The technique tianqi, known as 'lacque cuir' in French or 'leather lacquer', involves the building up of layers of lacquer over wood covered in hemp cloth. Each layer is left to dry and then polished down; once thick enough the design is incised on the surface and these areas are outlined with gilt and filled in with lacquers of various colours including tones of red ochre, green, black and brown. This extremely time-consuming technique would have been expensive and furniture, such as the current lot, would therefore have been reserved for the elite.
The decorative motifs of buddhist lions playing brocade balls on the present stand are beautifully executed. Compare with the more stylised gamboling lions in pursuit of brocade balls enamelled on the exterior of a bowl dated to the Ming dynasty Jingtai period, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Zhongguo Meishu Quanji: Gongyi meishu bian, vol. 10, Beijing, 1987, no.301. Compare with an incised and gilt lacquered low table decorated with bats and
Wan symbols sold at Sotheby's London, 11 May 2011, lot 154 and two large tianqi lacquer tables decorated with peonies and scrollwork sold at Sotheby's New York, 26 March 1996, lot 281; and 19th September 1975, lot 138.