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    A Very Rare and Important Chinese Imperial Cloisonné Octagonal Box, Ming Dynasty
    3-1/2 x 6 x 6 inches (8.9 x 15.2 x 15.2 cm)

    Cloisonné was first developed in the ancient Near East and introduced to China during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) through the Western province of Yunnan due to an influx of Islamic peoples from the Byzantine Empire and elsewhere. The decorative technique involves the application of enamel, or glass paste colored with metal oxide, between copper or bronze wires - cloisones, French for "partitions" - pasted or soldered to a metal object. Following the application of the enamel, the object is fired at a low temperature, rubbed until the cloisones are visible, and typically partial gilt.

    During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Chinese artisans further enhanced this technique, and cloisonné objects. Their distinctive kaleidoscopic splendor began to adorn the structures of temples and palaces. By the reign Emperor Xuande (1426-1436), these wares came to be greatly prized at court and amongst the households of the government elite; the earliest cloisonné objects with imperial seals date to this period. Cloisonné objects are also called "Jingtai Lan." "Jingtai" refers to the reign of Ming Dynasty Emperor Jingtai (1450-1457), Xuande's son, whose reign is most strongly associated with imperial production of cloisonné. Most collectors consider this period as the pinnacle of Chinese cloisonné production, in terms of innovation in form, and enhancements in color palette.

    The rare form, construction, decoration, and color palette of this important Chinese Imperial cloisonné octagonal covered box firmly date it to the Ming Dynasty and further suggest 16th century attribution and Imperial use. It relates closely to a Jiajing Period cloisonné covered box held in the permanent collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs at the Louvre Museum in Paris both in form and construction. According to Dr. Claudia Brown, contributor to Bard Graduate Center's 2011 exhibition catalogue Clo isonné: Chinese Enamels from the Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties, these two covered boxes are the only known Ming Dynasty examples of octagonal form, with the Louvre example having eight sides of equal length and the present example with four canted corners between four longer sides. Additionally, both the Louvre and the present example are composed of panels fabricated individually and then soldered into position within a bronze framework with Ming Dynasty pin rivets.

    The date attribution of this covered box is further supported by its unique decorative motifs, as well as the brilliant palette with which they are rendered. It features bright turquoise blue ground, typical of Ming Dynasty cloisonné, accented by black, red, yellow, dark blue, green, white, and - most significantly - a pale purple hue known as amethyst. While amethyst gained popularity during the Qianlong Period (1735-1796) of the Qing Dynasty, it first emerged during the Ming Dynasty in response to chromatic developments in ceramics, including Fahua stoneware and Ducai porcelain. The cover and underside are nearly identical, with two yellow dragons, with long snouts and four claws, chasing a "flaming pearl" and flanking a black Shou "longevity" symbol to center. Four wide side panels with red dragons, two side-facing and two front-facing, the latter reminiscent of Taotie zoomorphic masks, are separated by four narrow side panels with stylized lotus flowers. Auspicious ruyi clouds complete the elaborate and expertly executed design.

    Condition Report*: Overall good condition and presentation, with age-related pitting, a few scattered minor losses, and a few areas of discoloration to enamel, largely intact and in good condition, and evidence of previous repairs to cover, which rests slightly unevenly, with a few minor losses at edges, and oxidation to interior.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2020
    25th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 8,434

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