Lot 32
  • 32


50,000 - 70,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • lacquer, sandalwood (santalum album)
  • 16.5 cm, 6 1/2  in. 
fashioned in the form of a book and deftly carved in relief, the upper surface with four prunus roundels on a diaper ground centred with a vertical rectangular panel of leiwen, surmounted with a six-character seal mark, the sides simulating individual pages, the interior lacquered black


Christie's Hong Kong, 27th October 2003, lot 784.

Catalogue Note

The Qianlong Emperor’s (r. 1736-1795)  taste for the novel fuelled craftsmen to experiment with manipulating materials to simulate other mediums. These artisans perfected their skills to create a wide variety of trompe l’oeil pieces, such as porcelain made to imitate stone, wood, bronze, or lacquer to imitate bound albums as seen on the present piece. Delicately carved sandalwood lines the sides of the box to simulate the paper pages, while the rich design of ball-flowers are reminiscent of textile designs. Although a number of lacquer boxes imitating bound albums are known, the present box is unique for its Da Qing Qianlong yuzhi reign mark carved on the central panel, which designates its use exclusively for the Qianlong Emperor. Boxes of this type, but lacking a reign mark, include one in the shape of two stacked books, from in the Qing Court collection and still in Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Lacquer Wares of the Qing Dynasty, Hong Kong, 2006, pl. 52; one decorated with shou and chilong roundels, in the Tianjin Museum, Tianjin, published in Zhongguo qiqi quanji, vol. 6, Fuzhou, 1993, pl. 221; and a third example carved with additional roundels enclosing flowers and fruits on the cover, sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 23rd October 2005, lot 390, and again in these rooms, 14th May 2014, lot 48.

The design of ball-flowers is unique in its severe abstraction and appears to have been inspired by the Japanese heraldic family symbols, mon. The Yongzheng (r. 1723-1735) and Qianlong emperors are known to have been interested in Japanese works of art and commissioned reproductions in various media. See a revolving vase with a related design, with a Qianlong mark and of the period, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the Museum’s exhibition Stunning Decorative Porcelains from the Ch’ien-lung Reign, Taipei, 2008, pl. 76.