Lot 3408
  • 3408


4,000,000 - 6,000,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • 29 and 29.5 cm, 11 3/8  and 11 5/8  in.
each outstandingly cast in the form of a tapir dynamically standing foursquare on its gilt-bronze hooves, the beast rendered with muscular contours and a tapering tail tucked between its haunches, the head brilliantly rendered with alert eyes below a pair of upright ears, each defined with a concave centre, the rounded and prominent snout depicted agape and revealing its teeth, the neck collared with a gilt-bronze band finely adorned with a classical scroll, the back of the hollow figure with a teardrop-shaped hinged aperture framing a four-character reign mark within a square, all superbly decorated with a glistening speckled bluish-green enamel against fine wires delicately forming flame scroll motifs all over the muscular body of the beast

Catalogue Note

Cloisonné enamel representations of exotic mythical beasts rank amongst the highest quality of all Imperial enamel workmanship created for the Qianlong court. The current pair of tapirs are superb examples, modelled in a dynamic posture skilfully depicting the bristling lifelike quality and impending movement of the figure. The quality of the figures is exceptional, both skilfully modelled and enamelled in brilliant cloisons, with no expense spared to the lavish gilding throughout, with particularly intricate gilt flame scroll design. They are preserved in exceptionally good condition, complete with their hinged circular apertures on the back of which the four-character Qianlong mark is inscribed.It is indeed remarkable to find a complete pair, the only known example. An individual model of a tapir of identical form and quality from the Qing court collection is preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Metal-bodied Enamel Ware, Hong Kong, 2002, no. 120 (fig. 1), where it is noted that the model has a particularly lifelike quality and is a highly successful example of a figure created in imitation of antiquity. It was included in the International Exhibition of Chinese Art, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1935, published in Illustrated Catalogue of Chinese Government Exhibits for the International Exhibition of Chinese Art in London, Shanghai, 1936, pl. 7.

For the more commonly found model, see a figure of a mythical beast (tianlu) cast with a zun on its back in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, incised under the body with a four-character Qianlong mark, illustrated in Enamel Ware in the Ming and Ch'ing Dynasty, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1999, no. 43, and a zun in the form of a mythical qilin from the Speelman collection, sold in these rooms, 3rd April 2018, lot 3463. For other Qianlong cloisonné enamel reign-marked animal figures of similar quality sold at auction, see a crouching tiger from the collection of General Charles George Gordon, sold at Christie's London, 5th December 1994, lot 259 and again at Sotheby's London, 9th November 2011, lot 400, from the collection of Sir Peter Moores, and a pair of duck-form ewers from the collection of Juan Jose Amezaga, sold at Christie’s Paris, 13th June 2007, lot 24.