Wanli boxes of square section are rare and this box is unusual for its vibrant dragon decoration. Compare a Wanli box of this form, enamelled with scenes of boys at play, published in Sekai toji zenshu, vol. 11, Tokyo, 1955, fig. 169; another from the Manno Art Museum, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 28th October 2002, lot 553; and a third example sold in our London rooms, 15th December 1981, lot 209.
Compare blue and white decorated boxes of this square form, also with a Wanli reign mark and of the period, such as one painted with boys, sold in our London rooms, 15th April 1980, lot 260; and another picturing birds amongst trees, also sold in our London rooms, 17th July 1995, lot 57. A square Jiajing box is illustrated in The Complete Works of Chinese Ceramics, Shanghai, 1999, pl. 179.
Wanli wucai boxes of this size and decoration are known in various forms; for example see a barrel-shaped box published in The Complete Works of Chinese Ceramics, vol. 13, Shanghai, 1999, pl. 120; and a tall five-lobed box in the Idemitsu Museum of Art, Tokyo, included in the exhibition Imperial Overglaze-Enamelled Wares in the Late Ming Dynasty, Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, 1995, cat. no. 29.
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