with four concave sides and indented corners, finely carved in varying levels of relief through a deep cinnabar-red lacquer to reveal the yellow-brown ground beneath, the cover with two long-tailed birds soaring and plunging amidst full peony blooms on gently meandering leafy and budding stems, the song birds with outstretched wings gently incised with delicate lines to depict their feathery bodies and heads surmounted by long crests, the sides carved with peony and rose blooms, with a band of upright overlapping petals at the foot, the interior and base lacquered black
It is rare to find boxes of this form carved with two birds. The two bird and flower combination are more often found on dishes known as "two bird" dishes. This type of decoration can be seen on a black lacquer dish from the second half of the 14th century, in James Watt et al., East Asian Lacquer from the Florence and Herbert Irving Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1991, cat no. 20. See Nishida Hiroko's illustrated study of birds and flowers on early carved lacquer in the Tokugawa Art Museum and Nezu Institute of Fine Arts, 1984, pp. 214-220.
A circular box and cover with a Yongle mark, exhibiting similar treatment of the peony flowers from Bluett and Sons, is illustrated in Regina Krahl and Brian Morgan, from Innovation to Conformity: Chinese Lacquer from the 13th to the 16th centuries, London, 1989, no. 14. The unusual square shape with scalloped corners may have drawn inspiration from a dish of similar shape from the Yuan Dynasty, illustrated in Lee Yu-kuan, Oriental Lacquer Art, Tokyo, 1972, p. 164, no. 98.
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