The present finely painted blue-and-white box is unusual for the decoration of 'boys at play' with no other box and cover of this form and design combination recorded. The theme of 'boys at play' was popular not only from earlier, Song dynasty, paintings, but it also came to represent an auspicious imagery expressing the wish for male heirs.
Lobed Wanli mark and period boxes painted with figures in landscape in polychrome enamels are more readily found, for example see one illustrated in Sekai toji zenshu, vol. 14, Tokyo, 1976, pl. 263; and another sold in these rooms, 28th November 1979, lot 81. See also a blue-and-white lobed box decorated with scholars pursuing leisurely activities sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 28th November 2005, lot 1422.
An octagonal form Wanli box of similar dimensions as the present piece, but decorated with flowers, butterflies and insects in wucai enamels was sold in our London rooms, 13th December 1988, lot 191; another octagonal box in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, bearing dragons above waves, was included in the exhibition The Arts of the Ming Dynasty, Detroit Art Museum, Detroit, 1952, cat. no. 175; and a hexagonal box version of the dragon design, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, is published in Enamelled Ware of the Ming Dynasty, Book III, Hong Kong, 1966, pl. 6.
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