30 mai 2019

A very rare wucai ‘Dragon and prunus’ rectangular box and cover, Wanli six-character mark and of the period (1573-1619)

A very rare wucai ‘Dragon and prunus’ rectangular box and cover, Wanli six-character mark in a line in underglaze blue within a double rectangle and of the period (1573-1619)

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Lot 2927. A very rare wucai Dragon and prunus’ rectangular box and cover, Wanli six-character mark in a line in underglaze blue within a double rectangle and of the period (1573-1619); 13 in. (33 cm.) long. Estimate HKD 4,000,000 - HKD 6,000,000. Price realised HKD 4,925,000© Christie's Image Ltd 2019.

The cover is decorated in brilliant enamels with a red and a green dragon contesting a flaming pearl amidst flames and clouds, the interior with a prunus branch enamelled in red and green underneath a crescent moon. The longer sides of the box are similarly decorated with a pair of dragons contesting flaming pearls, the shorter sides with a red leaping dragon. The foot of the box is moulded in relief with brackets enclosing cloud scrolls, the base inscribed with the reign mark. 

ProvenanceMayuyama & Co. Ltd., Tokyo, acquired prior to 1976
An Important Asian Collection acquired in Tokyo, circa 2000.

LiteratureMayuyama, Seventy Years, Vol. 1, Tokyo, 1976, p. 310, no. 922 (fig. 1)

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fig. 1 Mayuyama, Seventy Years, vol. I, Tokyo, 1976, p. 310 

NoteThe design featuring dragons on the exteriors and prunus on the interior of the cover, is highly unusual and only very few examples are known. The combination of ferocious five-clawed dragons, the ultimate symbol of Imperial authority, with the literary and poetic theme of prunus tree under a crescent moon, creates an interesting contrast but also befits its use as a stationery box for the imperial household.

A Wanli-marked box of almost identical design and shape was sold at Christie’s London, 16 June 1986, lot 75. Compare also to a smaller Wanli wucai box of similar shape, also on a stepped base, decorated on the exterior of the cover with figures in landscape, and on the interior with a single prunus tree, from the Qing Court Collection, illustrated in Porcelains in Polychrome and Contrasting Colours, The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 1999, no. 39; and another Wanli wucai box decorated with dragons in bracket-lobed medallions on the cover, and on both sides of the box with flowers and bamboo, from the Umezawa Kinenkan Museum Collection, illustrated in Sekai toji zenshu, vol. 14 – Ming, Tokyo, 1976, no. 207.

Christie's. Leisurely Delights, Hong Kong, 29 May 2019

 


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