The floral designs on early Ming lacquer boxes represent some of the finest decoration found in the Chinese decorative repertoire, as evident in the exquisite carving on the present box. Several boxes carved with this design of peony blossoms are known in various sizes, a few of large size (30 cm. diam. upwards) with five peonies and several of smaller size (approx. 15 cm. diam.) carved with one to three peonies. It appears that boxes of mid-size, as is the case with the present lot, are rarer.
A box of the same size and with a very similar configuration is illustrated in Zhongguo Qiqi Quanji, vol. 5, Beijing, 1995, no. 18; while another of slightly larger size (25 cm. diam.) is illustrated ibid., no. 8. See a 'three peony' box and cover with a carved Xuande mark, in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum, illustrated inToyo no Shikko-gei, 1977, cat. No. 505.
Compare also the style of decoration on two large peony boxes with incised Yongle marks, one sold in our London Rooms, 5 June 1995, lot 16, and the other sold in these Rooms, An Important Collection of Chinese Lacquer, 30 April 2001, lot 637. Dishes with similar design are also known, such as the two in the Nezu Museum, Nezu Bijutsukan, Mei hin shusei, 1986, nos. 491-492.