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17

Lacquer Stand with Mother-of-Pearl Inlay
黑漆嵌螺鈿桌

Height: 52.0 cm. (20 1/2 in.)
Width: 40.6 cm. (16 in.)
Depth: 33.0 cm. (13 in.)

Ryūkyūan
17th-18th century

 

(NOTE: Further information is provided below the detailed images.)

Detail:

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Box inscription:
唐物 A Tang (i.e. Chinese) object
青貝桌 Green-shell (i.e. mother-of-pearl) table

 

The dragon dominating the quatrefoil-shaped top surface of the black lacquer stand is a robust heavy-bodied reptile propelled on short limbs through a sky dotted with whimsically shaped clouds. The phoenix by contrast, characterized by long delicate tail feathers and soft body plumage, appears fragile as she looks back to behold her wild partner. Together, they comprise a compelling, if from a Chinese standpoint a somewhat peculiar, representation of two of the most powerful and iconic inhabitants of a fantastical Asian menagerie. The waist of the stand along with its curvilinear apron and slender legs bowing to the scrolled feet are richly embedded with dense, repetitive mother-of-pearl patterns while the base, mirroring the shape of the top above, is home to two long-tailed pheasants, a pairing of creatures suggesting connubial bliss, surrounded by bamboo and foliage and serenaded by birds in flight overhead.

The correspondences between Ryukuan and Chinese Ming dynasty lacquer can be very close, to the extent that there is not always agreement as to the origin of a piece. The relationship between the Ryukuyan islands and the vast Chinese mainland, especially when the island kingdom was a tributary of the Ming dynasty, was not only a political one but a cultural one as well. One expression of that relationship was the great influence of Chinese lacquer on Ryukuan lacquer art. The present stand remains close to its models yet speaks for itself through such elements as the spikey dragon tail and quirky yet endearing expressions on both the faces of the dragon and the phoenix. See the PDF for further discussion and comparative materials.

 

[Please download the PDF writeup below for further comparisons.]
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