Small box in the form of hibiscus blossom

Artist: Jiang Qianli (active 17th-early 18th century)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, Kangxi reign, 17th century, or possibly early 18th century
Black lacquer on wood core with mother of pearl inlay and gold and silver foil trim
H x W x D: 3 x 6.3 x 6.3 cm (1 3/16 x 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Container, Lacquer


China, hibiscus, Kangxi reign (1662 - 1722), Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911)
Provenance research underway.

This delicate box in the shape of a hibiscus flower is lavishly decorated with small pieces of metal foil and thin slivers of iridescent shell, or mother-of-pearl, meticulously inlaid into the lacquer surface. A fashion for lacquerware inlaid with foil and shell became popular in the first half of the seventeenth century, but at that time most of the designs consisted of landscapes and figures. In the Kangxi era (1662-1722), a new vogue arose for lacquer decorated with geometric designs executed with great precision, as seen here. 

Virtually every inch of this box is embellished. The inside is inlaid with two branches of fruit trees, and the base bears a name seal inlaid in mother-of-pearl as well as images of flowers. The seal reads Qianli which is conventionally believed to be the given name of the craftsman Jiang Qianli. Little historical information has been discovered about this man, so it is possible that the name actually refers to a workshop, not a person. Ultimately, the Qianli seal became synonymous with the technique of delicate, geometric designs inlaid in mother-of-pearl.

Published References
  • Lee Yu-kuan. Oriental Lacquer Art., 1st ed. New York. p. 205.
  • et al. Asian Art in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery: The Inaugural Gift. Washington, 1987. cat. 184, p. 275.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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