686
686
AN EXTREMELY RARE WUCAI 'BOYS' BOX AND COVER
WANLI MARK AND PERIOD
Estimate
60,00080,000
JUMP TO LOT
686
AN EXTREMELY RARE WUCAI 'BOYS' BOX AND COVER
WANLI MARK AND PERIOD
Estimate
60,00080,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Important Chinese Art

|
New York

AN EXTREMELY RARE WUCAI 'BOYS' BOX AND COVER
WANLI MARK AND PERIOD
of barrel form, the rounded sides boldly and freely painted in green, yellow, iron red, black and underglaze blue with a continuous scene of sixteen boys at play, the chubby children happily engaging in various activities such as flying a kite, galloping astride a hobby horse with an 'attendant', holding a parasol, marching in a procession, blowing on a suona, and flag waving, all in a garden lush with flowering plants, small shrubs, fan-shaped banana palms, a craggy pine issuing clusters of bright green needles, and a weeping willow tree suspending long leafy branches, a classic scroll border encircling the rim, the fitted slightly domed cover similarly decorated, the unglazed base of the box with a recessed glazed medallion enclosing an underglaze blue six-character mark within a double circle (2)
Height 7 1/8  in., 18 cm
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Collection of Dolores Alzaga.

Catalogue Note

It is extremely rare to find covered boxes in barrel form among Ming dynasty porcelains. The usage of these drum-shaped boxes is still not fully understood. The two most frequently cited explanations for the form are as containers for weiqi stones or as cricket cages. The rounded sides and fitted domed covers would work well for both purposes. The height of the present example suggests it would be better suited for crickets as the depth of the form would make scooping out playing pieces somewhat difficult.

Cricket fighting is a traditional game with a long history in China. Enthusiasm for this activity reached new heights in the Ming dynasty, with an observer noting that on the death of one enthusiast’s prized cricket, 'he made a silver coffin' for the insect in the form of a Buddhist reliquary. Porcelain cricket cages in barrel form, but with recessed covers, were first made for the Xuande Emperor (r. 1426-35), as discussed in Liu Xinyuan, Ming Xuande guanyao xishuai guan [Xuande period cricket jars from the Ming imperial kilns], Taipei, 1995. Cricket fights were popular during the Wanli period, especially in Beijing and southern China. A variety of imperial porcelain cricket cages from the Wanli period are illustrated in line drawings in Geng Baochang, Ming Qing ciqi jiandin [Appraisal of Ming and Qing Porcelains], Hong Kong, 1993, fig. 264.

While no other boxes of identical size and decoration to the present example appear to be known, related examples of this form include one in the Shanghai Museum of slightly smaller size, decorated with dragon motifs illustrated in Chugoku Toji Zenshu, vol. 21, Kyoto, 1981, pl. 41; another of this type, but without its cover, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, is illustrated in Suzanne Valenstein, The Herzman Collection of Chinese Ceramics, New York, 1992, cat. no.85. For an underglaze blue example of this type, see one from the C. P. Lin Collection illustrated in Elegant Form and Harmonious Decoration. Four Dynasties of Jingdezhen Porcelain, London, 1992, cat. no. 90. A wucai box and cover with figural decoration, formerly in the Jingguantang Collection of T.T. Tsui, is illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, vol. 4, London, 1994, no. 1704, and sold at Christie’s London, 15th November 2000, lot 32, and twice in in our Hong Kong rooms, 13th November 1990, lot 149, and 7th April 2011, lot 70. Compare also a box and cover with ‘mythical beast’ decoration that sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 5th October 2016, lot 110.

Important Chinese Art

|
New York