Tray

1573-1619 (made)

Unknown

Length: 35 cm, Depth: 15.5 cm

FE.17-1990 EAS

Lacquered wood inlaid with mother-of-pearl Ming dynasty lacquer and mother of pearl tray, reign of Wanli (1573-1619).

A rectangular tray set on low feet, with indented corners.Ground lacquer is brownish-black. Underside of rim is decorated in mother-of-pearl with floral scrollings, upperside of rim with a simple diaper broken by 6 cartouches showing birds and plants. The main scene is of a figure on horseback in a mountainous landscape. One servant holds an umbrella over his head, another follows with a bundle. The scene may represent the successful examination candidate returning home in triumph. MARK: On the underside is a square plaquer of shell with the inscription, 'Da Ming Wanli Nian Zhi' BOX: Japanese fitted wood box COMPARISONS: ''Chugoku no raden'', Tokyo National Museum(1981), nos 75-82 in particular ''Drache und phoenix'' Sammlung Family Lee (Cologne, 1990) nos 94-97 DISCUSSION: The only reign-marked piece of lacquer in this style. The other published 'Wanli' piece (BMFEA, 24 1952 pl.37)is of a different type. Together with FE.20-1982, dated 1537, a major benchmark for the typological sequence.(Craig Clunas 29/8/90)

This lacquer tray was decorated with a landscape scene made out of tiny pieces of mother-of-pearl. These were painstakingly applied on the surface, giving an iridescent quality to the decoration. Due to its fragility, this tray was more a decorative than a functional item.

Brian Morgan Gift

Location: China, room 44, case 43

View this object on the V&A website