Low table

The table top is decorated with twenty-some birds perched on a blossoming plum tree or scattered among nearby bamboo; the bottom platform bears a scene of birds perched in a plum tree, a Lake Tai garden rock, and a blossoming camellia flower. These scenes resemble contemporary Ming-dynasty court paintings. A few areas of the design on the table top no longer read as a logical picture. Previous restoration, which included overpainting with black lacquer and replacement of missing pieces of inlay, has distorted some original details. X-radiography might help confirm the extent of the alterations, but relying on the naked eye alone, there is reason for concern in an area at the right front of the table. A group of birds are depicted in a huddle, but only one of them is complete. Several others are awkwardly represented by a head without any indication of a body. Surrounding bamboo leaves have not been deployed to suggest a covering for the birds. The overall effect is clumsy and not typical of Chinese pictorial representation. In another area, a piece of mother-of-pearl shaped and incised to look like a bird’s tail feather randomly sticks out from the ground place. Either the rest of the bird was painted over or this piece of shell was misplaced in a restoration. Other damage to the design includes darkening of some mother-of-pearl due to an overcoating (perhaps of lacquer; see conservation report by Chris Maines.)

The shape of the table — a waisted form with “C” shaped legs that end in tapered, inward curving feet set upon a solid platform — is very rare. The table waist is pierced by ogival-shaped openings and sits on a curved apron. These latter features are consistent with Ming incense stands, however, the inward curve of the legs and the solid plank base are unusual in a Ming table. The table has certain areas painted in red lacquer, such as the insides of the ogival openings, which contrast with the predominating black color; at present, the red lacquer has dulled. Likewise gold outlines on the table are now faded. The use of red and gold highlights on black lacquer is also found on other high-quality Ming tables.

Scrolling vine decoration in mother-of-pearl and metallic paint with design of chrysanthemums on apron of table, legs and around edges of shelf. (Some within reserves separated by diaper coin pattern.) Thin, partial trellis pattern along table edge.

Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, late 16th or 17th century
Medium
Black lacquer on wood core with mother of pearl inlay, and some traces of metallic paint from a later restoration
Dimensions
H x W x D (overall): 44.6 x 72.4 x 38.6 cm (17 9/16 x 28 1/2 x 15 3/16 in)
Geography
China or Ryukyu Islands, Japan
Credit Line
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Shigeru Fujisawa
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1995.5a-d
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Lacquer
Type

Table

Keywords
bamboo, bird, bird and flower, camellia, China, flower, Japan, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), tree, WWII-era provenance
Provenance

Kawasaki collection [1]

To 1995
Mr. and Mrs. Shigeru Fujisawa, Ginza, Japan, to 1995

From 1995
Freer Gallery of Art, given by Mr. and Mrs. Shigeru Fujisawa in 1995

Notes:

[1] According to Curatorial Note 5 in the object record.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Kawasaki collection
Mr. and Mrs. Shigeru Fujisawa

Description

The table top is decorated with twenty-some birds perched on a blossoming plum tree or scattered among nearby bamboo; the bottom platform bears a scene of birds perched in a plum tree, a Lake Tai garden rock, and a blossoming camellia flower. These scenes resemble contemporary Ming-dynasty court paintings. A few areas of the design on the table top no longer read as a logical picture. Previous restoration, which included overpainting with black lacquer and replacement of missing pieces of inlay, has distorted some original details. X-radiography might help confirm the extent of the alterations, but relying on the naked eye alone, there is reason for concern in an area at the right front of the table. A group of birds are depicted in a huddle, but only one of them is complete. Several others are awkwardly represented by a head without any indication of a body. Surrounding bamboo leaves have not been deployed to suggest a covering for the birds. The overall effect is clumsy and not typical of Chinese pictorial representation. In another area, a piece of mother-of-pearl shaped and incised to look like a bird's tail feather randomly sticks out from the ground place. Either the rest of the bird was painted over or this piece of shell was misplaced in a restoration. Other damage to the design includes darkening of some mother-of-pearl due to an overcoating (perhaps of lacquer; see conservation report by Chris Maines.)

The shape of the table -- a waisted form with "C" shaped legs that end in tapered, inward curving feet set upon a solid platform -- is very rare. The table waist is pierced by ogival-shaped openings and sits on a curved apron. These latter features are consistent with Ming incense stands, however, the inward curve of the legs and the solid plank base are unusual in a Ming table. The table has certain areas painted in red lacquer, such as the insides of the ogival openings, which contrast with the predominating black color; at present, the red lacquer has dulled. Likewise gold outlines on the table are now faded. The use of red and gold highlights on black lacquer is also found on other high-quality Ming tables.

Scrolling vine decoration in mother-of-pearl and metallic paint with design of chrysanthemums on apron of table, legs and around edges of shelf. (Some within reserves separated by diaper coin pattern.) Thin, partial trellis pattern along table edge.

Published References
  • Ryukyu Shikki. Exh. cat. Tokyo. .
  • Kanzo Ryukyu shitsugei: Ryukyu Ocho bunka no hana [Ryukyuan lacquerware from the Urasoe Art Museum Collection: cultural treasures of the Ryukyu Kingdom]. Exh. cat. Okinawa-ken Urasoe-shi. .
  • Thomas Lawton, Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. pp. 240-241.
  • Arakawa Hirokazu. Raden [ Lacquer Work with Mother-of-Pearl Inlaid]. Kyoto. p. 359.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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