Previously sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 31 October 1995, lot 379.
It is extremely rare to find a box and cover of Wanli mark and period this large size, with such lively painting and with an openwork cover, and no closely comparable piece appears recorded. The rich tones of purple tinged cobalt blue found on this box epitomise the ideal and distinctive colbalt blue of the late Ming.
Wanli rectangular blue and white boxes are more commonly found without openwork panels and decorated on the covers with dragons, crane or phoenix. Two Wanli-marked boxes decorated with the '100 boys' pattern have been sold at auction, the first, a circular box and cover from the T.Y. Chao and Jingguantang collections, was sold at Christie's New York, The Jingguantang Collection Part II, 20 March 1997, lot 80; the other, an octagonal box and cover, was sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 29 April 2002, lot 611. A smaller rectangular box and cover with a simplified version of the design with just three boys on the cover within dragon panels is in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Blue-and-White Ware of the Ming Dynasty, Book VI, Cafa, Hong Kong, 1963, col. pl. 8.
A Wanli-marked box with a similar openwork cover in the Palace Museum collection, Beijing is illustrated, Blue and White Porcelain with Underglaze Red (II) - The Complete Treasures of the Palace Museum, vol. 35, Hong Kong, 2000, no. 186.
See the preceding lot for a discussion of the theme of boys at play.