A rare blue and white circular 'dragon' box and cover, Mark and period of Wanli (1573-1620)

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Lot 69. A rare blue and white circular 'dragon' box and cover, Mark and period of Wanli (1573-1620). Diameter 10⅛ in., 25.8 cmEstimate: 60,000 - 80,000 USDLot sold: 115,920 USD. © Sothebys.

the base with a six-character mark in underglaze blue within a double circle (2)

Provenance: Collection of F.G. Fletcher.
Sotheby's London, 24th March 1964, lot 88.
Collection of Dr Wou Kiuan (1910-1997).
Wou Lien-Pai Museum, 1968-present, coll. no. M.5.10.

Literature: Rose Kerr et al., Chinese Antiquities from the Wou Kiuan Collection. Wou Lien-Pai Museum, Hong Kong, 2011, pl. 121. 

Note: Painted with a lively combination of a writhing five-clawed dragon with other auspicious mythical animals running around it, the present box is exceptional not only for its relatively large size, but also its striking design. Although dragons were a popular motif, such a dynamic depiction of fabulous animals such as qilin, deer and hares is unusual. Compare a box and cover closely related to the present piece, but with the rims decorated with a zig-zag border enclosing stylized lingzhi sprigs, sold in our London rooms, 26th June 1973, lot 246. Circular boxes of Wanli mark and period more often have the dragon design around the sides: see one depicting boys playing in a garden at the center, preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (accession no. 27.119.26).

Related motifs can be found on blue and white porcelains of other shapes, see, for example, a Wanli dish bearing a landscape scene with mythical beasts in the interior, while painted with a dragon design band around the rim, sold multiple times at auction and most recently in our London rooms, 7th November 2012, lot 105. 

Sotheby's. A Journey Through China's History. The Dr Wou Kiuan Collection Part 1, New York, 22 March 2022