OBJECTS FOR THE SCHOLAR'S DESK, Hong Kong 2023
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Playthings

A LAC-BURGAUTÉ BOX AND COVER

QING DYNASTY, YONGZHENG PERIOD (1722-1735)

LENGTH: 9CM

Exquisitely inlaid in iridescent mother-of-pearl, gold and silver foil against a black lacquer ground, the cover of the square-form box depicts a garden scene of two ladies engaged in musical pursuits with two attendants beside, all enclosed within a cellular border. The larger box opens to reveal four smaller boxes variously decorated with birds and insects hovering amidst floral and fruiting branches of lily, hibiscus, melon and finger citrons. The sides of all five boxes and covers are embellished with ball-flowers scattered against a speckled ground. The interiors and bases are covered in gold and copper speckles.

In its impeccable and most delicate use of inlay conveying such graceful and dynamic composition, this exceptional box epitomises Yongzheng Emperor’s ceaseless pursuit of quality and technical excellence at the imperial workshops of his time. Court artisans were encouraged to create innovative designs that would combine China’s rich history of arts with inspiration from foreign styles. Yongzheng Emperor was known to have a strong reverence for Japanese aesthetics and their lacquer art. The opulent use of mother-of-pearl, abalone shell, together with gold and silver foil in lacquer inlay, as well as the pattern of overlapping roundels were believed to have their origins in Japanese designs, but the development of the characteristic ball-flowers design as seen on the sides of this set of boxes fits squarely into a decorative repertoire under the Chinese regime. In fact, this motif became strongly associated to the Yongzheng reign that many fine variations of such designs were known on porcelain and lacquerwares of the period, including an inlaid black lacquer box in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Lacquer Wares of the Qing Dynasty 故宮博物院藏文物珍品全集:清代 漆器, Hong Kong, 2006, p. 234, pl. 176.

A two-tiered lobed box decorated with boys playing in a garden, also from the Museum collection and with closely related iridescent inlays demonstrating a shimmering violet tinge, is also illustrated ibid., p. 232, pl. 174.

清雍正 黑漆嵌螺鈿雙喬圖套盒