A carved cinnabar lacquer dish, with winter traveller

元/明初 十四世紀   剔紅寒林策驢圓盤

The round dish with shallow curved sides is decorated in a lively, swiftly- executed technique with a scene of a scholar riding on a donkey by the side of a river, making for a distant inn. He wears loose long-sleeved robes and a wide-brimmed hat, and is sheltered by a parasol held by an attendant. A second attendant carrying a yoke hung with a large water jar and a tiered picnic box follows behind, while a third attendant, also carrying a yoke, this one hung with a jar and a wine ewer atop a brazier, jogs ahead. The donkey is depicted trotting along with its head raised and mouth open, as if braying. The saddle is secured with a crupper bar. The travellers are set about with tall teetering rocks, bamboo, pine and other vegetation, on a ground indicated by a floret-in-diamond “earth” diaper. The presence of a river beside their path is shown by the “water” diaper with high-humped waves. In the distance there are mountains and wispy clouds, on an “air” diaper ground. The reverse is carved with a xiangcao scroll. The decoration is all executed in a darkish-red lacquer with several layers of brighter red on top. The underside is lacquered a deep chestnut brown.

Provenance:
Bonhams London, 15th May 2014, lot 430
Formerly in the collection of the philanthropist Mrs Blaine Trump (née  Beard), acquired by her father Mr Josephus Simmons Beard II, probably while working in Japan as the President of IBM World Trade Corporation, and reputed to have come from an old Japanese collection. Mrs Blaine Trump was previously married to Robert Trump, the younger brother of President Donald Trump.

Exhibited:
Priestley & Ferraro, "The Deeper Picture.  Early Chinese Carved Cinnabar Lacquer", November 2017, no. 4

Nothing closely comparable to this vigorously carved dish appears to have been published. The shape of the dish and the style of carving find their closest match in the pair of late Yuan/early Ming black-on-red lacquer dishes in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, illustrated in East Asian Lacquer. The Florence and Herbert Irving Collection, no. 26, p. 81– 83. While slightly cruder in execution, these dishes share certain features with the present dish, including the teetering rocks and the humped waves in the river. For an example of a dish with a very similar principal subject, in the Nezu Museum, see The Colors and Forms of Song and Yuan China. Featuring Lacquerwares, Ceramics and Metalwares, fig. 99, where it is dated to the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279). The subject of the present dish, a scholar riding a donkey through a wintry landscape with attendants, has been popular since the Song dynasty. The rider is variously identified, perhaps most convincingly with the Tang poet Meng Haoran (c.689-740). For a detailed discussion, see Peter C. Sturman, “The Donkey Rider as Icon: Li Cheng and Early Landscape Painting”, Artibus Asiae, Vol. 55, pp. 43-97. Perhaps the most famous example of a “donkey rider” is that depicted in the painting “Travellers in a Wintry Forest”, attributed to the Five Dynasties artist Li Cheng (919-967), now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. As on our dish, the rider in the painting wears a distinctive wide- brimmed travelling hat.

Dimensions: Diameter: 14.3 cm, 5 ⅝ inches

Date: Yuan or early Ming dynasty, 14th century

Stock No. 2017

Price: On Request