Tray with Rock, Pheasants, and Peonies
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
second half of the 16th century
Carved red and yellow lacquer
H. 2 1/8 in. (5.4 cm); W. 10 1/8 in. (25.7 cm); D. 10 1/8 in. (25.7 cm)
Promised Gift of Florence and Herbert Irving
Not on view
The complicated decorative scheme of a stylized rock (most likely intended to represent one of the famous stones of Lake Tai, in southern China) against a background of tree peonies, a peach tree, and other plants, as well as pheasants and sparrows, can be interpreted in various ways. Each motif is imbued with meaning, and several can be combined to represent wishes for longevity, riches, and worldly success. The lacquer on the surface is built up of a red layer over a yellow layer, and a two-color decoration is achieved by carving to varying depths to reach the red and yellow layers. An interest in bright color combinations, also found in ceramics and textiles, characterizes the art of the late Ming dynasty.