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Kangxi Penbox copy.jpg



20.6 cm long, 5 cm high

An enameled porcelain penbox and cover, of oblong form, the box painted on each side with two mirroring dragons in aubergine and yellow against a light turquoise ground. The interior of the box divided with three circular compartments for holding brushes, and one oblong compartment to serve as a washer. The slightly domed cover painted with a full-faced dragon amidst clouds and above crested waves, all against a turquoise ground. A geometric border in aubergine and yellow adorns the side of the cover. The inside of the cover, the box interior and the slightly recesses base are covered with transparent glaze.  

Porcelain penboxes were produced in Jingdezhen since the early Ming dynasty. First inspired by metal boxes from the Middle East, Chinese potters increasingly adapted the shape to cater to the Chinese taste. An early blue and white porcelain example, from the Xuande period, is in the Percival David collection and illustrated in Stacey Pierson Blue and White for China: Porcelain Treasures in the Percival David Collection, London, 2004, pl. 22.

Kangxi period penboxes such as the present example seem to be very rare as only a small number of comparable boxes are known. A similar penbox from the Kangxi period with dragons is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Miscellaneous Enamelled Porcelains Plain Tricoloured Porcelains, 1989, pl. 102. A further example with a phoenix is in the Palace Museum collections and is depicted in Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong, Qing Porcelain from The Palace Museum, 1989, pl. 102.


Formerly in the collection of Dr. C. M. Franzero (1892-1986), until 1968

Formerly in a private American collection

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