Lot 70. A rare wucai box and cover with pairs of dancers, mark and period of Wanli (1573-1620); diameter 16 cm., 6 3/8 in. Estimate 4,000,000 — 6,000,000 HKD. Lot sold 10,516,000 HKD. Photo: Sotheby's 2011.
of barrel shape with curved sides, the flat cover with a raised edge, painted in a bright underglaze blue and green, red, yellow and brown enamels and black details, showing on the cover and twice around the sides of the box a scene of two men in lively dancing poses among various leafy plants under a pine tree, dressed in flowing garments and fanciful hats and holding different fans, with a scroll border around the top and prunus blossoms on waves around the edge of the cover, key-fret around the rim and a lingzhi scroll around the base of the box, the reign mark inscribed on a recessed glazed area in the centre of the unglazed base.
Provenance: Sotheby's Hong Kong, 13th November 1990, lot 149.
Collection of T.T. Tsui, Jingguantang Collection.
Christie's London, 15th November 2000, lot 32.
J.J. Lally & Co, New York.
Literature: Sotheby's Hong Kong – Twenty Years, 1973-1993, Hong Kong, 1993, pl. 134.
Sotheby's. Thirty Years in Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2003, pl. 177.
Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, London, 1994-2010, vol. 4, no. 1704..
Note: Barrel-shaped boxes of this type may have been used in pairs as containers for chess pieces, although related jars, generally with a recessed top, were also used as cricket cages..
A similar box and cover is in the Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Tokyo, illustrated in Idemitsu Bijutsukan zōhin zuroku. Chūgoku tōji/Chinese Ceramics in the Idemitsu Collection, Tokyo, 1987, pl. 748; a box and cover of this model, but with the design somewhat differently rendered, was sold at Christie's London, 9th December 1985, lot 145. The same shape is also known with a polychrome design of mythical animals; compare a box from the collection of Iver Munthe Daae, member of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service 1867-88, sold in these rooms, 1st November 1994, lot 54.