Height: 2 inches, 5 cm
Length: 8 inches, 20.6 cm

Enameled porcelain ‘Dragon’ penbox and cover

China, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period, 1662-1722

An enameled porcelain penbox and cover of oblong form, the box painted on each side with two mirroring dragons in aubergine and yellow against a light turquoise ground. The interior of the box is divided into three circular compartments for holding brushes, and one oblong compartment to serve as a washer. The slightly domed cover is painted with a full-faced dragon amidst clouds and above crested waves, all against a turquoise ground. A geometric border in aubergine and yellow adorns the side of the cover. The inside of the cover, the box interior and the slightly recessed base are covered with transparent glaze.

Porcelain penboxes were produced in Jingdezhen since the early Ming dynasty. First inspired by metal boxes from the Middle East, Chinese potters increasingly adapted the shape to cater to the Chinese taste. An early blue and white porcelain example, from the Xuande period, is in the Percival David collection [1].  Kangxi period penboxes such as the present example seem to be very rare as only a small number of comparable boxes are known. Compare a similar penbox from the Kangxi period with dragons [2], and one with a phoenix [3] in the Palace Museum collections.

The collection of Dr. C. M. Franzero (1892-1986) until 1968
Formerly in a private American collection

  1. Pierson, S., Blue and White for China: Porcelain Treasures in the Percival David Collection, London, 2004, pl. 22
  2. The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Miscellaneous Enamelled Porcelains Plain Tricoloured Porcelains, Hong Kong, 2009, pl. 217
  3. Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong, Qing Porcelain from The Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 1989, pl. 102