A finely painted blue and white circular box and cover, Ming dynasty, Chongzhen period

Lot 689. A finely painted blue and white circular box and cover, Ming dynasty, Chongzhen period (1627-1644). Diameter 4 1/2  in., 11.4 cm. Estimate 20,000 — 30,000 USD. Photo: Sotheby's.

the domed cover finely painted to the center with a quadrilobed medallion composed of four ruyi-shaped panels and lotus flowers linked by foliate scrolls within a ruyi lappet collar enclosing further lotus scrolls, the box with similar decoration, the base with an apocryphal six-character Jiajing mark (2).

NoteThis skillfully painted box embodies the signature qualities of Ming dynasty blue and white porcelains through its sophisticated ornamentation and dynamic use of materials. The intricate, symmetrical design perfectly complements the shape of the surface, requiring careful planning and precise execution. Yet, even within these constraints, the painter executed each line with vivacity and vigor that enliven the overall composition. The artisan also made full use of the tonal range of the cobalt to vivify individual lines and prevent monotony in the repeating pattern. The 'heaping and piling' technique further added an element of chance in the firing process. As a result, the box coherently synthesizes order and expressiveness, conformity and gesture, deliberateness and surprise. Compared to contemporaneous seal paste boxes discovered in the 'Hatcher Cargo', for instance the groups sold at Christie's Amsterdam, 12th-13th June 1984, lots 601 and 649, the present example demonstrates the high caliber of craftsmanship that continued through the end of the Ming dynasty.

Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art New York, 21 march 2018, 10:00 AM