Vase. Porcelain with white glaze and dark brown lacquer coating inlaid with incised pieces of mother-of-pearl forming lakeside landscape with islands, a pavilion, a boat, bamboo groves and figures of men. China, Jiangxi province, Jingdezhen. Qing dynasty, AD 18th c. Donated by George Eumorfopoulos (2897).
Lacquer (漆, qi) is the sap of the tree Toxicodendron vernicifluum, secreted upon carving its bark. When the greyish sap is spread thin, it hardens and forms a waterproof, resistant and lightweight surface. Multiple coatings of lacquer, often pigmented red, black or yellow, can be applied on wood, textile or other materials. While still fluid, lacquer can be decorated with marbling, painting or inlays, for example mother-of-pearl. Once hard, it can be carved.
Mother-of-pearl inlay into black lacquer is extremely rare on porcelain. Such bold experimentations with various materials are typical of Jingdezhen porcelains during the Qianlong reign (1736–1795). The contraction and expansion rates of base and coating materials vary widely and have resulted in the lacquer flaking around the vase’s lip.