明嘉靖 剔紅雲龍捧聖紋漆盤 Tray with dragon and Chinese characters
Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Jiajing period (1522–66)
Carved red lacquer
H. 2 in. (5.1 cm); Diam. 14 1/2 in. (36.8 cm)
Gift of Florence and Herbert Irving, 2015
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 221
This tray is one of the finest products of the official workshops of the Jiajing era. It was probably made in the early part of the reign before Daoist imagery began to dominate at court. The dragon in the center holds up the Chinese character sheng, which means “divine” or “imperial majesty.” The characters above it (fu on the right and bi on the left) generally signify “to add” or “to support.” While they can be used to refer to the emperor’s chief ministers, in this case they may refer to the dragon, a well-known symbol of imperial authority.
Florence and Herbert Irving , New York (until 2015; donated to MMA)