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4. Oblong Plate
Early Ming dynasty, ca. 1400
Carved red and black lacquer (tixi)
h. 1 in. l. 7¾ in. w. 6¼ in.
from Julia M. White, Masterpieces of Chinese Lacquer: From the Mike Healy Collection, China Institute, New York

The patina between the larger design elements of this carved tixi plate somewhat obscures the layers of the carving. Additionally, the final coat is red, rather than the usual black, giving the plate a much different overall appearance from the more common black plates. The pattern is a familiar one for tixi carved lacquer design: a radiant star pattern in the center of the plate is surrounded by a band of four and then eight robust sword-pommel designs. The exterior rim is decorated with a flattened pommel design. A similar oval dish is in the Irving Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; another is in the Lee Family Collection. 1

Early large tixi plates were made by alternating layers of different colors of lacquer, usually red and black, over a core. They were laid on relatively thickly, cre­ating a robust shape. The commonly seen sword-pommel pattern has a roundness and fullness that lend a three-dimensional quality to the design.

Occasionally, the heavier layers of lacquer pull away from the core and cracking occurs. Warping of the core further compromises the surface. The bottom of the tray is heavily crackled. This type of large, elegantly decorated plate was probably used as a tray.

1. James C.Y. Watt and Barbara Brennan Ford, East Asian Lacquer: The Florence and Herbert Irving Collection (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1991), cat. no. 7, p. 51. See Lee King Tsi and Hu Shih Chang, Drache und Phoenix: Lackarbeiten aus China: Sammlung der Familie Lee, Tokyo/Dragon and Phoenix: Chinese Lacquer Ware: The Lee Family Collection, Tokyo (Cologne, Germany: Museum of East Asian Art, 1990), no. 5, p. 40. While very similar in size and style, neither of these plates has the radiant star pattern in the center of the plate.

© 2005 on loan to China Institute from the Honolulu Academy of Arts; photography by Suzo Uemoto.

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