Polychrome painted lacquer became popular in the late Ming dynasty and is stylistically closely related to qiangjin-and-tianqi (gold-engraved and filled-in) lacquerware of the same period, of which many more examples seem to exist. In contrast to that decoration method, which is more onerous and has to follow a clearly outlined pattern, polychrome painting allowed more freedom to the brush, even though painting with lacquer is very different from painting with ink. That it was relatively rarely used may be due to the fact that in the late Ming period predictable precision was more highly appreciated at court than individuality.
Very similar bird-and-flower decoration can be found on the painted lacquer top of a box with basketry panels in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, included in the Museum’s exhibition East Asian Lacquer. The Florence and Herbert Irving Collection, New York, 1991, cat. no. 65. The design is also closely related to qiangjin-and-tianqi designs, for example, a box dated in accordance with AD 1610 with a dragon on top and closely related flower motifs around the sides, ibid., cat. no. 53.
Compare also an octagonal tray in the Anhui Provincial Museum, illustrated in Zhongguo qiqi quanji [Complete series on Chinese lacquer], Fuzhou, 1993-8, vol. 5, pl. 185; and a lower rectangular stand of painted lacquer from the collection of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, illustrated in Hai-wai yi-chen/Chinese Art in Overseas Collections: Lacquerware, Taipei, 1987, pl. 131; or a painted lacquer rectangular table sold in our London rooms, 30th October 1987, lot 153.
The qiangjin-and-tianqi technique was more often used for incense stands such as this. Compare a pair of circular stands sold in our New York rooms, 28th/29th September 1989, lot 398; and an example of similar form as the present stand, but of Kangxi mark and period, illustrated in Hu Desheng, The Palace Museum Collection. A Treasury of Ming & Qing Dynasty Palace Furniture, Beijing, 2007, vol. 2, fig. 759.
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