Lot 8009. A superbly carved cinnabar lacquer box and cover, Yongle incised six-character mark and of the period (1402-1425). Estimate HKD 8,000,000 - HKD 10,000,000 (USD 1,029,349 - USD 1,286,686). Price realised HKD 8,740,000. © Christies Images Ltd 2017

The top of the cover is carved through layers of lacquer with budding and blossoming tree peonies among dense leafy stems to an ochre ground, the sides of the box and cover are carved with a composite floral scroll comprising lotus, peony, camellia, gardenia, and chrysanthemum, each with two blooms. The interiors and base are covered with brown lacquer, with the Yongle reign mark incised on the inner left footrim on the base. 10 1/2 in. (26.5 cm.) diam., Japanese wood box.

ProvenanceSold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 7 May 2002, lot 623

NoteThe floral designs on early Ming lacquer boxes represent some of the finest decoration found in Chinese decorative repertoire, as evident in the exquisite carving on the present box.

Boxes with similar configuration of a central peony blossom surrounded by further blooms among dense foliage are known, though larger examples in the current size are very rare. The closest comparable example is a Yongle-marked box and cover in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, which is inscribed with a Qianlong imperial poem on the underside of the cover, see Carving the Subtle Radiance of Colors: Treasured Lacquerware in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2008, p. 33, no. 14 (fig. 1). For two smaller examples following this configuration, see a Yongle-marked box and cover in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Gugong Bowuyuan cang diaoqi, Taipei, 1985, no. 31; and another in the Shanghai Museum, which is incised with a Xuande mark over an effaced Yongle mark, illustrated in Zhongguo qiqi quanji, vol. 5, Fuzhou, 1995, no. 22.


fig. 1. Carved red lacquerware Round box with peony décor, Ming dynasty, Yongle reign (1403-1424). Diameter: 26.5cm Height: 7.8cm © National Palace Museum, Taipei.

 Christie's. Important Ming Imperial Works of Art from The Le Cong Tang Collection Evening Sale, 27 November 2017, Hong Kong