A rare coromandel lacquer document box

清康熙   款彩帖盒

The box is of characteristic rectangular form fitted with brass hinges at the back and a simple rectangular brass escutcheon with ruyi-shaped hasp at the front. The top is decorated in kuancai technique, carved into the dark brown lacquer and then filled with different colours, with a scene from the Romance of the Western Chamber (西廂記) showing the scholar Zhang Sheng (張生) dressed in red on a white horse, accompanied by his page, beneath a window in a storied building at which sit Cui Yingying (崔英英) and her maid Hongniang (紅娘).  The scene is set amid blue rockwork and leafy willow trees, all within a keyfret border. The sides of the box are carved with antiques from the bogu tu and flowering sprigs.

Christie’s South Kensington, 13th May 2011, lot 1105

During the Kangxi period, The Romance of the Western Chamber, Xixiang Ji (西廂記), a Yuan dynasty drama by Wang Shifu (王實甫), was an endlessly popular source of imagery for the decoration of porcelain, but it is rare to find scenes from it used to decorate a document box, as here. Such boxes were used not only for storing letters, but also for passing them, suggesting that the choice of the Xixiang Ji might have been considered wittily appropriate, as letters feature importantly in the plot of the drama.

Kuancai was much the most popular technique for the decoration of large many-panelled screens, like no. 11 in this catalogue, but it is rare to find it used on smaller scholarly items like the present document box.

Dimensions: Length: 34.9 cm, 13 ¾ inches

Date: Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722)

Stock No. 1770

Price: On Request