The details on the present pair of boxes are exquisitely rendered, the different tones of lacquer employed on the various decorative elements of each panel, giving an unusually fine quality of depth. For example, on one panel, a scholar sits in a pavilion, gazing towards a lotus pond, where the large blooms are carved from cinnabar-red lacquer, the leaves in green and yellow lacquer, and the rocks in brown lacquer.
The subject of scholars on carved lacquerware date back to the Yuan and early Ming dynasties, and the style of decoration on the present lot is very closely related to the carved boxes, trays and dishes from that period. Among the earlier prototypes are a variety of boxes and dishes from the Yongle and Xuande reigns, illustrated in Zhongguo Qiqi Quanji, pls. 17, 19-21, 23, 28, 31, 32 and 45; the Yongle-marked square dish in the present sale, lot 585 (?); and a Yuan dynasty floral rim dish illustrated by Hu Shih-chang, Chinese Lacquer, National Museums of Scotland, 1998, pl. 11.