A finely carved polychrome lacquer ‘chun‘ box and cover, Mark and period of Qianlong. Estimate 1,200,000 — 1,800,000 HKD. Photo Sotheby’s.
the cover finely and deeply carved through red, green, black and yellow layers with a circular panel enclosing the character chun (‘spring’) centred with a medallion enclosing Shoulao and rising above a large bowl overflowing with auspicious emblems, reserved against red, green, brown and yellow radiating waves, all flanked by a pair of five-clawed scaly dragons amidst ruyi-head cloud scrolls and reserved on a wan-diaper ground, the rounded sides of the cover and box deeply carved with barbed panels enclosing a figural scene featuring Shoulao and attendants, all reserved on a dark green lacquer ground and divided by the babao (‘Eight Treasures’), the interior and base lacquered black, the interior of the cover titled with a four-character incised and gilt inscription shouchun baohe (‘Precious Box of Longevity and Spring’), the interior of the box inscribed with a six-character incised and gilt reign mark; 29.3 cm., 11 1/2 in.
EXHIBITED: 2000 Years of Chinese Lacquer, Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong and the Art Gallery, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1993, cat. no. 76.
Layered Beauty: The Baoyizhai Collection of Chinese Lacquer, Art Museum, Institute of Chinese Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2010, cat. no. 52.
Notes: Notable for its meticulous carving and carefully composed design, the present piece belongs to an important group of boxes offered as tribute to the Qianlong emperor. According to the Zaobanchu Archives of the Qing Imperial Household Department, on the 8th month of the 25th year of the Qianlong reign (corresponding to 1760), the Emperor was presented with twelve carved cinnabar lacquer shouchun baohe boxes by the eunuch Hu Shijie. Qianlong approved of the boxes and appointed the Hanlin Academy to prepare the inscriptions shouchun baohe (treasure box for spring and longevity) and Da Qing Qianlong nian zhi for carving. On the 20th day of the 10th month, the twelve inscribed boxes were presented by Jin Hui at Fengsan Wusi Dian, one of the three halls of the Yuanmingyuan which was used for royal banquets.
Further boxes belonging to this group, but with the six-character reign mark inscribed in one vertical line, comprise: a closely related example in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the Museum’s Special Exhibition of Palace Lacquer Objects, Taipei, 1981, cat. no. 67; another, from the Manno Art Museum, Osaka, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 28th October 2002, lot 568, and again in these rooms, 11th April 2008, lot 2863; and a third, of much larger size, from the Avery Brundage collection, illustrated in Sir Harry Garner, Chinese Lacquer, London, 1979, pl. 90. Two further boxes of slightly larger size were sold at Christie’s New York, the first, 21st September 2004, lot 84, and the second, 26th March 2010, lot 1193.
The design adorning these boxes is steeped in auspicious symbolism and derives from Jiajing (1522-1566) originals. The inscription shouchun baohe is composed of the chun and shou characters, which represent a wish for ‘ten thousand longevities and eternal spring’ (wanshou changchun), while bao (treasure or precious thing) refers to the contents of the box, which may be filled with gold and silver coins, ingots, gems, coral, pearls and other precious materials. Spring also represents renewal and the beginning of the New Year; hence boxes of this type were designed to convey the sentiment of longevity and renewal of life. For a Jiajing prototype, see one in the Palace Museum, Beijing, included in the The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Lacquer Wares of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, Hong Kong, 2006, pl. 134.
Sotheby’s. The Baoyizhai Collection of Chinese Lacquer, Part 2. Hong Kong | 08 oct. 2014, 11:00 AM