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Lacquered objects have been produced in China for hundreds of years. Lacquer is made from a sap secreted from the lac tree, a species commonly found in the central and southern most regions of China. Pigments of varying colours are mixed with the lac secretion before application in numerous coats to an object or screen. After these coats have been applied, the lacquer, once set, is carved, to produce figurative, floral and geometric patterns. One school of lacquer, which was prominent throughout China, is cinnabar lacquer work, which was made by mixing the seemingly harmless mineral cinnabar with lacquer and this can be seen in on vases, boxes and trays among many other objects.
Cinnabar is a mineral, found close to volcanoes and hot springs. Its mercury content means that when ground into a fine powder, it produces a deep red tint.
The production of a cinnabar lacquer wares was an immensely time consuming process. Once, the base work was produced, layer after layer of cinnabar lacquer was applied. Sometimes, layers of alternating colours would be included to achieve a polychrome effect. It was essential that each layer of lacquer dried prior to the application of the next, meaning that some pieces would take as long as six months to prepare with larger items requiring years of preparation. Once a sufficient depth of lacquer had been achieved, the painstaking process of the carving process began.
Carving a cinnabar lacquer object was a very precise and delicate procedure, and the most intricate objects could take years to complete. Any error in the carving could mean further months of re-lacquering or indeed the abandoning of a work completely. On completion, a final layer of lacquer was applied to seal the carved decoration.
This example is a mid-19th century piece and its colour belies its early origins. Later pieces have a much brighter colour tone. The quality of carving is also exceptional and this vase would have taken many months to make.
|Height||17.00 inch||(43.18 cm)|