On the reverse, the mark of Zhang Cheng zao on the needle.
Diam. 17,4 cm.
Japanese wooden box.
- Similar tray in black lacquer but with incised mark of Yang Mao in the Edward T collection. Chow and illustrated in Lee Yu-kuan, Oriental Lacquer Art, Tokyo and New York, 1972, p. 166, no. 100; and another in the Seattle Art Museum, illustrated in Asiatic Art in the Seattle Art Museum, no. 137 (acc. n° 69.52).
- Similar red lacquer tray with the same brand reproduced in Chinese and associated Lacquer from the Garner Collection, British Museum, 2 October - 2 December 1973, plate 13, no. 31 a and b; and also illustrated in H. Garner, Chinese Lacquer, London,1979, p. 144, pls. 51 and 52.
Origin: Sotheby's London Sale, October 15, 1968, n°34.
CHINA - Late YUAN Dynasty (1279 - 1368) / Early MING DYNASTY (1368 - 1644), 14th/15th century
An exceptional carved black lacquer "lotus" tray. Zhang Cheng mark
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The 14th century, the culmination of sumptuous lacquer carving, is illustrated here by a work by Zhang Cheng, one of the most famous artists of the late Yuan dynasty (1279-1368).
This was a crucial period in the history of lacquer in China because the talent of the great artist was combined with that of the technical virtuosity of the time. Under the Yuan, important technical and stylistic changes can be noted, particularly through the complexity of the forms and the deepening of the relief of the sculpture. According to Wang Zuo in Gegu Yaolun: "Under the Yuan dynasty, wealthy houses ordered lacquerware without imposing limits on the time of creation". The transition from the end of the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) to the beginning of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) is a major development in the art of carved lacquer. This one passes from a decorative art to an imperial production of high quality similar to the parallel development of blue white porcelain. The development of these arts led Emperor Yongle (1403-1424) to use these lacquers and porcelain as a diplomatic exchange with Japan. Indeed, the existence of high quality imperial production is suggested by an important Ming document consisting of a list of gifts from the court of the Emperor Yongle to the Shogun Ashikaga of Japan, beginning in the first year of Yongle's reign until at least 1407. He recorded a total of two hundred and three pieces of carved red lacquer to have been transmitted to the Japanese ruling class. However, the type of tray presented here was used to support a round box of the same decoration, a necessary tool for the tea ceremony in temples in Japan. This explains why some pieces with this type of shape, technique and decoration are found in different museums in Japan, and probably why the conservation box of this cup is Japanese.
This rare object could well be one of the last known works on living to the master. The reverse side, carved with "xiangcao" motifs inspired by the knobs of the first Chinese swords, is a typical feature of the Yuan era plateaus. Zhang Cheng worked in the Xitang district of Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, the central location for the manufacture of carved lacquer. Contemporary of the artist Yang Mao, lacquer artist, they are first mentioned in the Gegu Yaolun manual, a treatise on the collection and acquisition of antiquities written by Cao Zhao in 1388, later translated by Sir David Percival into the Chinese connoisseur ship, in London in 1971. Yuan floral dishes of this type are remarkable for the varied depths of the sculpture and the dynamism rendered. Among the different types of lacquer still present under the Yuan are tixi lacquers (known as rhinoceros skin). These can be black or red, with one or two layers of other colours included, or it can be composed of two or three colours of equal fineness.
Although Zhang Cheng is generally considered to be a craftsman of the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), he most probably lived under Hongwu (1368-1398) and perhaps even in the early Yongle period.