Covered Box Dragon and cloud design in carved red lacquer


Covered Box Dragon and cloud design in carved red lacquer

lacquer work / Ming Dynasty / China


Place of production:China

Ming dynasty, Xuande era (1426-35)


径21.4 高8.0



The term “lacquerware” refers to objects coated in the sap of the lacquer tree which grows in East and Southeast Asia. Lacquerware was produced throughout Asia, with each region developing its own distinct techniques and designs. Carved lacquer is one of the best-known Chinese lacquerware techniques. To make carved lacquer, layer upon layer of lacquer is applied to an object to create a thick coating. Designs are then carved into the object’s coating in low relief. Carved lacquer first rose to prominence during the Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279).

The entire surface of this box is decorated in carved red lacquer. On top of the lid, a dragon writhes with its limbs spread in a dynamic pose. The bottom of the box bears an inscription which tells us that it was made during the reign of the Xuande Emperor, which lasted from 1426 to 1435. Chinese lacquerware has a long tradition of incorporating clouds and dragons, but the composition featured on this box is somewhat unique. Its design is made up of a large, imposing dragon surrounded by thick clouds that completely fill the background. This design appears frequently in lacquerware produced by imperial workshops during the early Ming dynasty, from the 14th to 15th century, and numerous similar examples exist. The dark red coloring and shallow carving technique are also common features found in examples of carved red lacquerware made during the reign of the Xuande Emperor.

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