Exhibitions/ Chinese Lacquer

Chinese Lacquer: Treasures from the Irving Collection, 12th–18th Century

At The Met Fifth Avenue through
June 19
Exhibitions are free with Museum admission.

Exhibition Overview

Lacquer, the resin of a family of trees found throughout southern China—as well as in Southeast Asia, Korea, and Japan—is an amazing material. When exposed to oxygen and humidity, lacquer hardens or polymerizes, becoming a natural plastic and an ideal protective covering for screens, trays, and other implements. Mixed with pigments, particularly cinnabar (red) and carbon (black), lacquer has been also used as an artistic media for millennia.

This installation, which features all of the most important examples of Chinese lacquer in the Museum's collection, explores the laborious techniques used to create scenes based on history and literature, images of popular gods and mythical and real animals, and representations of landscapes and flowers and birds.

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The exhibition is made possible by the Joseph Hotung Fund.

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 221

Exhibition Objects



Women in a Palace (detail), China, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), Kangxi period (1662–1722), late 17th century. Black lacquer with mother-of-pearl and gold-foil inlay; 9 ft. 4 5/8 in. x 24 ft. 8 1/16 in. (286.1 x 752 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, The Vincent Astor Foundation Gift, 2001 (2001.76a–l)