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Dish Depicting a Dragon Amongst Foliage

Asian Art

On View: Asian Galleries, West, 2nd floor (China)
This carved red cinnabar lacquer dish was made for imperial use, as indicated by the reign mark of the Jiajing emperor incised with gold on the underside of the base. On the front, the design consists of an animated writhing dragon on a ground of carved lotus flowers, with a lower border of waves and mountains and the delicately carved character for “long life” (shou) directly above its head.

Lacquer is a resin made from the sap of the lacquer tree (rhus verniciflua) that is heated and applied, often in hundreds of thin layers, onto a base of wood or bamboo, then carved or inlaid. The primary red colorant is the mineral cinnabar, while black comes from carbon.
MEDIUM Carved cinnabar lacquer on wood
  • Place Made: China
  • DATES 1522-1566
    DYNASTY Ming Dynasty
    PERIOD Jiajing Period
    DIMENSIONS diameter: 7 3/8 in. (18.7 cm)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Asian Galleries, West, 2nd floor (China)
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Patricia Falk, from the Collection of Pauline B. and Myron S. Falk, Jr.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Low dish in red and yellow lacquer, carved with a decoration of a lung dragon cavorting amid clouds and lotus flowers, auspicious symbols of purity and fruitfulness, over a lower border of waves and mountains. One of the claws on each foot of the lung has been scraped away, probably to hide the fact that this plate was originally intended for imperial use. The rim of the plate contains the pa pao, or Eight Precious Things. On the base is the reign mark of the Jiajing emperor, incised into the lacquer and then painted in gold.
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