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Hoof-Shaped Lacquer Box with Gold & Silver Appliqué

The box illustrated here is one of a set of seven, described below. We focus on this particular box since the shape is so unusual, the outlier out among the standard sets of seven produced by Western Han craftsmen, shapes which are otherwise simply square, rectangular, oval and circular. Referred to as madi, “horse-hoof,” shape by the Chinese, it is difficult to point to the origins of the shape. Nothing precedent has presented itself and one is led to assume that the shape was devised to form, with the six other boxes completing each set, a perfect circle, sometimes discovered fitted snugly into large circular containers that comprised these cosmetic sets.

A Set of Seven Lacquer Boxes

Long rectangular box
Length: 15.0 cm. (5 7/8 in.)
Width: 3.7 cm. (1 1/2 in.)
Height: 5.5 cm. (2 1/8 in.)

Small square box
Width: 4.0 cm. (1 1/2 in.)
Height: 6.8 cm. (2 3/4 in.)

Western Han dynasty
2nd-1st century B.C.

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