3442
3442
A RARE AND FINELY CARVED CINNABAR LACQUER 'LAOZI' TRAY
MARK AND PERIOD OF JIAJING
Estimate
1,500,0002,500,000
JUMP TO LOT
3442
A RARE AND FINELY CARVED CINNABAR LACQUER 'LAOZI' TRAY
MARK AND PERIOD OF JIAJING
Estimate
1,500,0002,500,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Gems of Chinese Art – The Speelman Collection II

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Hong Kong

A RARE AND FINELY CARVED CINNABAR LACQUER 'LAOZI' TRAY
MARK AND PERIOD OF JIAJING
superbly modelled with shallow rounded sides divided into four lobes with gently canted incurved corners, all supported on a short foot of corresponding form, the interior of the dish centred with a lobed cartouche enclosing Laozi seated astride an ox with an attendant following closely, the tranquil setting further decorated with a pavilion in the background and set with jagged rockwork as well as wutong and willow trees, all against a diapered ground, surrounded by a frieze of the flowers of the four seasons encircling the cavetto and repeated on the exterior, the base lacquered dark brown and engraved and gilt with a six-character vertical reign mark
18.5 cm, 7 1/4  in.
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Provenance

Sotheby's New York, 18th September 2007, lot 19.

Catalogue Note

The present tray, with its lustrous surface, fine sharp carving and subtly round edges, demonstrates the persistent characteristics of carved lacquerware in the early Jiajing period. This tray, furthermore, is an extremely rare embodiment of an iconography particular to the reign of Jiajing. A devoted follower of Daoism, the Emperor's pursuit of immortality led not only to the erection of Daoist temples but the imperial commission of wares inspired by Daoist themes, for ritualistic purposes as well as those of appreciation. Laozi, the protagonist in this instance, was the quintessential example of a Daoist immortal. A tray of the same shape is illustrated in Carved Lacquer in the Collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing, 1985, cat. no. 175; there is, however, no published record of any similarly decorated tray.

The ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi was the founder of Daoism. His personal name usually given as Li Er, he was claimed by the Tang emperors, themselves of the surname Li, to also be the founder of their lineage. According to Shiji [Records of the Grand Historian], Li Er, also known as Lao Dan (Lao or venerable being a honorific title), was the Keeper of the Archives for the royal court of Zhou before venturing to the west to live as a hermit, disappearing entirely from public view ever since. The Liexian Zhuan [Biographies of Immortals] recounts the story of Laozi's arrival at the western frontier where he was intercepted by Yin Xi, the Guardian of the Pass who, recognising Laozi, asked him to write down his ideas; this produced the two volumes of Daode Jing or Scripture of the Tao and its Virtue. Surrounded by ruyi-shaped clouds and flowers of all seasons, this particular tray presents a fantastical, otherworldly depiction of Laozi en route to the Hangu Pass before the historic encounter.

Compare a Jiajing mark and period lacquer dish of similar form, carved with a large fu character in the centre and four dragons in cartouches encircling the cavetto, 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, no. 120. See also two lacquer dishes attributed to the 16th century, the first carved with four lions in the centre encircled by floral scrolls on the cavetto, in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, illustrated in Hu Shih-chang and Jane Wilkinson, Chinese Lacquer, Edinburgh, 1998, pl. 23; and the other, carved with a scholar and his attendant in a landscape setting with river, trees, pavilion and mountains, from the collection of Edward T. Chow, sold at Christie's London, 14th December 1983, lot 32.

Gems of Chinese Art – The Speelman Collection II

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Hong Kong