Box with Peonies
Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Yongle period (1403–24)
Carved red lacquer
H. 2 3/4 in. (6.4 cm); Diam. 6 1/4 in. (15.9 cm)
Purchase, Arthur M. Sackler Gift, 1974
Often depicted in carved lacquer, peonies are an important symbol in Chinese art and are understood as symbols of royalty, rank, wealth, and honor. Here, additional flowers—camellias, tree peonies, pomegranates, and chrysanthemums—are carved along the sides of the box. This box is one of several pieces in the collection whose bottoms are carved with a six-character mark reading “Da Ming Yongle nian zhi” (Made during the reign of the Yongle Emperor of the Ming dynasty). Use of such marks, which are found much more commonly in ceramics, began in the early fifteenth century and continued into the nineteenth. Works so marked are thought to have been produced at or for the court.