Lot 808. A carved red and black lacquer octagonal box and cover, China, Ming dynasty, Jiajing six-character incised and gilt mark and of the period (1522-1566); 8 1/8 in. (20.6 cm.) wide. Estimate: USD 70,000 - USD 90,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
The cover carved with a five-clawed dragon leaping amidst clouds below a shoumedallion in the center of two interlocking square panels enclosing various auspicious symbols, the sloping sides of the box and cover carved with panels of further five-clawed dragons, and the vertical sides with lingzhi scrolls, the gilt-highlighted reign mark incised in a line in the center of the black-lacquered base.
Provenance: Klaus F. Naumann, Tokyo, 1991.
The Irving Collection, no. 3805.
Note: The choice of decoration on this box is reflective of the Jiajing emperor's keen interest in Daoism and the attainment of immortality, and as such makes use of symbols with Daoist connections. The imperial five-clawed dragon is here shown below a shou (longevity) character carved in simplified seal script. The two are surrounded by various motifs, the Eight Treasures, and on the vertical sides are panels of lingzhi scroll that symbolize immortality. Similar decoration can be seen on a circular covered box, also of Jiajing date, included in the exhibition catalogue, Dragon and Phoenix: Chinese Lacquer Ware, the Lee Family Collection, Tokyo, The Museum of East Asian Art, Cologne, 24 March - 24 June 1990, no. 59, subsequently sold at Christie's, Hong Kong, 28 November 2012, lot 2096, where the dragon is shown leaping below a similarly carved shou character and the sloping sides of the cover and box are carved with auspicious symbols supported on lingzhi scroll.
The unusual decorative use of two interlocking square panels as a framing device for the central motif and the surrounding auspicious symbols may be specific to the Jiajing period as it seems to appear only on lacquer wares of Jiajing date. Four such pieces have been published. As on the present box, a large dragon decorates the center of a polychrome lacquer domed circular box in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Catalogue of a Special Exhibition of Lacquer Ware in the National Palace Museum, 1981, pl. 36. On two red lacquer octagonal trays, the central motif is a large shou character, while the imperial five-clawed dragon is shown enclosed within eight small ingot-shaped reserves that decorate the eight facets on the interior: one is illustrated by James C. Y. Watt and Barbara Brennan Ford, East Asian Lacquer: The Florence and Herbert Irving Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1992, pp. 96-97, no. 34; the other, from the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, is illustrated in Chinese Art in Overseas Collections: Lacquerware, Taipei, 1987, p. 103, pl. 190. The most unusual central motif, a seated Daoist immortal holding a scroll while two attendants holding offerings of a peach and a lingzhi stand before himin a landscape setting, can be seen on a carved polychrome lacquer circular covered box from the Qing Court collection, Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 45 - Lacquer Wares of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, Hong Kong, 2006, Hong Kong, p. 183, pl. 141. The imperial dragon here forms an encircling border and further auspicious symbols are shown amidst foliate scroll on the sides.
Christie's. Lacquer, Jade, Bronze, Ink: The Irving Collection Evening Sale, New York, 20 March 2019