A large brown lacquer dish in the form of a prunus blossom. Northern Song Dynasty, 10th-11th century. Photo Sotheby's
of distinct five-lobed shape, with low rounded sides, the recessed centre inside of matching flower-shaped outline, the recessed base circular, the lacquer of an even dark brown tone; in Japanese padded ivory silk cloth, ribbon-tied Edo period wooden box and cover, ribbon-tied varnished-wood outer box and cover, and brown cotton furoshiki with inscribed wooden tag; 27.4cm., 10 3/4 in. Estimate 30,000—40,000 GBP. Lot Sold 37,250 GBP
PROVENANCE: Collection of Sir John Figgess.
Collection of Sir Harry Garner.
Mayuyama & Co., Ltd, Tokyo.
EXHIBITED: Bi no bi [The beauty of beauties], Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi, Tokyo, 1967 (unnumbered).
Tōyō bijutsu ten/Exhibition of Eastern Art, exhibition celebrating the opening of the Gallery of Eastern Antiquities, Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo, 1968, cat. no. 477.
Chinese and Accociated Lacquer from the Garner Collection, The British Museum, London, 1973, cat. no. 3 (pl. 2).
LITERATURE AND REFERENCES: Ryūsen Shūhō/Mayuyama, Seventy Years, Tokyo, 1976, vol. II, pl. 203.
Okada Jō, Tōyō shitsugei shi no kenkyū/A Study of the History of Far Eastern Lacquer Art, Tokyo, 1978, pl. 40.
NOTE: Lacquerware made between the late Tang and the early Song dynasties is characterized by simple, well-proportioned flower shapes with more or less deep indentations. These quiet, pleasing forms that were used for dishes, bowls and cup stands set a stylistic trend that reverberated throughout the arts and crafts of the period and strongly influenced not only ceramic but also silver designs.
Although the present five-lobed prunus shape would seem to be a most classic Song lacquer form, this shape seems in fact to be even better known from ceramics than from lacquerware, where six- and seven-petalled flower shapes prevail. With its deep lobes that continue into the centre, this dish is particularly well designed and remarkable for its large size. Companion pieces are difficult to find.
Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art, 11 May 11, London www.sothebys.com