Lot 3574. A rare carved cinnabar lacquer circular 'cranes' box and cover, Jiajing six-character mark and of the period (1522-1566); 11 1/8 in. (28.2 cm.) diamEstimate HKD 3,000,000 - HKD 5,000,000Price Realised  HKD 2,900,000© Christie's Images Ltd 2011.

Of circular form, the flat surface of the cover is crisply carved through layers of cinnabar-red lacquer to the black ground beneath with seven cranes in flight amidst ruyi-form swirling clouds, the central crane emitting a plume of smoke from its beak which rises to form a stylised Shou character made up of flame scrolls which the remaining cranes surround, all above a large lingzhi blossom flanked by peony stems and bamboo branches growing from rockwork among turbulent waves, the sides of the box and cover similarly decorated with a total of twenty four further cranes in flight amidst ruyi clouds, the base and interior lacquered black, the reign mark incised and gilt to the centre of the base, Japanese wood box

Property from the Kaisendo museum, Yamagata, Japan.

LiteratureBijutsu Senshu Dai Hachi Kan, Cho Shitsu (Carved Lacquer), 1974, Fuji Art Publications, Japan, no. 59.

Note: The choice of motifs on this box is in keeping with the Jiajing emperor's keen interest in Daoism and the attainment of immortality. The botanical motifs of the lingzhi fungus symbolises immortality, as do the cranes on the top and sides of the box and this imagery is reinforced by the Shou character. In addition the combination of the bamboo and peony signifies the wish for peace and prosperity, Fugui ping'an, the bamboo and crane is a pun on the wish for unhindered peace, Yilu ping'an and finally the lingzhi and bamboo together symbolise birthday greetings, Zhushou.

Although no other box of this exact design appears to be published, compare the carving on the present example, particularly the depiction of the lingzhi fungus, with that found on a Jiajing-marked mirror box and cover from the Lee Family Collection sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 1 December 2009, lot 1828. The stylised lingzhi is also present on a Jiajing-marked dish in the Baoyizhai Collection included in the exhibition, Layered Beauty - The Baoyizhai Collection of Chinese Lacquer, Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2010, illustrated in the Catalogue, p. 116, no. 44. A Jiajing circular polychrome box in the Palace Museum, Beijing with a different arrangement of cranes around a Shou character is illustrated in Lacquer Wares of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Commercial Press, Hong Kong, 2006, p. 179, no. 137

Christie's. The Imperial Sale, 1 June 2011, Convention Hall