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    Sale 2621

    Important Chinese Lacquer Wares from the Lee Family Collection

    3 December 2008, Hong Kong

  • Lot 2120


    Price Realised  


    XUANDE PERIOD (1403-1425)

    Of oval section with undulating sides, the rims gently upturned forming a lotus leaf, the interior exquisitely carved with a pair of playful confronted chilong, their sinuous bodies twisting out of turbulent waves, within a single raised oval border, the cavetto with finely incised lines to imitate the veining of a lotus leaf, repeated on the conforming exterior in low relief, supported on a short oval foot, the base with black lacquer
    9 5/8 in. (24.5 cm.), box

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    Compare a similar shaped oval dish also with chilong amidst waves in the Beijing Palace Museum collection, bearing a six-character Xuande mark, illustrated in Carved Lacquerware, Forbidden City Publishing House, 2008, p. 78, no. 46. Although the cavetto of the Palace Museum dish is carved with ruyi-cloud scrolls against a star pattern diaper-ground, the rendition of the dragons within the cartouche and the present dish appear to be by the same hand. An identical dish, possibly the pair to the Palace Museum dish, was sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 29 May 2007, lot 1359 (fig. 1).

    A related Xuande-marked dish of this lotus leaf shape but carved in shallow relief with a Sanskrit mantra dividing two lotus blooms, also in the Palace Museum is illustrated in op. cit., 2008, p. 79, no. 47 (fig. 2); and was included in the exhibition, Chinese Lacquer, the Shoto Museum of Art, Tokyo, 1991, illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 40. Compared to the cited examples, it is possible to conclude that the present dish may be of imperial commission.

    Emperor Xuande was renowned for his patronage of lacquer wares. Although there is no evidence of an official lacquer workshop in Beijing itself before the end of the Xuande reign, it would seem that there was some official supervision of the work carried out in lacquer workshops further south. This supervision was probably linked to a department of the Imperial Household. It would appear that the Xuande Emperor, like his grandfather, ordered a considerable amount of vermilion lacquer furniture decorated in qiangjin (incised gold) technique for use in the Imperial palace. However, it is the carved lacquers that the Xuande reign is justly famous. As Sir Harry Garner has mentioned: 'The carved wares of the fifteenth century are, without question, the finest of all carved lacquer wares", cf. Chinese Lacquer, Faber & Faber, London, 1979, p. 80. The carved lacquers from this reign are appreciated for the extreme care in their production - from the careful preparation of the base material to the meticulous application of each thin layer of lacquer. It has been estimated that some of these carved lacquer pieces had more than one hundred layers, and would have taken some two years to complete.


    Zhongguo Qiqi Quanji, vol. 5, Ming, Fujian meishu chubanshe, 1995, p. 41, no. 41


    Messrs. Bluett & Sons, London, 1989, From Innovation to Conformity, Chinese Lacquer from the 13th to 16th centuries, Catalogue, no. 18
    The Museum of East Asian Art, Cologne, 1990, Dragon and Phoenix, Chinese Lacquer Ware, The Lee Family Collection, p. 24, col. pl. 24, Catalogue, no. 48
    Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1990/91
    The Shoto Museum of Art, Shibuya, Japan, 1991, Chinese Lacquerware, Catalogue, no. 56