1

Carved red lacquerware Mallet-shaped vase with floral décor, Ming dynasty, Yongle reign (1403-1424). Diameter at base: 9.2cm Height: 16.3cm © National Palace Museum, Taipei.

The vase is long-necked with straight neck and base. The base is applied  with black lacquer, while the mouth of the vase is decorated with a pattern made up of a smaller square within a larger square. Flowers cover the entire vessel, with scrolling floral décor at the neck that is skillfully arranged to accommodate four flowers in full bloom: two peonies at the base, and a camellia and a gardenia above. The rest of the bottle is separated from the neck by a straight line, with branches that carefully separate interweaving flowers: a gardenia, chrysanthemum and camellia in the upper layer, and a camellia, peony and gardenia in the lower layer. The gently entwining branches and full flowers are perfect decoration for the elegant, graceful vase. When one observes the vase more closely, one can see the yellow background through the gaps between the flowers and leaves, as if there are deep, blooming bushes in the shadows. The layers of lacquer are extremely thick, so that the petals of the flowers can be arranged with differences in depth, giving them a particularly realistic appearance. The brocaded flower pistils and the vividly streching veins on the leaves emphasize the conscientious design of the painter and the skilful engraving of craftman. This vase was also carefully grinded so that "the engraving edges are unmarked and the contours are rounded ", demonstrating the ultimate in skilful "carved red lacquerware" technique. Both the shape of the vessel and the style of flowers are a new fashion in Ming Dynasty lacquerware.