The use of green lacquer is particularly rare and makes this dish, which is of superb quality, very exceptional.
See three dishes of comparable form and design, including one in the Palace Museum Beijing, illustrated in Lacquer Wares of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, The Complete Treasures of the Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 2006, p. 15, no. 9 (fig.1). The Palace Museum dish is decorated with a peahen perched on rockwork but in every other aspect is very close to the present example. The rockwork and shaped decorative bands appear to be remarkably similar on both dishes. The Palace Museum example bears a label to the reverse indicating that it was inspected by Emperor Qianlong in the 54th year of his reign. Another, formerly in the Percival David collection, is in the British Museum illustrated by H. Garner, Chinese Lacquer, London, 1979, pl. 49. The British Museum dish depicts a different scene of two ducks and a pair of magpies in tree strewn landscape setting, but again, the treatment remaining decorative bands and features of the rockwork and trees bear a very close resemblance to those found on the other dishes. The third example from the Avery Brundage collection, also decorated with two long-tailed birds, is in the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, illustrated by Li He and M. Knight, Power and Glory: Court Arts of China's Ming Dynasty, San Francisco, 2008, p. 98, no. 47, where it is attributed to the Hongwu period. It is interesting to note that on all these dishes there is no differentiation between the spatial distances, a feature of Yuan dynasty lacquer carving. By the early Ming dynasty carvers had started using a floral diamond-diaper to indicate land, a series of waves for water, and horizontal lines for sky.
The present dish belongs to a small but distinct group of carved lacquer pieces depicting two birds all of which are denser in their design and less naturalistic than the carving found on the present dish. Although the species of birds and flowers vary from dish to dish, they are invariably decorated with the same compositional layout of a pair of birds in flight against a floral background.
Cf. an example in the Palace Museum Collection, Beijing, illustrated ibid, p. 13, no. 7. Compare also several examples illustrated in Hai-wai Yi-Chen, Chinese Art in Overseas Collections - Lacquerware, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1987; pl. 57 is an example in the Los Angeles County Museum with a peacock and peahen; pl. 59, in the Seattle Art Museum decorated with a pair of finches; pl. 60, in the Detroit Institute of Arts decorated with a pair of cranes; and pl. 61, in the Tokyo National Museum decorated with a pair of pheasants.