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A « scholars in a garden » mother-of-pearl inlaid lacquer cabinet

  • Wood, lacquer and mother-of-pearl
  • China
  • Ming Dynasty
  • 17th century
  • Height : 63 cm x Width : 42.5 cm x Depth : 30 cm
  • Private USA collection

Description

This cabinet is rectangular in shape, with rounded corner posts framing a pair of doors topped by a display shelf. The brown lacquer is inlaid with iridescent mother-of-pearl. The front doors are decorated with a continuous scene of scholars in a garden. On the right panel, three scholars are walking around an elegant pavilion, while on the left panel another scholar followed by an attendant crosses a bridge overhung by a willow tree with dangling branches. At the tops of the doors, two recessed quatrefoils enclose a flying pheasant. The sides and top of the cabinet are each inlaid with delicately curling foliate motifs. The cabinet rests on a stepped base, the interior featuring a single shelf.

During Ming dynasty, mother-of-pearl inlaid lacquer was a favorite decorative technique for furniture. Craftsmen developed the medium further by enhancing the intricacy and complexity of the Song and Yuan dynasties items. Another contribution to the technique came from the Ryukyu Islands. Chinese emissaries were sent to the islands in the 14th century and Ryukyuan rulers sent lacquer tributes to the Ming court, initiating an intense period of artistic exchange of inlaid lacquers.

Scholarly themes were often derived from Wanli period (1572-1620) woodblocks prints. The relationship between woodblock prints and inlaid lacquer can also be seen in the figural representation and the foliate and geometric motifs.

Bibliography:

For some stylistic comparisons with other mother-of-pearl inlaid pieces from Ming dynasty, see: James C. Y. Watt and Barbara Brennan Ford, East Asian Lacquer: The Florence and Herbert Irving Collection, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1991, pp. 135-138. For two bigger display cabinets from the 16th/17th century, see also: Ryukyuan Lacquerware from the Urasoe Art Museum Collection, Urasoe: Urasoe Art Museum, 1995, pls 62 et 63.

A « scholars in a garden » mother-of-pearl inlaid lacquer cabinet

  • Wood, lacquer and mother-of-pearl
  • China
  • Ming Dynasty
  • 17th century
  • Height : 63 cm x Width : 42.5 cm x Depth : 30 cm
  • Private USA collection

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