First seen in the Neolithic period, the dragon has come to be revered as a mythical creature and serve as a marker of royal status. Used exclusively by the imperial household from the Ming dynasty onwards, the dragon found its way into iconography as more than a symbol of imperial authority, but the personification of the deified emperor himself: in this case the Jiajing Emperor. The combination of dragons with flowers and Chinese characters, as seen on various works of art in the period, illustrates the singular artistic possibility of this distinctive motif.
For other Jiajing mark and period lacquer dishes carved with a pair of dragons, see an ingot-shaped example from the Qing court collection and still in Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Lacquer Wares of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, Shanghai, 2006, pl. 122; an oval dish sold in our London rooms, 15th July 1980, lot 214, again in these rooms, 19th November 1984, lot 118, from the Dr Ip Yee collection, and offered at Christie’s Hong Kong, 3rd December 2008, lot 2127, from the Lee Family collection; and a polychrome lacquer dish of lobed quatrefoil form, also from the Speelman collection, sold in these rooms, 3rd April 2018, lot 3425.
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