red Decorated Porcelains in the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, B661, p. 33], and the Fonthill vase.”

This box compares also with larger Yuan lacquer covered boxes: see, for example, Lee and Ho, ibid, no. 284; and Watt and Ford, East Asian Lacquer: The Florence and Herbert Irving Collection, no. 3, pp. 44–5.