each of compressed globular form, the covers extremely well carved in varying layers through the cinnabar-red lacquer to reveal in parts the yellow ground beneath, each with a main circular panel depicting different scenes of twenty-five boys engaged in various playful pursuits in a terraced lake-side garden, some playing in the water amid lotus plants in wicker boats, some fishing, others playing on a swing, amid lush vegetation including willow, paulownia, bamboo, pine and plantain, with mountains peaks stretching into the distance and drifting clouds above, all encircled by a composite meander of bats flying amid lush flowers and fruits on leafy stems at the sides, with a similar meander on the box, supported on a wide foot encircled by a key-fret band, the base, interior and original stands lacquered black
This outstanding matched pair of large red cinnabar boxes and their original black lacquer stands represent the finest in Imperial Qing lacquerware. The characteristic ‘mirror?composition, whereby the balance of the design on one box echoes the other, as well as the consistent quality of carving and the identical borders of peaches, repeated on the black stands, suggests that they were all originally conceived together. Most lacquer boxes were designed as pairs, but very few have remained together. Fewer still have been passed down with their stands.
The intricate and carefully layered design of boys at play in a variety of landscapes is typical of mid-Qing dynasty lacquerware and can be found on various shapes in lacquer, from boxes to cabinets, brushpots and dishes.The subject matter was highly favoured for the material, as the skill and technique of the carver can be displayed to its best effect. The fine diaper patterns not only serve as decorative elements but help in differentiating the ground from water and air.
A related circular box of similar large size showing boys captured in various activities, but with shaped panels of flowers divided by Buddhist symbols around the sides, is illustrated in Carved Lacquer in the Collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing, 1985, pl. 291. Another box of large size similarly decorated, but of octagonal shape and with basketwork borders, was sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 30 October 2001, lot 670.
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