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4 novembre 2022

A rare polychrome lacquer circular box and cover, Xuande six-character mark and of the period (1426-1435)

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Lot 301. A rare polychrome lacquer circular box and cover, Xuande six-character mark and of the period (1426-1435); 11cm (4 2/8in) diam(3). Sold for £50,700  (Estimate  £40,000-60,000). © Bonhams 2001-2022

The cover decorated with two bearded scholars each carrying a guqin under their arms, all beneath a gnarled pine tree with finely incised grain on a rock ledge, mountains and clouds in the distance, all on a diaper-pattern ground, the sides with wave patterns, the interior and base lacquered black, with fitted box

ProvenanceIdemitsu Museum, Tokyo.

NoteEndowed with cosmological and metaphysical significance and empowered to communicate the deepest feelings, the guqin, beloved of sages and of Confucius, is the most prestigious instrument in China and played an important part in the musical rituals of the Ming dynasty. The 'Collected Statutes of the Ming Dynasty' Da Ming Huidian records that the 'The Harmonious Ensemble' (Zhonghe Shaoyue) which played Court ritual music during ceremonial occasions, had ten guqin in their orchestra.

The guqin was also played in private contexts or in small groups and many Ming dynasty princes and emperors were accomplished musicians themselves. Some Ming princes even made important contributions to musicology and music theory. For example, the first Prince of Lu (1568-1614), brother to the Wanli emperor, had hundreds of guqin made for his household and in 1634 wrote a treatise about the instrument, the Guyin Zhengzong; see J.Kenneth Moore, et al, Musical Instruments: Highlights of the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, New York, 2015, p.63.

Compare with a related circular box and cover, but made of only red lacquer, Xuande six-character mark and of the period, illustrated by S.Kwan, Chinese Lacquer: The Muwen Tang Collection Series, Hong Kong, 2010, pp.196-197, no.56. See also a related polychrome lacquer circular box and cover, 15th century, but decorated with lotus, illustrated by N.de Bisscop and W.G.de Kesel, Chinees Lakwerk, Zutphen, 1982, p.95. See also a related polychrome lacquer round box and cover, incised Xuande six-character mark and of the period, of similar palette, in the Qing Court Collection, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Lacquer Wares of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, Hong Kong, 2006, pp.86-87. A larger related box and cover, incised Xuande six-character mark and of the period, in the Qing Court Collection, is illustrated in ibid., p.88, no.62. See also a polychrome lacquer incense stand with related landscape design, 16th/17th century, illustrated in Karamono: Imported Lacquerwork - Chinese, Korean and Ryukyuan (Okinawa): Selections from the Tokugawa Art Museum, Nagoya, 1997, no.123. See also a related polychrome lacquer circular box and cover, Xuande mark and of the period, illustrated in 100 Masterpieces of Asian Art from the Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo, 2009, no.54.

Bonhams. Imperial Painted Lacquer Furniture and Scholar's Objects from China's Ming and Early Qing Dynasties, 3 November 2022, London, New Bond Street

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