Lidded cosmetic box (lian)

Historical period(s)
Warring States period, Eastern Zhou dynasty to Western Han dynasty, 3rd-2nd century BCE
Medium
Box: Black and red lacquer on wood core; contents: wood, human hair, silk, and other organic materials
Dimensions
H x Diam (a): 8.2 x 26.1 cm (3 1/4 x 10 1/4 in)
Geography
China, Hunan province, Probably Changsha
Credit Line
The Dr. Paul Singer Collection of Chinese Art of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; a joint gift of the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, Paul Singer, the AMS Foundation for the Arts, Sciences, and Humanities, and the Children of Arthur M. Sackler
Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
S2012.9.1596a-b
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Container, Lacquer
Type

Box

Keywords
China, comb, Eastern Zhou dynasty (770 - 221 BCE), Paul Singer collection, Western Han dynasty (206 BCE - 9 CE)
Provenance

1937 to 1938
Reportedly unearthed in Changsha, Hunan Province, China between 1937 and 1938 [1]

By 1949 to 1954
Ferdinando Pasquale Musso (1879–1974), Shanghai, China then Chicago, IL [2]

1954 to 1956
C. T. Loo Chinese Art, New York, NY purchased from Ferdinando Pasquale Musso after 1953 in New York, NY [3]

1956 to 1997
Dr. Paul Singer, Summit, NJ purchased from C. T. Loo & Company on November 27, 1956 in New York, NY [4]

1997 to 1999
In the custody of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, upon Paul Singer’s death in January 1997 and a loan agreement between the Executors of the Singer Estate and the Gallery in February 1997 [5]

From 1999
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, gift of the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, Paul Singer, the AMS Foundation for the Arts, Sciences, and Humanities, and the Children of Arthur M. Sackler [6]

Notes:

[1] In the Cooper Hewitt’s collection, there is a bonnet and pair of mitts, which were originally inside the lidded cosmetic box, which now resides in the collection of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Before these objects were separate, their earliest owner, Ferdinando Pasquale Musso reported their discovery in Changsha. See: “A Bonnet and a Pair of Mitts from Ch’ang-Sha” in Chronicle of the Museum for the Arts of Decoration of the Cooper Union Vol.2 No. 10 (December 1958), 315-346 and notarized statement from Mr. Musso, copy in object file.

[2] Ferdinando Pasquale Musso was born in Hong Kong to Italian parents. His father was a lawyer, eventually practicing in Shanghai, China. Musso emigrated from China to the United States in 1948 via Paris, France and took up residence in Chicago. He was a successful inventor, patenting such things as the piston and cylinder action coffee maker, safety razor, circular safety razor, and shaver. Whilst living in China he accumulated a collection of Chinese antiquities, which he sold and donated to various museums and collectors when he moved to America.

See note 1. Musso sold objects to the Cooper Hewitt Museum through the art dealer, Fritz Löw-Beer in 1951. See purchase records and correspondence with Cooper Hewitt Museum, copies in Musso file, provenance collectors and dealer files. According to Paul Singer, Musso then brought the lacquer box and its remaining contents to a “prominent New York City Lady dealer,” who offered the box at a high price on consignment. Not selling, Musso then offered the box to Frank Caro of C. T. Loo Chinese Art. Caro added the object to the company’s stock. See ms. Memoirs, Dr. Paul Singer, copy in object file.

[3] For date of entry into C. T. Loo Chinese Art stock, see: Daisy Yiyou Wand, Report: “A Group of Silk Pieces in the Collection of the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, New York – Summary and Recommendations, 2012” copy in object file.
Invoice from C. T. Loo Chinese Art to Dr. Paul Singer, November 27, 1956, see object file, Collections Management Office reports a sale on November 27, 1956. Object described as, “AM 1: “Large round toilet box, badly shrunk. Decorated with finely painted stylized birds, animals, and abstract motifs in red on dark brown background. Inside a square piece of brownish white silk from Changsha, Late Eastern Chou. Diameter: 11 ½ ins. Toilet Set of combs, pack of hair, dried flowers, wooden hair pins and a small brush broom tied with silk threads, found in the lacquer round box, described above.”

[4] See note 3. The collection of Chinese art and antiquities assembled by Paul Singer was purchased by him on behalf of Arthur M. Sackler, Jillian Sackler, the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, the AMS Foundation for the Arts, Sciences, and Humanities and later was transferred to the children of Arthur M. Sackler.

[5] The Dr. Paul Singer Collection of Chinese Art came into the custody of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, upon Paul Singer’s death in January 1997 and a loan agreement between the Executors of the Singer Estate and the Gallery in February 1997.

[6] See “The Dr. Paul Singer Collection of Chinese Art Gift Agreement,” March 1999, Collections Management Office. This object was formally accessioned into the museum collection in 2012.

Previous Owner(s)

Dr. Paul Singer 1904-1997

Published References
  • Arts of the Han Dynasty. Exh. cat. New York. cat. 84.
  • Jan Fontein, Wu Tung. Unearthing China's Past. Exh. cat. Boston. nos. 35a, 35b, p. 87.
  • , Maxwell K. Hearn, Wen C. Fong. The Arts of Ancient China. Vol. 32, no. 2. pp. 231-280, illustrated pp. 54, 55.
  • A Bonnett and a Pair of Mitts from Ch'ang-Sha. Vol. 2, no. 10, December 1958. pp. 315-346, fig. 3.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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