A large Yuan cinnabar lacquer scroll tray carved against the ochre ground with a pair of long-tailed birds soaring around a central chrysanthemum bloom, each bird rendered with a short curved beak and portrayed flying swiftly with a billowing furcated tail, the scene densely adorned with further floral blooms and lush foliage.
The present piece belongs to a distinct group of carved lacquer wares known as ‘two-bird’ dishes. Although the species of birds and flowers vary from dish to dish, they are almost invariably decorated with the same compositional layout of two birds in flight amidst a floral background, while on the exterior is a band of classic scroll or ‘fragrant scroll’, xiangcao.
The subject of two birds in flight amidst flower and foliage was very popular during the Song and Yuan dynasty, and can be found most often in a circular composition as on a dish or round box, where the bodies of the birds and their long flowing tail feathers form a circular motion.
This rectangular tray is extremely rare and there does not appear to be another similar published example of this size.
Age: Yuan Dynasty
Size: Approx 35 cm long.
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For a smaller similar tray see Museum Of Fine Arts, Boston.
Similar decorated Yuan period pieces sold by Christie’s