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LACQUER BOX AND COVER

16TH CENTURY

7.9 cm diameter

The cinnabar-red lacquer box is of circular form with straight sides. The cover is naturalistically carved in relief with leafy branches suspending five lychees, each carved with a different geometric design, all against a geometric ground. The base of the box is similarly carved with three further lychees amidst leaves. The interior of the box and cover are lacquered black.  

Lacquer boxes of this type were often used as incense containers, usually placed beside an incense burner and tool vase. A number of existing boxes, including the present example, are finely carved on the base, allowing each surface of the object to be admired while handling. 

 

A box of near identical design in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, is illustrated in James C.Y. Watt, East Asian Lacquer - The Florence and Herbert Irving Collection, New York, 1991, pl.40, where it is suggested that these boxes may have metal substrates as they are heavy for their size. The design of the present box can also be found on boxes made from bronze and jade.