A gilt and litharge painted red lacquer footed dish

琉球,十八世紀    紅漆描金人物圖盤

The dish is of circular form resting on a high pierced foot. The central field is finely painted in gilt on a rich red ground with areas and detailing in coloured litharge with a scene of a scholar setting out on a journey. Two servants accompany him, carrying a cloth-wrapped qin and portable furniture, and two others see him off with boxed gifts. Behind the figures are a house with bracketed eaves and a balustraded garden with rocks and a pine tree. The shallow well of the dish is painted with a frieze of temples and houses set among trees and mountains, below the slightly concave everted rim, painted with a “Y”-diaper pattern and bound with a narrow metal band. The underside is plain, supported on the high foot painted with a hexagonal diaper pattern and pierced with elongated apertures. The footrim is also bound with metal.

The techniques of painting used to decorate the present dish derive from the Chinese technique of qiangjin (戧金), which was introduced to the Ryukyu Islands in the fifteenth century where it continued to be used until the nineteenth century. The qiangjin technique additionally employs light carving, but the painted version, as here, appears to have begun in China in the late sixteenth century, with the earliest examples being the basketry pieces such as the one in this catalogue dated to 1615, catalogue no. 9.

The high-footed dish is particular to the Ryukyu Islands. A dish of this type, with decoration of gilt and litharge on red lacquer, is in the Los Angeles County Museum, gift of Mr and Mrs Leo Krashen, M.80.109.2. Another example using the same technique and with an identical shape to the upper dish section, though slightly smaller, is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, illustrated by Garner in Chinese Lacquer, no. 150 and dated to the first half of the seventeenth century. This piece is speculatively given a Ryukyuan origin.


Dimensions: Diameter: 26.5 cm, 10 ½ inches

Date: Ryukyu Islands, 18th century

Stock No. 2252

Price: On Request