Tray with Women and Boys on a Garden Terrace
Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
Carved red lacquer
H. 2 3/8 in. (6 cm); Diam. 21 7/8 in. (55.6 cm)
Gift of Florence and Herbert Irving, 2015
A masterpiece for both the lush carving and the size, this tray depicts two women and twenty-two children on a terrace near a pavilion overlooking a lotus pond. One of the women is seated on an openwork seat, the other stands. The standing woman holds one of the children, another clutches her skirt, and a third crawls towards the women. One of the boys is hiding in a rock, three play in a shallow tub of water, and several take part in a procession that most likely imitated those of the court officials, a common site in major Chinese cities in the fourteenth century.
The outdoor activities, blossoming lotuses, and lush willow tree that frames the composition suggest it is summer. Three distinct geometric patterns are carved in the background, one representing the paved stones of the terrace, one the water, and one the sky.