Three-tiered octagonal food box with peony spray and scrolls

Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, 16th- first half of the 17th century
Medium
Red lacquer on wood core with incised and gold filled decoration (qiangjin)
Dimensions
H x W x D: 17.5 x 17.8 x 18 cm (6 7/8 x 7 x 7 1/16 in)
Geography
China
Credit Line
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler
Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
S1987.376a-c
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Container, Lacquer
Type

Box

Keywords
China, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), peony, WWII-era provenance, Yuan dynasty (1279 - 1368)
Provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable
Label

The exterior of this octagonal box is decorated in the qiangjin (engraved gold) technique. In this method of embellishment, the box is repeatedly coated with layers of red lacquer. Lines are then engraved into the surface and a coat of clear lacquer is applied. While the lacquer is still sticky, gold powder or gold leaf is pressed into the lines to fill them. This decorative technique has a long history of use in China and was especially popular in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. A spray of peony flowers, the "king" of flora, enlivens the top of the box and adds an allusion to nobility.

The construction of the box is ingenious. A removable middle ring can be placed between the top and bottom halves to accommodate taller objects, or it can be left out and still not interrupt the box's overall design.

Published References
  • Xi Mengcao. Haiwai guizhen teji: Zhongguo qiqi [Chinese Treasures Overseas, a special collection at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery]. no. 71, July 1991. pp. 76-81.
  • Lee Yu-kuan. Oriental Lacquer Art., 1st ed. New York. p. 113.
  • , et al. Asian Art in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery: The Inaugural Gift. Washington, 1987. cat. 170, pp. 260-261.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.