The present tray belongs to a very rare group of Yongle lacquerwares carved to the highest exacting standards of the Yongle reign with landscape scenes inspired from Yuan dynasty paintings. These would appear to have been originally intended as Imperial serving dishes and containers as two examples in museum collections bear the inscription tianshi fang, 'Department of Sweetmeats'.
Yongle lobed trays depicting very similar scenes can be found in a variety of sizes with two differing rim shapes: lotus-form rims as with the present example and more rounded mallow-form rims. Only six exquisitely carved Yongle lotus-form trays with related scenes of figures enjoying leisurely pursuits in landscape settings appear to have been published. The trays, all approximately the same size include two in the Palace Museum collection, Beijing decorated with a similar scene and with incised six-character Yongle marks, illustrated in Gugong Bowu Yuancang Diaoqi, Wenwu Chubanshe, 1985, nos. 55 (fig. 1) and 57, the former bearing an additional inscription, tian shifang; and an example formerly in the Hakutsuru Collection, now in the British Museum, also with a Yongle mark and bearing the inscription, neifu tianshi fang, Imperial Household, Department of Sweetmeats illustrated by H. Garner, Chinese Lacquer, London, 1979, no. 30. The author notes that the order of the flowers around the rim is exactly repeated underneath but in reverse order, as on the present example. Two further examples include one with a Xuande mark in the Tianjin Art Museum, illustrated in Zhongguo qiqi quanji, vol.5, Fuzhou, 1995, no. 45; and a Yongle-marked example sold at Sotheby's New York, 30 March 2006, lot 75.
Other closely related examples with mallow-form rims include two in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Lacquer Wares of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Commercial Press, Hong Kong, 2006, nos. 34 and 35; and an example in the Royal Scottish Museum illustrated in Colloquies on Art and Archeology in Asia, no. 11, Lacquerwork in Asia and Beyond, Percival David Foundation, pl. 2b and included in the O.C.S. exhibition, The Arts of the Ming Dynasty, London, 1957, pl. 58, no. 226. Compare also Yongle circular boxes of similar design in the Palace Museum Beijing, illustrated op. cit., 2006, nos. 37, 38 and 40.