The cover is decorated with a shaped panel enclosing floral scrolls, all reserved on ground of dense 'golden horn' scrolls. The underside of the cover is decorated with the Three Friends of Winter (pine, prunus, and bamboo) below a Xuande mark. The box base is decorated with four cartouches enclosing scrolling flowers, all reserved on a honeycomb ground, the side with a Xuande mark.
The interior is modelled with a separate porcelain inkwell and apertures for other writing implements.
From the 13th century onwards, pen boxes of forms similar to the present lot were an essential part of the Islamic calligrapher’s tools. Since the travels to the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa of the admiral Zhenghe during the Yongle emperor's reign, the Chinese court held a fascination with the culture and art of the Islamic world, and the form of the present box is an example of such. Based on a metal prototype, the porcelain versions began to be fired at Chinese kilns in the early 15th century.
For an unmarked example dated to Xuande, see that which is held in the David Collection at the British Museum, accession no. PDF,A.629.
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