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 powerful image of a flowering plum tree with two plump sparrows exemplifies the spectacular scenes created by inlaying mother-of-pearl into a lacquer base. Long, narrow pieces of iridescent shell form the rocks that sit before the tree trunk, while different shapes and sizes of shell are used to depict the ancient tree, whose craggy limbs bear buds in various stages of blooming.