Tray Design of a pavilion and figures in carved black lacquer
Pieces produced by applying the sap of lacquer trees onto vessels and other objects for decoration are known as lacquerware. Lacquerware was created throughout Asia, but unique elements can be seen in the method of creation, and the design of the pieces varies depending on the area. In China, there is a famous technique known as carved lacquer. To create carved lacquer, many layers of lacquer are applied to create depth before being carved into patterns. The technique reached its peak during the Song dynasty.
This is a tray created during the Southern Song dynasty. Pieces such as this one, which are created from layered black lacquer, are known as tsuikoku in Japanese. This term is formed from the word ‘uzutakai,” meaning to be piled up, and the word ‘kuroi’ or black. This tray was among the earliest pieces created with such a technique and therefore the technique was not refined yet. It was carved shallowly, and a bit falteringly, which however only makes it more interesting. The main subject in the center of the tray is a group of children playing in front of a house, surrounded by flower patterns. Take a look at the top of the house. If you look closely, you can see a rabbit with a mortar and pestle inside the circle next to the Japanese Judas tree. This is a reference to the legend of the rabbit in the moon, who is known to create an elixir of perpetual youth and immortal life. The presence of this motif shows that this is a night scene.