The Personal Collection of the late Sir Joseph Hotung. Lot 21. A rare carved cinnabar lacquer 'bird and flower' tray, Yuan dynasty (1271-1368); d. 26.3 cm. Lot sold: 2,772,000 HKD (Estimate: 1,500,000 - 2,500,000 HKD). © Sotheby's 2022
of circular form, the interior carved through layers of red lacquer to the ochre ground with a pair of birds soaring with outstretched wings amidst chrysanthemum blooms wreathed in profuse foliage, the underside carved with a floral scroll, the base lacquered black, wood stand and Japanese wood box.
Provenance: Christie’s Hong Kong, 30th April 2001, lot 629.
Note: The present tray is remarkable for its deep carving in the powerful style characteristic of the Yuan period. Boldly rendered through the deep layers of cinnabar lacquer, the tray belongs to a group of lacquer wares carved with the 'two-bird' motif that gained popularity in the Yuan dynasty.
See two similar pieces from the Engaku-ji in Kamakura, illustrated in John Figgess, 'Ming and Pre-Ming Lacquer in the Japanese Tea Ceremony', Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, vol. 37, 1967/69, pls 64a and 64b. Believed to have been brought to Kamakura by the Chinese monk Xu Ziyuan in 1279, before being recorded in the inventory in 1363, both pieces have been suggested to have been made in as early as the Southern Song dynasty.
The treatment of birds on the interior and the floral scroll on the exterior of the present tray bears similarities with the box and dish from the Engaku-ji, including the rendering of the elongated necks of the birds, the detailed incision to pick out the plumage, and the carving of the floral scroll, suggesting that the current tray was possibly made in the early Yuan dynasty.
See a comparable example but of a larger size (31.8 cm) and carved on the underside with ruyi scrolls and signed Yang Mao on the base, sold in these rooms, 9th October 2020, lot 43, from the collection of the Kaisendo Museum.
Sotheby's. HOTUNG The Personal Collection of the late Sir Joseph Hotung: Part 1, Hong Kong, 8 October 2022