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The first of circular shape, carved in medium to high relief with three chrysanthemum blooms amidst foliage and buds, the reverse with guri-type scrolls, the base lacquered black, Ming dynasty, probably late 14th-early Century, 7 in. (17.8 cm.) diam., minor restoration; the second of mallow shape, decorated in black and gilt in the centre with a phoenix below auspicious objects in the lobes, 6 7/8 in. (17.5 cm.) wide (2)
Sir John Figgess, KBE, CMG
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Lot Essay

This carved lacquer dish is decorated on its interior with three chrysanthemum blossoms amongst leaves and buds. The use of three flower heads on small dishes is characteristic of 14th century dishes, as is the deep carving, the large scale of the flowers and leaves, the generous spacing and plain ground between elements, and the classic scroll in guri style on the exterior. Although the use of different patterns for all or part of similar fruit or flowers is more readily associated with the carved lacquer wares of the 16th century, such the small box decorated with lychees in the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm (illustrated by Sir Harry Garner in Chinese Lacquer, Faber and Faber, London, 1979, p. 29, fig. 64), this device can also be seen on carved lacquers of the early 15th century. An example can be seen on the lid of a box from the Garner collection now in the Victoria and Albert Museum (see ibid., p. 64, col. Pl. B., and p. 88, fig. 32), on which the centres of the blossoming camellias are treated in different manners.

Several small, early 15th century, dishes are known with chrysanthemum designs on their interiors. A dish with five blossoms was formerly in the Garner collection (see Chinese and Associated Lacquer from the Garner Collection, British Museum, London, 1973, pl. 23a, no. 42). Like the current dish, this has a ridged mouth rim. A similar Yongle dish to the Garner example with five chrysanthemums is in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei (see Masterpieces of Chinese Carved Lacquer Ware in the National Palace Museum, Gakken, Tokyo, 1971, no. 4). This too has a ridged mouth rim. These two five flower dishes have floral scrolls on the exterior, rather than the classic scroll seen on the current dish. In its spacing, treatment of leaves, use of three blossoms, incorporation of a ridged mouth rim and the use of a guri-type classic scroll on the exterior, this current dish most closely resembles the dish formerly in the collection of Lady David, which is illustrated by S.E. Lee and Wai-Kam Ho in Chinese Art Under the Mongols: The Yüan Dynasty (1279-1368), Cleveland Museum of Art, 1968, no. 294, where it was dated late 14th-early 15th century. Most early 15th century depictions of chrysanthemums in carved lacquer show the petals nearest to the centre of the flower pointing inward, while Yuan dynasty examples show few, if any, inward pointing flowers. The current vessel with its small number of inward pointing flowers and larger centres to the flowers may suggest a transitional stage.


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