A lobed hexagonal cinnabar lacquer daoist figural dish

明十六世紀   剔紅群仙拱壽圖六棱長方盤

The dish is of elongated lobed hexagonal form raised on a high foot. The central field of conforming shape is deeply carved with a scene of three of the Eight Immortals, Zhongli Quan (鍾離權) with his combined fan and flywhisk, Lü Dongbin (呂洞賓) with his sword, and Li Tieguai (李鐵拐) with his crutch and gourd, standing beneath a pine tree on the rocky bank of a river with rolling and crested waves, making obeisance to Shou Lao (壽老), the God of Longevity, who is arriving on the back of a swooping crane. The background to the scene is carved with a florette-in-diamond diaper pattern. The well of the dish is carved with a frieze of fruiting and flowering sprays on an ochre ground, including pomegranate, persimmon, lychee, lotus, grape and peach. The exterior is carved with panels of lingzhi and narcissus, prunus and camellia. The base is lacquered brown-black.

Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 29th November 2019, lot 640
An old Hong Kong family collection

This rare dish belongs to a group of middle-to-late Ming period lacquers whose shapes hark back to the innovative forms of the Yuan dynasty lacquermakers. For a Yuan dynasty example of the same shape, see 2000 Years of Chinese Lacquer, no. 37, p. 84.

The decorative subject of the dish, a scene of the Eight Immortals, or some sub-group of them, making obeisance to Shou Lao arriving on a crane, is a venerable one. See, for example, the kesi panel woven with an early variant group of Immortals, in the Palace Museum, Taipei, exhibited in 緙絲特展 Kesi Tezhan Special Exhibition of Kesi Weaving in 2002, to which is attributed a Song dynasty date. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a mother-of-pearl inlaid lacquer tray showing the same scene but with all eight Immortals. It is dated to the 16th century, accession no. 2006.238.

For a dish of similar shape and size, but with a garden scene, see see Lee Yu-kwan, Oriental Lacquer Art, no. 108, p. 177.

Dimensions: Length: 22.3 cm, 8 ¾ inches

Date: Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 16th century

Stock No. 2335

Price: On Request