LACQUER BOX AND COVER
QIANLONG PERIOD (1736-1795)
13.2 cm wide
The cinnabar-red lacquer box is of square form with indented corners, the straight sides carved with a geometric design. The cover is carved in relief with a riverscape depicting five figures in a boat passing pine trees growing from rocky cliffs, all below distant clouds and moon. Reeds sway in the wind in the foreground. The scene is encircled by a key-fret border. The flat base and interior of the box and cover are lacquered black.
The scene adorning the cover of the present box refers to the Song-dynasty poem titled 'Ode to the Red Cliff', a masterpiece composed by the poet and statesman Su Shi (1037-1101). It tells the story of the scholars Su Dongpo, Huang Lujie, and the monk Foyin who visit the Red Cliffs in the winter of 1032. The 'Red Cliff' scene was a popular decorative motif during the Ming and Qing dynasties, but is relatively rare among lacquerware. A covered box of oval form, Qianlong mark and period, depicting the 'Red Cliff' scene was sold at Christie's London, November 2017, lot 116.
Boxes of this size were sometimes used as incense boxes, like a lacquer box of similar size placed beside an incense burner and tool vase, shown on a painting from the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, illustrated in K.Ruitenbeek (Ed.), Faces of China - Portrait Painting form the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Berlin, 2017, pl.67.