A VERY RARE LARGE RED AND BLACK LACQUER TRAVELLING BOX AND COVER
A VERY RARE LARGE RED AND BLACK LACQUER TRAVELLING BOX AND COVER

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A VERY RARE LARGE RED AND BLACK LACQUER TRAVELLING BOX AND COVER
LIAO OR YUAN DYNASTY

The square box constructed of leather, the upper surface sealed with a separate fitted lid attached to the main body by two metal hinges on one vertical side, the opposing vertical side with two metal loops for insertion into apertures of the openwork metal plaque mounted to secure the lid, three of the vertical sides each fitted with a raised metal bracket for attachment, the exposing black lacquer surfaces elaborately painted with red lacquer depicting paired birds within cartouches against a dense floral ground, one vertical side, the base and interior lacquered black, the sides reinforced with metal mounts (parts of metal mounts missing, age cracks and lacquer losses)
12 x 11 x 11 in. (30.5 x 28 x 28 cm.)

Lot Essay

This box may be compared with a rectangular lidded box with etched-gold designs and bearing an inscribed cyclical date equivalent to A.D. 1200 or 1260, which was excavated from a Southern Song tomb in Wujin county, Jiangsu province in 1977/8, illustrated by J. Chen, Ji Jiangsu Wujin jinxi chutu de Nan Song zhenbao qiqi, Important newly excavated Southern Song Lacquers from Wujin, Jiangsu, Wenwu, 1979, no. 3, p. 46, pl. 3, figs. 1-4. The excavated box bears a landscape design on top of the lid and floral scrolls against a speckled ground around the sides.

The current box may also be compared with a group of seven sutra boxes, dating to A.D. 1315, which have been preserved in Japanese temple collections. Three of these boxes bear inscriptions dating them to the 'second year of Yanyu', corresponding to A.D. 1315, and the information that they were 'made by the Jin family of Yuqujiao, Hongzhou'. A fourth casket bears a similar inscription but states it was 'made by the Song family in front of the Mingqing temple', see J. Figgess, 'A group of decorated lacquer caskets of the Yuan dynasty', Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, vol. 36, 1964-6, pp. 39-42. These boxes each measure 39.5 x 22 x 25.5 cm., and thus are different in proportion to the current box, which was probably intended for another purpose.

The qiangjin decoration on the sutra boxes shares a number of elements with the current box, including the use of ogival panels surrounded by floral scrolls. The ogival panels painted on the current box and the sutra boxes also contain paired birds.

The shape of the edges of the lid of the current box has led to suggestions that it may be of Liao origin. Excavations, such as that of the joint tomb of the Qidan princess of the state of Chen and her consort at Qinglongshan, Naimanqi, Inner Mongolia, have indicated the popularity of this form with the Liao aristocracy. The upper edge of the gilt-bronze burial headdress worn by consort of the Princess of Chen has an attenuated version of this shape. For an illustration, see Liao Chenguo gongzhu mu, Liao tomb of a princess of the State of Chen, Wenwu chubanshe, Beijing, 1993, p. 69, fig. 42A. This form can also be seen on the crowns worn by Boddhisattvas in the Liao Huayan temple, Datong, Shanxi, illustrated in Shanxi fojiao caisu, Shanxi Buddhist Painted Sculpture, Hong Kong, 1991, pl. 160.
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