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    Sale 2621

    Important Chinese Lacquer Wares from the Lee Family Collection

    3 December 2008, Hong Kong

  • Lot 2113


    Price Realised  


    YUAN DYNASTY (1279-1368)

    The gently curved upper surface of the cover finely inlaid with mother-of-pearl to depict a landscape scene with two scholars on horseback riding toward a gathering of figures on a garden terrace, detailed with trees growing beside a dwelling, one balustrade inscribed with the characters, Luodian Jiang Yin Junhua, '(Made) by the mother-of-pearl craftsman Yin Junhua', within a bracket-lobed cartouche reserved on a brocade-ground and outlined with an inlay of double-lines of rope-twist metalwork, the longer vertical sides similarly rendered with ladies at leisure in a garden landscape, one of the shorter vertical sides with a carp emerging out of crested waves against tall mountains in the background within a double-outlined ruyi-shaped cartouche, repeated on the other side with a crane in flight tied with beribboned scrolls amidst ruyi clouds; the cover is inserted into a box with straight sides, lacquered in vermilion, the interior accommodating an undecorated fitted dark brown lacquer tray, supported on a protruding base decorated with mother-of-pearl florettes
    11 7/16 in. (29 cm.) long, Japanese wood box

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    There are a very limited number of Yuan period mother-of-pearl inlaid lacquer wares that are inscribed with either the name of the craftsmen or a cyclical date.

    Three examples inscribed with cyclical dates are known. The first is a low table from a private collection, included in the exhibition, The Colors and Forms of Song and Yuan China, Nezu Institute of Fine Arts, Tokyo, 2004, and illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 126. The low table is embellished with mother-of-pearl on its upper surface depicting a busy town scene where figures are pre-occupied in their various pursuits; and neatly concealed on one of the banisters is an inscription with the cyclical Xinchou date which corresponds to 1301. The second example is a square box and cover from a private collection included in the exhibition, Cyokoku no Raden, Chinese Inlaid Mother-of-Pearl, Tokyo National Museum, 1981, and illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 15, inscribed with a cyclical Wuwu date (1318). The third is a table screen decorated with a scene of gathering scholars, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 25 November 2005, lot 1460. The table screen is similarly incised on a balustrade with the characters: Jianfu Luling Xian Gao Xianzhang Jisiji xia, '(Recorded) in the summer of the Jisi year by Guo Xianzhang of Luling county Jian prefecture'; the Jisi date corresponds to AD 1329.

    It is interesting to note the mention of Luling county in Jian prefecture which is located in Jiangxi province. This district was mentioned by Cao Zhao in Ge Gu Yao Lun, 'the Essential Criteria of Antiquities', of 1388, as the source of fine mother-of-pearl inlaid lacquer ware, cf. Sir Percival David, Chinese Connoisseurship, London, 1971, pp. 148-149. Another published reference to Luling is found incised on the upper surface of a lobed box which was included in the exhibition, East Asian Urushi Lacquer Work with Mother-of-Pearl Inlay, the Tokugawa Art Museum, 1999, and illustrated in the Catalogue, p. 24, no. 14. The inscription on the lobed-box is incised and written in a vertical line on one of the garden balustrades reading: Luling Hu Zhaojiong tiebi, 'Inscribed (by) Hu Zhaojiong of Luling'.

    Compare also a circular box, in the Tokyo National Museum collection, bearing the name of the craftsman, included in the same exhibition of 1988 and illustrated in the Catalogue, p. 23, no. 14. The Tokyo National Museum example has two inscriptions, one bearing the name of the craftsman, Tiebi Xiao Zhen, 'Inscribed (by) Xiao Zhen', and the other inscribed on another post which possibly reads, Wenliang Wang Shuheng gong, 'A tribute from Wang Xiaoheng (possibly of Wenliang)'.

    It appears that one of the earliest pictorial carvings using mother-of-pearl material, dated to the Yuan period, is a mother-of-pearl fragment unearthed at Dadu, and now in the Capital Museum collection, illustrated in Zhongguo Meishu Quanji, vol. 8, Lacquerware, Wenwu chubanshe, 1989, no. 112. The excavated fragment depicts the Guanghan Gong, the palace of immortality from Chinese mythology which appears to be a popular theme adopted by craftsmen of the Yuan and Ming periods. A good comparable example is a mother-of-pearl octangonal box dated to the Yuan period in the Hayashibara Museum of Art, Okayama, included in the Tokugawa Art Museum exhibition and illustrated op. cit., no. 12. The octagonal box is decorated with a scene of figures amidst a terraced pavilion, and inscribed with the characters Guanghan Gong above a gateway in the far distance.


    Okada Jo, former curator of Tokyo National Museum 1960's-1970's


    Okado Jo, Toyo Shugeishi No Kenkyu, 'Studies of Oriental lacquer history', Chuo Kouron Art Publishing, 1978.


    Tokyo National Museum, 1977, Oriental Lacquer Arts, Catalogue, no. 493
    Tokyo National Museum, 1981, 'Chinese Mother-of-Pearl Lacquerware', Catalogue, no. 16
    The Museum of East Asian Art, Cologne, 1990, Dragon and Phoenix, Chinese Lacquer Ware, The Lee Family Collection, Catalogue, no. 88
    Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1990/91
    The Shoto Museum of Art, Shibuya, Japan, 1991, Chinese Lacquerware, Catalogue, no. 101
    The Tokugawa Art Museum, Japan, East Asian Urushi Lacquer Work with Mother-of-Pearl Inlay, 1999, Catalogue, p. 25, no. 15
    Nezu Institute of Fine Arts, Tokyo, 2004, The Colors and Forms of Song and Yuan China, Catalogue, no. 132