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    Sale 2621

    Important Chinese Lacquer Wares from the Lee Family Collection

    3 December 2008, Hong Kong

  • Lot 2134

    AN EXTREMELY RARE MING CARVED CINNABAR LACQUER RECTANGULAR BOX AND COVER

    Price Realised  

    AN EXTREMELY RARE MING CARVED CINNABAR LACQUER RECTANGULAR BOX AND COVER
    WANLI INCISED AND GILT RENCHEN CYCLICAL DATE, CORRESPONDING TO 1592 AND OF THE PERIOD

    The top of the canted rectangular cover exquisitely carved through the deep layers of cinnabar lacquer to depict an ascending five-clawded dragon contesting a 'flaming pearl', with a descending long-tailed pheonix in flight, all above crested waves breaking against jagged rocks and amidst ruyi clouds, reserved on a floral diaper-ground, all framed within a rectangular border, surrounded by rectangular panels decorating the sloping sides, carved with flowers borne on a single undulating stem, the panels are reserved against a ground richly decorated with flowering peony to the canted corners and growing along the sides above the mouth rim, the box similarly carved, supported on a low foot encircled by a keyfret border, the undecorated base incised and gilt with the reign mark including a Renchen cyclical date
    10 1/8 in. (25.7 cm.) long, Japanese wood box


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    An identical rectangular 'dragon and phoenix' box, also inscribed with a Wanli cyclical Renchen date, is in the Beijing Palace Museum collection, illustrated in Lacquer Wares of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Commercial Press, Hong Kong, 2006, p. 207, no. 164 (fig. 1).

    The custom of applying reign marks to lacquer wares appears to have begun in the Yongle reign, when six-character reign marks were sometimes scratched, with the use of a fine point, into the base of lacquer items. Reign marks of the Xuande reign set the standard for future Ming dynasty reigns, being composed of six characters boldly carved into the base or side and filled with gold. However, during the latter half of the Wanli reign the use of eight-character cyclical marks, like the mark on the current box, became popular. The earliest published Wanli cyclical date on a lacquer item is equivalent to AD 1585, but the majority of lacquer wares bearing cyclical marks date to the 1590's. A number of pieces bear the yiwei date, corresponding to AD 1595, as seen on a related polychrome lacquer rectangular box sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 27 May 2008, lot 1563.

    Exhibited

    The Museum of East Asian Art, Cologne, 1990, Dragon and Phoenix, Chinese Lacquer Ware, The Lee Family Collection, Catalogue, no. 63
    Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1990/91
    The Shoto Museum of Art, Shibuya, Japan, 1991, Chinese Lacquerware, Catalogue, no. 66