THIS IS A PREMIUM LOT. CLIENTS WHO WISH TO BID ON PREMIUM LOTS MAY BE REQUESTED BY SOTHEBY'S TO COMPLETE THE PRE-REGISTRATION APPLICATION FORM AND TO DELIVER TO SOTHEBY'S A DEPOSIT OF HK$1,000,000, OR SUCH OTHER HIGHER AMOUNT AS MAY BE DETERMINED BY SOTHEBY'S, AND ANY FINANCIAL REFERENCES, GUARANTEES AND/OR SUCH OTHER SECURITY AS SOTHEBY'S MAY REQUIRE IN ITS ABSOLUTE DISCRETION AS SECURITY FOR THEIR BID. THE BIDnow ONLINE BIDDING SERVICE IS NOT AVAILABLE FOR PREMIUM LOTS.
of circular form, the cover superbly carved in deep relief through the thick red lacquer to the ochre-yellow ground with a large blossoming peony flower in the centre surrounded by further blossoms and buds in various stages of maturity amidst dense leaves, the sides of the cover and box each decorated with a wide band of flowers consisting of pairs of camellias, roses, chrysanthemums, peonies, and lotus flowers, the interior and base lacquered dark brown, the six-character reign mark incised on the inner left side of the footrim
An Early Ming Lacquer 'Peony' Box
Boxes were among the most popular items made in carved lacquer for the imperial court during the Yongle and Xuande reigns, but most examples known are of much smaller dimensions. The present box is one of the few examples preserved in this exceptional size, and while Yongle imperial lacquer in general is renowned for its excellent standard of craftsmanship, the present box with its lush, elaborately detailed blooms with frilly petals and its complex layout of dense, elaborately entwined leafy stems is an exceptionally well designed and executed example even among this exquisite group of imperial artefacts.
A box of similar size in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, carved with the same design of five peony blooms among dense foliage, very similarly laid out but of different carving style, and bearing an inscription by the Qianlong Emperor inside the lid, is illustrated in Masterpieces of Chinese Carved Lacquer Ware in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1971, pl. 3; it was also included in the exhibition Heguang ticai. Gugong zang qi/Carving the Subtle Radiance of Colors. Treasured Lacquerware in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2008, cat. no. 014 (fig. 0), where its imperial inscription is illustrated, together with a Yongle and a Xuande box of the more common smaller size, with three peony blooms only, cat. nos 011 and 012. Another box of the same size and design as the present piece, but also carved in the more typical, slightly less elaborate style and simpler in its arrangement, was sold in these rooms, 7th May 2002, lot 623.
No closely comparable example is among the many flower-decorated carved lacquer boxes in the Palace Museum, Beijing, although they include related smaller pieces: one carved with a similar design but with less frilly peonies, see Gugong Bowuyuan zang diaoqi/Carved Lacquer in the Collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing, 1985, pl. 31; and two others with three peony blooms only, see The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Lacquer Wares of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, Hong Kong, 2006, pls 71 and 73.
Only one even larger Yongle box carved with peonies appears to be recorded, a box included in the exhibition Chō shitsu/Carved Lacquer, The Tokugawa Art Museum and Nezu Institute of Fine Arts, Tokyo, 1984, pl. 88; and one carved with pomegranate flowers was sold at Christie's London, 5th June 1995, lot 16. Another box of the same size as the present piece with three peonies only on the cover, is in the Nezu Institute of Fine Arts, Tokyo, published in Chō shitsu, op.cit., pl. 87.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.