It is extremely rare to find polychrome lacquer wares with more than three colours.
This magnificent pair of boxes exemplifies the skilful manipulation of differently colored lacquer layers to produce striking decoration. In the central decorative roundel on the cover of both boxes the air and earth are shown in different tones of ochre lacquer, while the water and some vegetation is deep green and the rocks, along with most of the figures, trees and buildings are in vermillion red. The classic choice of diapers, which began to become established in the Yuan dynasty, has been used to enliven the texture of the air, water and ground.
No other similar box appears to be published. A related example is a pair of carved four-color lacquer circular boxes with scenes of foreigners on the top, sold in our New York Rooms, 19 March 2009, lot 591. Although the main decoration is different, the three-dimensional treatment of the landscape is very much alike.
See also a carved three-color lacquer floral-shaped box sold in our Hong Kong Rooms, 27 November 2007, lot 1667. The sides carved with archaistic scrolls and floral panels remind those of the present box.