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A gilt and painted lacquer tray, Wanli mark and period, dated 1615. Estimate 7,0009,000 GBP. Photo: Sotheby’s

of rectangular form, the interior painted against a rich red ground with an equestrian figure journeying towards two officials seated by a table surrounded by attendants, the curved sides gilt-decorated on a dark brown ground with shaped floral cartouches reserved on a floral scroll ground, the exterior decorated with a weave pattern between a gilt foliate scroll and trellis band, the dark brown base gilt with a reign mark and dated yimao year (corresponding to 1615), followed by an inscription reading Xu Jingxuan zeng (Gifted by Xu Jingxuan); 28.7 by 45.6cm., 11 ¼ by 18in.

PROVENANCE: M.D. Flacks Ltd., London.

Notes: This piece belongs to a group of painted lacquer trays that were produced in the yimao year (corresponding to 1615) of the Wanli Emperor’s reign; another tray from this group, decorated with a scene of a dignitary presenting wine to an arriving scholar, was offered in our Hong Kong rooms, 30th October 1991, lot 343.

A lacquer-and-basketry tray of this type, but lacking a dated inscription, is illustrated in Shen Zhiyu, The Shanghai Museum of Art, New York, 1981, pl. 204; and a slightly later tray, from the collection of Sir Harry and Lady Garner and now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, inscribed with a date corresponding to 1624, is illustrated in Soame Jenyns and William Watson, Chinese Art. The Minor Arts, London, 1963, pl. 140.

The basketry on the reverse of this tray is particularly fine. This technique was utilised from the Southern Song dynasty in Fujian province, which continued to be one of the major centres for bamboo basketry with lacquer decoration throughout the Ming dynasty. A reference from the Southern Song period to such baskets is made in Tian Rucheng (fl. ca. 1540),  Xihu youlan zhiyu (More Travel Notes on the West Lake), in the section on anecdotes regarding tea from Fujian, which was placed in lacquer and bamboo boxes.

Sotheby’s. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Londres | 05 nov. 2014, 10:00 AM