275
275
A PAIR OF LARGE BRONZE 'DRAGON' CANDLESTICKS
QIANLONG MARKS AND PERIOD
Estimate
200,000300,000
JUMP TO LOT
275
A PAIR OF LARGE BRONZE 'DRAGON' CANDLESTICKS
QIANLONG MARKS AND PERIOD
Estimate
200,000300,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Important Chinese Art

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New York

A PAIR OF LARGE BRONZE 'DRAGON' CANDLESTICKS
QIANLONG MARKS AND PERIOD
each with a straight foot supporting a bell-shaped base surmounted by a tall conical shaft fitted with a large lower tray with an everted rim and a small upper tray with a central pricket, the bell-shaped base cast in very high relief with two pairs of confronting five-clawed dragons contesting 'flaming pearls', their ridged spines twisting with the motion of their scaly bodies, flames and whiskers flowing from skin over the surrounding cloud wisps, all between a band of pendent cicada-form lappets below and ruyi-head bands above, the 'dragon' motif repeated around the pillar and the exterior of each tray, the foot similarly decorated save for a horizontal panel with a six-character reign mark in relief, a circular plate sealing the underside of the foot, the patina a rich chocolate brown, the circular base carved of white marble with four cloud-form feet, a central band of cloud pattern, and an upper band of petal-lappets (4)
Height 19 7/8  in., 50.5 cm
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Catalogue Note

Striking for their large size and finely executed design of imperial dragons, this pair of candlesticks belongs to a rare group of altar wares commissioned by the Qianlong Emperor to furnish the many shrines, temples and ritual spaces within the compounds of the Imperial palaces. Made from the finest materials, including cloisonné enamel, bronze and porcelain, these wares were often placed in front of altars as part of a five-piece altar set (wugong), which typically comprised an incense burner flanked by two candleholders and vases. Each piece of the garniture played an essential part within the altar: candlesticks held candles, the light from the flames representing the offering of light to dispel the darkness of ignorance; vases held flowers, which were offered both for their beauty as well as reminders of impermanence; and the censer at the centre was used to hold incense that was not only meant to fill the room with fragrance but also to carry prayers skyward.

Complete sets are extremely rare, although one with related design in Xianruo Temple, located in the garden of Cining Gong (Palace of Compassion and Tranquility) where the empress and consorts conducted Buddhist religious ceremonies is illustrated in situ in Qingdai gongting shenghuo, Hong Kong, 1985, p. 299, pl. 467; and another set was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 11th April 2008, lot 2826.

Candlesticks of this type, but with variations in the minor design bands, include a pair sold in our London rooms, 5th June 1981, lot 73; another pair sold at Christie’s New York, 30th November 1984, lot 557; and a single piece sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 9th November 2011, lot 331.

A universal monarch at the centre of the world, the Qianlong Emperor lent his support to a variety of religious institutions, including Daoist and Buddhist temples, as well as Manchu shamanic shrines and the buildings and altars that housed the so-called ‘State Religion’, the worship of impersonal Heaven. Garniture sets were used at official sites, such as the Temple of Ancestors in the Forbidden City, and at non-official halls including the Shouhuangdian located in Jinshin, the park that lay immediately north of the Shenwu gate within the grounds of the Imperial Palace. While state ancestral halls feature Nurgaci (the dynastic founder) as the primary object of workshop, halls such as the Shouhuangdian functioned as the imperial equivalent of a family ancestral hall for the descendants of Qianlong where his grandfather, the Kangxi Emperor, was the primary object of workshop. Non-state halls of worship were also used for domestic ritual performance conducted by imperial family members.

Important Chinese Art

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New York