• Fine Chinese Ceramics and Work auction at Christies

    Sale 2405

    Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Including Property from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections

    25 March 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 1065

    A VERY RARE MOTHER-OF-PEARL-INLAID BLACK-LACQUERED LOW TABLE

    YUAN/EARLY MING DYNASTY, 13TH-14TH CENTURY

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    A VERY RARE MOTHER-OF-PEARL-INLAID BLACK-LACQUERED LOW TABLE
    YUAN/EARLY MING DYNASTY, 13TH-14TH CENTURY
    The rectangular top finely inlaid in mother of pearl with butterflies and bees flittering above lush branches of blossoming peony, within wire-twist borders and an outer border of peony scroll, each blossom meticulously inlaid in the center with lotus, birds, peony, bees or stylized roundels, above split, beaded aprons on each long side, and plain, beaded aprons on each narrow side, the beading continuing to the bottom of the short, double hoof-shaped feet, joined on the underside by single stretchers of rounded section
    6 5/16 in. (16 cm.) high, 37 5/8 in. (95.6 cm.) wide, 22 9/16 in. (57.3 cm.) deep, wood box


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    When published by Lee, the present lot was dated Song dynasty, 10th century. In his discussion, the author noted that Senator and Mrs. Hugh Scott, avid collectors of Chinese art, and Cheng Te-Kun of Cambridge, England, examined the table and suggested an earlier date, possibly Tang dynasty, although Lee notes that its construction is more consistent with furniture of a later date. This is confirmed by two radiocarbon analyses peformed on the wood which confirm a date between 1223-1399. However, while some portions of the wood may have a date range which includes early Ming, the table is stylistically more likely to be Yuan in date. Compare a very similar conjoined floral scroll seen on the edge of the Ju Yong Guan stone gate at the Nan Kou pass near Beijing, which is dated 1345, illustated by J.M. Addis, Chinese Ceramics from Datable Tombs and Some Other Dated Material, Sotheby Parke Bernet, London and New York, 1978, pp. 43-6, nos. 29a-e, where the author notes that "the flower-scroll with strongly marked encircling stem and variant flower-forms is characteristic of late Yuan decoration on porcelain".

    The shape of the present table can be found as early as the Five Dynasties period, as evidenced by a much larger wooden platform excavated in 1980 from the tomb of Cai Zhuang in Jiangsu. (Fig. 1) It is interesting to note the similarity in the shape of the legs and spandrels, although those on the present table are more fluid and less formalized. While it is possible that the present table may have had removable legs to adjust its height, low tables of this form with similar abrupt feet are known. See a longer low table in a detail of a Five Dynasties painting in the Palace Museum, Beijing, of scholars playing weiqi, illustrated in Zhongguo Meishu Quanji - Hui Shu Bian, vol. II, Beijing, 1988, p. 120, no. 61. (Fig. 2) Another low table, also with similar feet, is illustrated ibid., p. 118, no. 60.

    Provenance

    Sammy Y. Lee & Wangs Co., Hong Kong, 1973.


    Literature

    Lee Yu-kuan, Oriental Lacquer Art, New York/Tokyo, 1972, pp. 302-3, no. 231.
    M. Beurdeley, Chinese Furniture, Tokyo, New York and San Francisco, 1979, p. 36, no. 46.