VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Box with cover
0319942
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

Rectangular box with low upright sides affixed to a flat base with profiled edges that protrudes on all sides. The matching cover falls completely over the sides. The reverse of the base is unglazed, except for a recessed square in the centre containing the mark. It is decorated in underglaze-blue. On the cover there is a scalloped panel with a garden landscape in the centre of which a scholar is sitting by a screen, flanked by two servants. There are small tables in front and behind the screen, and another scholar with a servant on the left. There are flower sprays in the corners of the cover. On the sides, there are elongated panels with similar depictions of scholars and their servants in a garden landscape surrounded by a diaper band. The inside of the box is decorated on the centre and the four sides. On the bottom, there is a water landscape with a large fruit-bearing peach tree by a jagged rock; the highest branch continuing onto one of the upright sides. On the other three sides there are flower sprays. The inside of the cover is also decorated: in the centre with a spreading flower spray and two flowering plants, and on the sides undulating flower scrolls. The top of the base is blank. On the sides there are flower scrolls. In the glazed recessed area on the base, the six-character mark Wanli is written horizontally in a double rectangle surrounded by ruyi-motifs. This large box is remarkable for its fine decoration, including on the inside. The continuation of the decoration of the peach tree on the inside up the upright side is unusual. The decoration on the lid suggests this box was probably made for a scholar or a high ranking official. The size and attention to detail, even on the inside, indicates that this was not just any box, but one used to store unusual or valuable items, such as brushes or ink-sticks. Though large rectangular covered boxes were common during the Wanli period (whereafter they were rarely produced). This is a remarkable example because of its size and complex decoration.

History of the Object
Its sturdiness, the dark blue glaze obscuring many details and the somewhat formal composition are characteristic of much porcelain made for the domestic market during the Wanli period. The deception of the Imperial marks and their frames were subjects of experiment, as can be seen here. However, not all pieces produced in this period with an Imperial mark were necessarily part of an official court order. Under Wanli, the kilns in Jingdezhen produced for export on a larger scale than before, and methods for the mass-production of porcelain were developed with great success. Nevertheless, individually made objects such as this box were still in demand.

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Type
Decorative Art 
Materials
Porcelain, under-glazed blue 
Measurements
height 11.6 cm; length 30.2 cm; width 21,8 cm 
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Jingdezhen, China 
Geography
China 
Time period
AD 16th century ~ AD 16th century 
Creation date
16th Century; 1575 - 1600 (Ming Dnasty, Wanli) 
Function
decorative; box 
Acquisition
Purchased from the A. Schoenlicht Collection on at an auction at Sotheby's London in 1955. 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
Lit.: B. Jansen, Chinese ceramiek, cat. Haags Gemeentemuseum, Lochem 1976, cat. 145 C. Jörg, Oriental Porcelain in The Netherlands. Four Museum Collections, Groningen 2003, p. 20-21, cat.no. 4 Ref:. J. Harrison-Hall, Catalogue of late Yuan and Ming ceramics in the British Museum, London 2001, nr. 11.154 
Owner
Gemeentemuseum Den Haag 
Museum
Virtual Museum of the Chinese masterpieces 
Credit line
 

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