CATALOGUE NUMBER 0113
BLUE & WHITE CIRCULAR BOX AND COVER
KANGXI PERIOD (1661-1722) WITH APOCRYPHAL SIX-CHARACTER CHENGHUA MARK
Diameter: 8 ⅝ inches
S. Marchant & Son, London, 1999
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,
Chinese Lacquer 1200-1800,
16th November 2012 to 8th September 2013.
Inspired by Ming dynasty prototypes, the particular composition known as the 'Hundred Boys' first appears in the Yongle period and is revisited in the Xuande, Chenghua, Hongzhi, Jiajing, Longqing and Tianqi periods. The popular subject matter appears in lacquer, jade, textiles and paintings as well as porcelain. According to Terese Tse Bartholomew in Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art, San Francisco, 2006, p. 63, the 'Hundred Boys' theme has its origins in the Western Zhou dynasty when King Wen of Zhou adopted one son in addition to his ninety-nine sons; an association that would have been welcomed by the Kangxi emperor. Additionally the theme references Confucian philosophy which stressed the importance of many sons in order to fulfill familial and ancestral rites and duties. For a Chenghua period example of the theme on a bowl see Jessica Rawson, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, p. 163, no. 6:2.
While at first impression the boys are all laughter and fun, a closer look at the composition and the activities reveals a more serious message. The lower section presents a very active scene of boys flying kites, swinging, and a game of blind man’s bluff, whilst the upper section is more sedate. Most are busily engaged with one of the ‘Four Arts', music, The top medallion reinforces the idea that the pathway to success is through scholarship, with a scene of a dignitary who has granted an audience to two aspirants. The form of the box is thus used to literally relate not only with wish for many sons, but also that they rise through the ranks to achieve the highest possible post.
Text and images on this page appear courtesy of
Sotheby's New York and are excerpted from:
Sotheby's New York. Embracing Classic Chinese Culture: Kangxi Porcelain from the Jie Rui Tang Collection. March 14, 2014, p. 46. [exhibition catalog].