Two mother-of-pearl inlaid lacquer dishes
Two small circular lacquer dishes, each with a flat well and rounded sides, and supported on a short, straight foot. Each interior is inlaid with carefully selected pieces of mother-of-pearl. One depicts a cavalry soldier, mounted on horseback, holding a long spear and riding along a riverside; the other depicts three men in combat; the lower right-hand figure holds his spear overhead towards the runner in front, whilst a third person stands on the edge of a cliff, performing some sort of magic with his sword towards the runner. Each scene is encircled by a band of circular decoration. The cavettos are respectively adorned with ruyi and floral patterns. The exterior and the base are covered in black lacquer. Each base is inscribed with seven Chinese characters, respectively reading Qin Ming Ye Zou Wa Li Chang (Qin Ming flees from the rubble ground) and Gong Sun Sheng Da Po Gao Lian (Gongsun Sheng defeats Gao Lian), and each follows a square seal reading Zhong Fu.
Both dishes depict scenes derived from the novel Shui Hu Zhuan, also known as Water Margin or Outlaws of the Marsh, considered one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature. The story, set in the Song dynasty (960 – 1279), tells how a group of 108 outlaws gathered at Mount Liang to form an army to resist foreign invaders and suppress rebel forces. A character called Qin Ming, nicknamed ‘Fiery Thunderbolt’, is one of the heroes who appears in chapter 34: originally an imperial general, he was accused of rebelling and all his family was executed; the scene on the dish depicts his flee from the ruins to Mount Liang after his misfortune. Gongsun Sheng, nicknamed ‘Dragon in the Clouds’, is a Daoist priest. His fight is described in chapter 54, where he performs magic to defeat Gao Lian. The mark Zhong Fu might be the maker’s mark, like the famous mark of Qian Li. This type of small mother-of-pearl inlaid lacquer dish was popular during the Ming and Qing dynasty, and often depicts stories derived from classical novels. A dish of similar size, depicting the Romance of the Western Chamber and with a Qian Li mark on the base, is dated to the Ming dynasty and is in the collection of the Nanjing Museum. Two further pairs of circular dishes of similar size and decorated in a similar technique are respectively in the collections of the Shanghai Museum2 and the Muwen Tang collection. A pair of square dishes similarly decorated with poems on their bases is in the Baoyizhai collection.
1 The Nanjing Museum online collection archive, http://www.njmuseum.com/Antique/Antique Content.aspx?id=225
2 Wang, Shixiang, Zhong guo gu dai qi qi, Wenwu, Beijing, 1987, no. 78
3 Kwan, S. Chinese Mother-of-Pearl, The Muwen Tang Collection Series, Muwen Tang Fine Arts Publications Ltd, Hong Kong, 2009, no. 84, p. 230
4 Lam, P. Y. K. Layered Beauty, The Baoyizhai Collection of Chinese Lacquer, Art Museum, Institute of Chinese Studies and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2010, no. 28, pp. 80-1
清 十七 – 十八世紀
黑漆嵌螺鈿小型圓盤兩件，淺斜壁，平底，矮圈足，通體髹黑漆，鑲嵌薄螺鈿，色彩繽紛。盤底中央 各以螺鈿嵌行書直行：「秦明夜走瓦礫場」及「公孫勝大破高廉」，續接「中甫」方框款。盤底文字 點出盤面描繪中國古典四大文學名著之一《水滸傳》中情節。秦明，水滸傳一百零八將之一，於第三 十四回出場，外號 “霹靂火”，曾任青州指揮司統制，遭陷害坑拿致使全家受難，盤面即描繪秦明 策馬奔走的場景。公孫勝，綽號 “入雲龍”，為全真教道士，於第五十四回出場，受宋江委託力克 高廉，盤面即描繪公孫勝立於崖上施「五雷天罡正法」，大破高廉之妖法使之奔走。此類黑漆螺鈿小 盤，為清代常見的日用器皿，大量使用殼屑裝飾亦為其時代風格。南京博物院藏明代黑漆嵌螺鈿西廂 記紋圓盤，以及上海博物館藏清代山水人物紋黑漆嵌螺鈿加金銀片盤兩件，均可為比較。