National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Covered Box for Seal Paste Chinese Qing Dynasty (artist)
Covered Box for Seal Paste, Kangxi period, 1662/1722
porcelain with peachbloom glaze
overall: 3.5 x 7.2 cm (1 3/8 x 2 13/16 in.)
Widener Collection
Not on View
From the Tour: Chinese Porcelains
Object 7 of 24

This is one of the eight peachbloom shapes traditional for the scholar's desk, many of which can be found in English and American peachbloom collections.1 The form and size are remarkably uniform in all examples. The eight in the National Gallery collection, for example, have nearly identical dimensions. Small, low, and rounded, with a slightly flattened top, the boxes have covers and receptacles of almost equal size. The lower part, which held the vermilion red paste used for seals, has an inner flange, inset and unglazed to ensure the secure fit of the cover. The smoothness of the white porcelain showing on the cleanly trimmed, low narrow foot is typical of the refinement of this ware.2 The base is slightly recessed and concave. On each of these boxes, the peachbloom glaze stops at the closing edge of the cover and at the foot. A colorless glaze is used on the inside and the base.

Among a group of boxes of superior quality and condition, the principal variable is the fortuitous effect of color and its distribution. The velvety surface of 1942.9.506 is richly mottled with dark red on the cover. The peachbloom glaze is paler on the lower section, becoming very light green at the closing edge.


1. Ralph M Chait, "The Eight Prescribed Peachbloom Shapes Bearing Kang-hsi Marks," Oriental Art 3 (Winter 1957), 130-137, repro., 137. Among them are Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, acc. no. 43.5, and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, bequest of Benjamin Altman, no. 14.40.369: Suzanne Valenstein, "Highlights of Chinese Ceramics," Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 33, no. 3 (1975), no. 7, pl. 138; also Valenstein 1975, pl. 35 (color). Two were formerly in the Edward T. Chow collection, Geneva, one of which is illustrated in the sale catalogue of that collection: Sothebys, Hong Kong, 19 May 1981, 98, no. 496. The Baur Collection, Geneva, has three: John Ayers, The Baur Collection, Geneva: Chinese Ceramics, 4 vols., Geneva, 1968-1974, vol. 3, nos. A304, A308, and A312. Yale has one in the Moore collection: George J. Lee, Selected Far Eastern Art in the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 1970, 176, no. 352. For others, see International Exhibition of Chinese Art [Exh. cat. Royal Academy of Art, London], London, 1935-1936, no. 2675; Monochrome Porcelain of the Ming and Manchu Dynasties [Exh. cat. Oriental Ceramic Society, London], London, 1948, which includes ten pieces; and "Catalogue of the Exhibition of Monochrome Porcelain of the Ming and Manchu Dynasties," Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society: 1948-194924 (1951), 48-61, no. 346.

2. On all the peachbloom shapes, there is a slight demarcation of the foot shown by a delicate trimming line in the paste.

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