This pair of dragon boats is most likely based on those that participated in the annual Dragon Boat Festivals held on the 5th day of the 5th moon, during which the long boats race up and down the river in pairs to the sound of horns and other loud instruments. A depiction of such a festival can be seen in a large 18th century kesi panel in the Victoria and Albert Museum, illustrated by R. Fry et al., Chinese Art, Burlington Magazine Monographs, London, 1925, pl. 5. Five of these boats are shown surrounded by smaller craft and crowds on the shore, and they are of similar form to the present boats, with similar banners and umbrellas. A similar scene can be seen on a cloisonné enamel plaque in the Avery Brundage Collection, dated to the 18th century, illustrated by B. Smith and Wan-go Weng, China: A History in Art, New York, 1979, pp. 260-1.
See, also, the dragon boat of larger size (26¼ in. long) composed of ivory, horn, wood and glass, dated 18th century, sold in these rooms, 21 March 2002, lot 9.