A mother-of-pearl inlaid lacquer table screen

清康熙   黑漆嵌螺鈿呂洞賓圖插屏

The screen comprises a detachable upright rectangular panel fitting into a stand. The panel is decorated on the front in mother-of-pearl cut to graduated thicknesses to produce different colours, and with finely crushed mother-of-pearl, with a scene of the Daoist Immortal Lü Dongbin (呂洞賓) seated by a willow tree, his sword at his back. His helper, the former willow tree spirit Guo Maer (郭嘛兒), recognizable by the willow sprig sprouting from his head, walks towards his master, holding a ewer of wine. The reverse is inscribed in similar technique with a two-line couplet, with two seals, reading zhu and yuanfu. The stand has two side posts supported by scrolled zhanya spandrels and a taohuan panel pierced with three apertures, above a bracket-edged apron and transverse block feet, all finely inlaid in mother-of-pearl with florettes and diaper patterns.

Private collection, London

The story of Lü Dongbin and Guo Maer comes from a Yuan play by the famous dramatist Ma Zhiyuan (1260-1325) called Yueyang San Zui(岳陽三醉)in which the famous Immortal encourages the spirit of a willow tree growing by the Yueyang Tower to be educated into the ways of the Dao, during which the spirit is reborn as a boy called Guo Ma’er.

For a set of five panels in the Hebei Cultural Provincial Bureau, of similar size and format to the present panel, each with poems on the back bearing a seal in mother-of-pearl, reading qian li, for the famous mother-of-pearl lacquer master Jiang Qianli, see Littleton and Hennessy, The Luxury of Chinese Lacquer, March 2010, catalogue no. 16, fig. 31. The two seals on the present panel together reading Zhu Yuanfu 柱元甫 are similarly placed, and may therefore also perhaps be the name of the lacquer master who made the panel.


Dimensions: Height: 29 cm, 11 ½ inches

Date: Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722)

Stock No. 2033

Price: On Request