Chinese cinnabar charger make thousands

A cinnabar carved lacquer circular charger, which was originally thought to be Ming but turned out to be from the earlier 14th-century Yuan Dynasty, has sold for a hammer of £165,000 in a recent Cotswolds auction.

The charger is profusely carved in relief, featuring a pair of exotic birds taking flight, with a background of flowering foliage. It has a shallow ring foot with a black lacquer base. It measures 29cm in diameter.

Lacquer is the resin or sap of a particular family of trees found in southern China.  It hardens when exposed to oxygen to form an extremely hard wearing natural ‘plastic’.  The distinctive red colour is achieved by the use of toxic powdered mercury sulphide as the predominant colourant.  Carved lacquer is a distinctive and extremely time-consuming craft which has been used in China for over 3,000 years with thick carved coatings developed in the 12th Century.  
A luxury product of the master craftsman, the lacquer is built up in many layers typically on a wooden base.  Objects such as boxes, trays, vases and even furniture exist in this highly prized technique.  In the Yuan Dynasty, the artistic quality of carving was at its peak.  Pieces are rarely signed, (as in the case here) so attribution to the known masters of the period, Yang Mao and Zhang Cheng both from Jiaxing is a complex process.  

The auctioneers, Kinghams Auctioneers of Morerton-in-Marsh, said that the charger, consigned by an anonymous vendor, had attracted international bidding, particularly Asia, which saw it quickly rise above its pre-sale estimate of £3,000.

The sale, which totalled £210,540 with fees, was a new auction house record for Kinghams, with the buyer a UK-based specialist.