It is extremely rare to find a lacquer box decorated with this popular late Ming motif and only one other box appears to be published, a very similar box and cover currently in the Los Angeles County Museum is illustrated by George Kuwayama, Far Eastern Lacquer, 1982, no. 27.
Porcelain boxes in blue and white of very closely related design and of this date are known. The closest related example is the circular box in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Blue and White Porcelain with Underglaze Red (II), The Complete Collection of Treasures in the Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 2000, pl. 180; and the example sold in our London Rooms, 16 November 1999, lot 192 (fig. 1). Compare also several other Wanli marked boxes decorated with a boy dressed as a dignitary in a similar setting surrounded by his numerous other young boys at play in a garden, such as the example in the Metropolitan Museum of Art illustration in Oriental Ceramics, The World's Great Collections, vol. 12, 1977, no. 93; or the example from the T.Y. Chao Family Trust and the Jingguantang collection sold in our New York Rooms, 20 March 1997, lot 80.
Compare with another circular three-colour lacquer box also bearing a dated Wanli yiwei mark of a different pattern, carved with dragons to the central medallion, but with an identical treatment of multi-coloured diaper ground patterns and borders at the rim, included in the Oriental Ceramics Society and Art Gallery, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, special exhibition catalogue 2000 Years of Chinese Lacquer, Hong Kong, 1993, no. 68, where the authors note that the year yiwei was one of the few principle years that all types of lacquer, red, yellow, polychrome and tianqi were produced in the official Wanli workshops. It was also the year with more extant dated pieces than any other year in the Wanli reign period.