The box and cover of cylindrical shape with sloping shoulders standing on a slightly convex base. The cover is gently lobed on the top, and covered all over with a translucent glaze on the exterior. The box is glazed overall except the base and the mouth rim, exposing the white stoneware body.
The shape of the current box and cover suggests that it is copying a metalwork prototype. The inside rim of the box is probably reduced, as it would have curled further inwards to form a secure container for oil, so that the content does not spill in transport, as can be seen on a white-glazed box and cover in the Shijiazhuang Museum
Vessels like this box were made to contain fragrant oils for the lady’s dressing table and were essential for the elaborate coiffures of the Court Ladies of the period.
In Jia Sixie’s Qimin Yaoshu (Essential Techniques for the Peasantry) written in the 6th century, records a recipe for facial moisturiser in the fifth juan:
“Use cow marrow (if short, mix with some cow fat; or if lacking, use cow fat alone); soak cloves and patchouli in warm wine (use same method as when soaking orchids), cook as if making water-plantain soup, also add mugworts for colour; pass through cotton, and store in ceramic or lacquer vessels.”
It is noted by Tang Shenwei in his Zhenglei Bencao (Classified Materia Medica) that:
“Jasmine…its smell is spicy and not poisonous, steam it with oil to obtain its essence, and use it as moisturiser for face or hair, can cure dryness and scent the skin.”
Provenance: Bluett & Sons, London