Octagonal Dish with Flowering Plum and Birds
Yuan (1271–1368)–early Ming (1368–1644) dynasty
Black lacquer with mother-of-pearl inlay
H. 1/8 in. (.3 cm); Diam.11 5/8 in. (29.5 cm)
Gift of Florence and Herbert Irving, in honor of James C. Y. Watt, 2011
Flowering plums and birds of various species, a popular theme in the painting of the Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279), persisted for centuries as a motif in lacquer, particularly works inlaid with pearl shell. The style of Southern Song painting, which balances a delicate composition against empty space, is also reflected often in lacquers. Here, the depictions of the plum blossoms range from buds to blooms and derive from the influential Meihua Xishen pu (Manual of Plum Blossom Likeness), written by the artist Song Boren in the mid-thirteenth century. The manual discusses and illustrates the various stages in the life of a plum blossom.