3001
3001
AN IMPERIAL ARCHAISTIC CARVED IVORY 'CHILONG' BOX AND COVER
EARLY QING DYNASTY
JUMP TO LOT
3001
AN IMPERIAL ARCHAISTIC CARVED IVORY 'CHILONG' BOX AND COVER
EARLY QING DYNASTY
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Water, Pine and Stone Retreat Collection – Treasures

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Hong Kong

AN IMPERIAL ARCHAISTIC CARVED IVORY 'CHILONG' BOX AND COVER
EARLY QING DYNASTY
skilfully carved in the form of an archaic she, depicted with a pair of two-clawed sinuous chilong, one portrayed clambering around the sides near the tapering tip, the other coiling through the central 'aperture' with its undulating tail extending upwards along the sides, the she-shaped motif further decorated with cross-hatching and archaistic scrollwork
4.6 cm, 1 3/4  in.
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Provenance

Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 17th May 1989, lot 379.
Hugh Moss Ltd, Hong Kong. 
Collection of Mary and George Bloch.
Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 23rd October 2005, lot 15.

Catalogue Note

The present box and cover, carved from the same piece of ivory, modelled after an archaic jade she, are elaborately decorated with a pair of lively two-clawed chilong dragons, detailed with meticulously incised mane, stripes and bifurcated scrolling tails. The attention on details epitomises the exquisiteness of early Qing dynasty imperial carving. Only a handful of other examples of this type of ivory box and cover is known to exist.

Similarly carved chilong dragons with archaistic motifs appear to have been made as early as the Yuan dynasty, as suggested by a circular plaque in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, attributed to the Yuan to Ming dynasty, included in Chinese Decorative Arts: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1997, p. 41. The plaque is carved in high relief with four chilong dragons clambering on an archaistic C-scrolled ground. Although the two-clawed dragons are more elaborately carved, as one striped dragon is detailed with wings and another with a long tail terminated in a lingzhi fungus, overall the Metropolitan plaque bears close resemblance in terms of subject matter and style to the present box.

For a closely comparable ivory box and cover from the early Qing dynasty, see one in the Palace Museum, Beijing, modelled as a she flanked by archaistic dragons and phoenix, illustrated in The Palace Museum Collection of Elite Carvings, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2002, cat. no. 133. Its ground is similarly detailed with C-scrolls, circles and grids, suggesting it was carved by the same hand. See also an ivory inkrest from the Qing Court collection, carved in comparable style with archaistic taotie masks among C-scrolls, now preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taipei and included in Chi Jo-hsin, ed., Uncanny Ingenuity and Celestial Feats: The Carvings of Ming and Qing Dynasties – Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2009, cat. no. 1. It was suggested in the catalogue that the inkrest was made by a southern carver at the Zaobanchu [Office of Manufacture] in the early Qing dynasty. The subject matter was popular in the Suzhou region from the mid to late Ming dynasty, and was only employed by the imperial workshops since the early Qing dynasty (p. 149).

According to court records, close to 30 ivory carvers served in the Qing Court from the Kangxi to Qianlong period, including eight artisans from Suzhou: Feng Xilu, Feng Xizhang, Wu Heng, Feng Qi, Feng Gao, Zhu Chi, Shi Tianzhang and Gu Pengnian, most of them related by blood or from the same school. Surviving court archives, unfortunately, often lack the names of the carvers or the details of the works, making it difficult to match them to individual pieces. For instance, according to the records, a pair of ivory boxes with archaistic dragons was presented to the Yongzheng Emperor in late 1726, but lack further details; see Yangxindian Zaobanchu shiliao jilan [Reader of historical material on the Workshops in the Hall of Mental Cultivation], vol. 1: Yongzheng chao [Yongzheng period], Beijing, 2013, pp. 111-112.

Water, Pine and Stone Retreat Collection – Treasures

|
Hong Kong