Lot 42. A carved red, yellow, green and black lacquer 'Qilin' dish, Incised mark and period of Jiajing (1522-1566). ; diameter 16.8 cm., 6 5/8 in. Estimate 600,000 — 800,000 HKD. Lot sold 1,840,000 HKD. Photo Sotheby's
of circular form with shallow everted sides supported on a ribbed tapered foot, finely carved in varied levels of relief revealing multiple layers of red, yellow, black and green lacquer, the interior with a qilin galloping above cragged rocks, bamboo shoots and a cluster of yellow lingzhi set between a large gnarled pine and a lush plantain, and a among three scattered auspicious items, its dragon head turned sharply to the left and its powerful scaly body issuing flames, all enclosed within a barbed frame reserved on a yellow and green border, the cavetto further decorated with two green and two ochre-yellow dragons striding among ruyi-shaped clouds within barbed panels alternating with ‘flaming pearl’, all reserved on a neatly carved yellow and red floral diaper ground below a thick ribbed rim, the underside with eight flowers, including hibiscus, chrysanthemum, peony and camellia arranged in pairs across the dish, each supporting one of the babao (‘Eight Treasures’) and wreathed in multi-coloured foliage, the base and the interior of the footring lacquered in black and inscribed in the centre with a six-character incised vertical reign mark with traces of gilt
Exhibited: 2000 Years of Chinese Lacquer. Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong and the Art Gallery, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1993, cat. no. 60.
Layered Beauty: The Baoyizhai Collection of Chinese Lacquer, Art Museum, Institute of Chinese Studies, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2010, cat. no. 50.
Note: A dish of identical design from the Qing court collection, preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Lacquer Wares of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, Hong Kong, 2006, p. 173, no. 131 (fig.1). The Palace Museum dish is unmarked, but designated as Jiajing, sharing the same bold decoration of a qilin galloping amidst a garden abundant with Daoist motifs.
fig.1. Carved Red, Yellow, Green and Black Lacquer ‘Qilin’ Dish, Ming Dynasty, Jiajing Period Qing Court Collection, Palace Museum, Beijing. After: The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Lacquer Wares of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, Hong Kong, 2006, p. 173, no. 131.
The art of polychrome lacquer, ticai, reached its apex of quality in the Jiajing period. Two or more layers of coloured lacquer would be applied at differing levels to a required thickness, with the lacquer artist carving down to the different sections to expose the appropriate colours. The carver of the current dish has utilised three colours - red, yellow and green - and has achieved a sophisticated and dramatic level of colouration. The boldness and three-dimensionality of the scene, combined with the sheer intricacy of the carving of the qilin and the surrounding dragons, contribute to the overall effect. It is undoubtedly one of the finest examples of Jiajing reign-marked polychrome lacquer preserved in a private collection.
Sotheby's. The Baoyizhai Collection of Chinese Lacquer, Part 1, Hong Kong, 08 Apr 2014