Circular box with figures in landscape

Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, Wanli reign, Late 16th - early 17th century
Red and black lacquer with applied gold (miaojin) on wood core
H x Diam (overall): 3.2 x 16.1 cm (1 1/4 x 6 5/16 in)
China, Anhui province
Credit Line
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Container, Lacquer


China, landscape, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644)
Provenance research underway.

The landscape on this box is painted with different shades of gold pigment accented by black ink, creating a striking impression against the cinnabar-colored lacquer. Compositionally, the landscape resembles a round album painting. One feature of late-Ming aesthetics was frequent exchange and cross-fertilization in the arts of different media. A painting may have provided a model for this scene, which depicts a scholar seated in a round-backed chair gazing at a lofty pine tree. His servant approaches, carrying a bundle of scrolls for study.

The interior of the box is currently outfitted with a tiny brush, an inkstone, and a water container, but these writing tools do not seem to be original to the box. Likely, they were added in Japan, attesting that many Ming dynasty lacquer objects were collected and prized in Japan. The original use of the box in China is difficult to ascertain, but it is likely that it was used to hold a large, molded ink cake (solid ink cakes were ground with water to produce liquid ink).  

Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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