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Water-caltrop-shaped Container with Polychrome Lacquer and Gold Phoenixes

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Period: Qianlong reign (1736-1795), Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
Medium: polychrome lacquer, gold
Dimensions: height: 15 cm, mouth diameter: 32.5 cm

In the form of a water caltrop with six petals, this container is decorated with polychrome lacquer with background patterns of interlocking-branch flowers and phoenixes. For the ground the craftsman incised two gold flying phoenixes and interlocking flower branches. Each side of the box has a floral panel, inside of which are two cranes holding a stone chime (a traditional musical instrument). The remaining area is decorated with patterns of meandering Buddhist sriratsa. The craftsman carved an inscription and a mark on the floral foot ring and filled them with gold. The inscription in regular script (kai shu) indicates that it was made in the Qianlong reign, while the mark gives the name of this object as "water-caltrop-shaped box with phoenixes".   
  Lacquer filling and gold incising techniques became extremely sophisticated in the Qianlong reign. The gold incising technique includes two methods: gold filling and gold rimming. This container combines the two techniques to create splendid patterns, representing the developments of the lacquer technique of the Qianlong period. The patterns are divided into three levels: the ground lacquer, the second level with interlocking flower stems, and the third level of two gold phoenixes. The three levels make the patterns clear and well ordered. The gold-incised phoenixes add elegance and dignity.

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