Asian
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Artist unknown (Chinese, 18th century),
Eight-panel screen , Kangxi period (1662–1722), early 18th century
carved red lacquer, gold inlaid brown lacquer, and wood, 6 ½ x 10 ft.; 198.12 x 304.8 cm
Collection of Joslyn Art Museum, Partial Gift of Mr. Anunt Hengtrakul and Museum Purchase with funds, 2005.13.a-h

The front of this cinnabar lacquer screen depicts court scenes above panels of dragons among waves. On the reverse, columns of 168 shou (longevity) characters are written in various styles above paintings of orchids in gold on a deep brown lacquer background. The screen bears the signature of Zheng Xie (1693–1765), one of the Eight Eccentric painters of Yanzhou. 

Lacquer technique was developed in China as early as the Shang period (1600–ca. 1100 BC), when the sap from a specific tree was found to harden under certain conditions, leaving a protective coating on the object to which it was applied. Through the centuries various techniques were developed, including the addition of cinnabar, which imparted a red color to the lacquer. After multiple applications, each requiring several days to dry, decorative designs were carved into the lacquer surfaces. In order to produce a screen such as this, hundreds of layers of lacquer would be required.

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