Box with ivory inlay

Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, Yongle or Xuande reigns to Qing dynasty, early 15th century with 17th or 18th century alteration
Black lacquer with bone inlay, and carved red lacquer on wood core
H x W x D: 7.5 x 23.8 x 23.8 cm (2 15/16 x 9 3/8 x 9 3/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Container, Lacquer


boat, China, Daoist Immortals, horse, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), pavilion, WWII-era provenance
Provenance research underway.

As can be seen from the sides, this lacquer box was originally red. The carving style of the fourteenth
and early fifteenth centuries has a strong sculptural quality. The top of this box originally would have looked much like the sides, but it may once have been damaged, causing a later craftsman to repair it by applying layers of black lacquer. Another explanation is that after the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644, red lacquer became less popular, so someone may have tried updating the box by adding the black lacquer. Whatever the reason, the additional work is unusual and reflects the trouble collectors would go to in order to preserve Yongle-era carved lacquer ware. The use of high-status ivory on the lid is a pairing of two luxury commodities—only the finest materials would have been acceptable to add to lacquer.

Published References
  • Lee Yu-kuan. Oriental Lacquer Art., 1st ed. New York. p. 175.
  • et al. Asian Art in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery: The Inaugural Gift. Washington, 1987. cat. 179, p. 270.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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