Chinese / Lobed Dish / Ming period, early 15th century (probably Yongle era, 1403-1424)Chinese
Lobed Dish
Ming period, early 15th century (probably Yongle era, 1403-1424)

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Chinese
Creator Name-CRT: Chinese
Title: Lobed Dish
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1403
Creation End Date: 1424
Creation Date: Ming period, early 15th century (probably Yongle era, 1403-1424)
Creation Place: China
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Dishes
Materials and Techniques: Carved cinnabar lacquer on wood or cloth
Dimensions: H. 1 5/8 in. (4.1 cm); D. 13 5/8 in. (34.6 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.122
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Context: In the East, objects made of lacquer were displayed in courts and in elegant homes and considered luxuries, as valued as objects made of gold and silver in the West. The many symbolic or auspicious lacquerware images reflects the high esteem in which this material was held. Much of this value is derived from the complexity of the processes used to produce lacquerware, which requires sophisticated skills.

The use of lacquer can be traced to some of China's earliest civilizations. Lacquer is the resin of the lac tree (Rhus verniciflua), which is native to central and southern China and may be indigenous to Japan. Objects coated with lacquer are fairly strong and largely impervious to water and pests. Two basic techniques are used to produce lacquerware; each uses a substructure of wood, bamboo, cloth, or metal beneath the lacquer coating. In one method, several thin coats of lacquer are applied to the substructure as decoration or protection, revealing the form beneath. In the other technique, multiple coats of lacquer are built up on the substructure, creating an object that consists primarily of these lacquer coatings. The lacquer is then carved to various depths in order to create a decorative motif or pictorial image. Lacquers made in the second fashion are generally termed 'carved lacquers.'

This elegantly decorated lobed dish provides an example of carved lacquer. This technique seems to have originated during the Southern Song period (1126-1279) and to have flourished during the late 13th and early 15th centuries. A six-character inscription (like a reign mark on a porcelain) incised on the base of this dish dates it to the reign of the Yongle emperor (1403-1424), and the style of the decoration and the high quality of carving are in keeping with this date. The decoration was carved in two layers: three different geometric patterns are used to indicate the sky, water, and paved courtyard, against which a scene of two gentlemen conversing is in relief. The front and back of each of the lobes of the rims are further decorated with carved flowers.

The two men conversing on the terrace belong to a category of Chinese motifs known as 'searching for the truth' (wen dao). Daoist in origin, these scenes usually depict one person asking another for knowledge. Here, the gentleman holding the scepter and seated under a pine tree in the center of the plate represents one of the manifestations of Laozi, the founder of Daoism. The figure seated before him, whose hands are completely covered by his long sleeves in order to show respect, is the supplicant who has come to request instruction. The close similarities between the composition on this dish and that of a painting of the subject by Shirui in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, suggest that the seeker may be Xuanyuan, a name given to both Confucius and the mythical Yellow Emperor of early Chinese history.

Related Document Description: The Arts of the Ming Dynasty. Detroit: Detroit Institute of Arts, 1952.
Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 57.
Related Document Description: Ausstellung ostasiatische Malerei aus dem Museum v.d. Heydt, Eysden, Holland: Chinesisches Lackgeraet aus verschiedenem Besitz. Vienna: Osterreichisches Museum für Kunst und Industrie, 1937.
Related Document Description: Exhibition of Chinese Lacquer Objects. New York: China Institute in America, 1945.
Related Document Description: Feddersen, Martin. Chinesische Kunstgewerbe. Berlin, 1955.
Related Document Description: Feddersen, Martin. Chinesische Lackarbeiten: Ein Brevier. Braunschweig: Klinkhardt un Biermann, 1958, pp. 30-31.
Related Document Description: Feddersen, Martin. Chinese Decorative Art: A Handbook for Collectors and Connoisseurs. London: Faber & Faber, 1961, pp. 199-200.
Related Document Description: Lacquer: Oriental and Western, Ancient and Modern. New York: Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration, 1951.
Related Document Description: Lee, Sherman E. A History of Far Eastern Art. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1964, p. 424.
Related Document Description: Lee, Sherman E., and Wai-kam Ho. Chinese Art under the Mongols: The Yuan Dynasty, 1279-1368. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1968, pp. 68, 70.
Related Document Description: Lee, Sherman E. Asian Art: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd--Part II. New York: Asia Society, 1975, pp. 58, 98.
Related Document Description: Low-Beer, Fritz. 'Chinese Lacquer of the Early Fifteenth Century.' Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities 22 (1950), pp. 145-67.
Related Document Description: Low-Beer, Fritz, and Otto Maenchen-Helfen. 'Carved Red Lacquer of the Ming Period.' Burlington Magazine 69 (October 1936), pp. 166-72.
Related Document Description: Mostra d'arte cinese: Settimo centenario di Marco Polo. Venice: Palazzo Ducale, 1954, p. 199.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.122
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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