Tray with Flowering Plum and Birds
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
early 15th century
Black lacquer with mother-of-pearl inlay
H. 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm); W. 11 3/4 in. (29.8 cm); L. 24 3/8 in. (61.9 cm)
Lent by Florence and Herbert Irving
This wonderful image of a flowering plum tree with two plump sparrows exemplifies the spectacular pictorial scenes that could be created by inlaying lacquer with mother-of-pearl of different shapes and colors. Long, narrow pieces of iridescent pearl shell form the clumps of rocks that sit before the trunk of the flowering plum, while mother-of-pearl of different shapes and sizes is used to depict the bamboo and the ancient tree, whose craggy trunk bears buds in various stages of bloom.