Jar with Scenes of Frolicking Monkeys

Jar with Scenes of Frolicking Monkeys


Wood, covered with hemp cloth and colored lacquer

Diameter: 47.2 cm (18 9/16 in.); Overall: 49.4 cm (19 7/16 in.)

Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 1984.8



To make this vessel, a wooden form was covered with successive layers of lacquer, the clear sap of the highly toxic Rhus verniciflua tree. This time-consuming process requires each layer to dry before adding another. Lacquer was, therefore, an expensive status symbol; aristocrats prized lacquered architectural features, furniture, musical instruments, and serving vessels. This jar is particularly noteworthy as the only surviving lacquer jar with a narrative scene from the period, showing a family of monkeys trying to cross a river at the bottom.

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