Inventory Number: 125688
This is a very fine work which belonged in the collection of the Captain of Fregata Marchese Henri de Laurens and entered the Vatican collections as a gift of the widow countess Ruffin di Tours on November 30th, 1928.
This coffer is a testimony to the technical virtuosity of a long, laborious, and detail oriented process which overlaps many layers of red lacquer. The thickness of the red lacquer allows for incisions to be made at each different level of depth on the object. This creates a richer display of iconography. This kind of box, used by people of high rank, was part of a larger set, or occasionaly used as a precious gift. The decorative motifs used on this box often symbolized good fortune. The box is decorated with red incised lacquer. The technique used consisted of numerous layers of lacquer that together created a thickness such that the lacquer could be incised. On the mirror on the lid of the box, outlined by a Greek styled frame, there is a scene in which a Taoist environment is depicted in a relief technique. The scene is surrounded by an argyle flower and swastika pattern. The figures, depicted in a landscape dominated by a large curved tree, include an older man with a fan, thought to be one of the Eight Taoist Immortals. He stands with two young assistants, one of whom carries on his shoulders a “mushroom of immortality” called lingzhi. On the external side of the box and the cover is the argyle flower design.