An extremely rare wucai box and cover (glaze crack and minor wear to enamels) Wanli mark and of the
Lot 1150
An extremely rare Imperial wucai 'dragon' chess box and cover Wanli six-character mark and of the period
Sold for HK$ 2,640,000 (US$ 340,452) inc. premium
Lot Details
An extremely rare Imperial wucai 'dragon' chess box and cover
Wanli six-character mark and of the period
The circular box with gently rounded sides rising from a flat base with a circular centred recess, and surmounted by a flattened cover, the box brilliantly painted around the sides with four striding dragons in pursuit of a flaming pearl, alternately painted in underglaze-blue, overglaze green and iron-red enamels, above crashing waves and rocky outcrops, all bordered above by a collar of scrolling trellises at the mouth and below by a band of overlapping waves and florets at the base, the cover similarly painted with a single striding dragon in underglaze blue, encircled by a band of stylised scrolls, Japanese box.
14.4cm (5½in) wide. (3).


  • Provenance:
    A Japanese private collection.

    Jars of this barrel-shaped form, complete with their original covers, and painted with dragons in wucai and underglaze blue decoration are extremely rare.

    A very similar box and cover in the Shanghai Museum is illustrated in Chugoku Toji Zenshu, Vol.21, Kyoto, 1981, Catalogue no.41. Another wucai box of this type, but without its cover, in the Metropolitan Museum, New York is illustrated by S.G. Valenstein, The Herzman Collection of Chinese Ceramics, New York, 1992, Catalogue no.85.

    Other Wanli period chess boxes and boxes, with variations in the shape and decoration are also known. Compare a wucai barrel-shaped box and cover in the Shanghai Museum, illustrated in Zhongguo meishu quanji: Gongyi Meishu Zhan 3 Taoci, Shanghai, 1993, fig.128.

    An underglaze blue example, of the same form to the present example, from the CP Lin Collection, shares the same decorative scheme as the current example, and is illustrated by R.E.Scott, Elegant Form and Harmonious Decoration. Four Dynasties of Jingdezhen Porcelain, London, 1992, Catalogue no. 90.

    Whilst no other box and cover of this rare shape and palette have been sold at auction, a Wanli mark and period wucai octafoil box and cover painted with dragons and phoenix, from the Robert Chang collection, was sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 28 November 2006, lot 1315. A box of the same form as the present example, but painted with Daoist immortals, was sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 13 November 1990, lot 149; and another painted with pairs of bixie and qilin was sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 27 April 2003, lot 233.