元 剔黑高士圖撞盒 Tiered Box with Scholar-Official in a Landscape
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
late 14th century
Carved black lacquer on gilded ground
H. 5 1/8 in. (13 cm); Diam. 4 7/8 in. (12.4 cm)
Gift of Florence and Herbert Irving, 2015
Not on view
This unusual box is difficult to date precisely. The use of gold in the background is uncommon and suggests that the box was particularly valuable. The shallow carving of the scholar on the top and the dragons amid clouds on the sides suggests a thirteenth-century date. However, the official is wearing a rank badge on his back, a practice that did not begin until the late fourteenth century. He stands before an incense burner and may be praying to the heavens, a traditional Chinese practice.
[ Spink & Son Ltd. , London, until 1991; sold to Irving] ; Florence and Herbert Irving , New York (1991–2015; donated to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Irving Lacquers," 1998–2000.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Red and Black: Chinese Lacquer, 13th–16th Century," September 7, 2011–June 10, 2012.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Chinese Lacquer: Treasures from the Irving Collection, 12th–18th Century," August 15, 2015–June 19, 2016.