3410
3410
A SUPERBLY CARVED AND RARE EMBELLISHED LACQUER PANEL INSCRIBED WITH AN IMPERIAL POEM
SEAL MARK AND PERIOD OF QIANLONG, DATED GUIYOU YEAR (IN ACCORDANCE WITH 1753)
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3410
A SUPERBLY CARVED AND RARE EMBELLISHED LACQUER PANEL INSCRIBED WITH AN IMPERIAL POEM
SEAL MARK AND PERIOD OF QIANLONG, DATED GUIYOU YEAR (IN ACCORDANCE WITH 1753)
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Gems of Chinese Art – The Speelman Collection II

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Hong Kong

A SUPERBLY CARVED AND RARE EMBELLISHED LACQUER PANEL INSCRIBED WITH AN IMPERIAL POEM
SEAL MARK AND PERIOD OF QIANLONG, DATED GUIYOU YEAR (IN ACCORDANCE WITH 1753)
of rectangular form, exquisitely depicting a tasteful assemblage of scholarly and auspicious objects to welcome the New Year, with a profusion of different materials including jade, polychrome on and stained ivory, porcelain, gilt-bronze, carnelian, agate, and hardwood, all against an ochre lacquer ground and within a cinnabar lacquer frame intricately carved with lotus scrolls, the array of objects centred with a gilt-bronze incense burner and wood cover surmounted with a carnelian and agate finial, partially concealing a celadon jade ruyi sceptre with undulating tassels, in front of a small cloisonné enamel circular box and cover and a small slender cloisonné enamel ovoid vase issuing forth gilt-bronze incense tools, next to a large hardwood stand decorated with an angular scrolled apron supporting a jade vessel issuing forth a lacquered wood incense utensil, next to a large blue-glazed porcelain dish, the dish with three finger-citrons, a lychee and a chestnut represented with painted ivory, the assemblage further decorated with a bronze archaistic fangding with jade offerings next to a flambé-glazed vase with gnarled branches bearing clusters of leaves and peony buds, the ochre ground evenly punctuated with other decorations and auspicious items, including handfuls of fruits and nuts made of hardstone and painted ivory as well as a porcelain narcissus bowl with thin stained ivory leaves, along with handscrolls, arrows and firecrackers meticulously rendered with polychrome on and stained ivory, the lower foreground with a set of stained ivory figures of boys playing musical instruments on a wood stand, the upper right corner incised with an imperial poem, dated to the first day of the guiyou year (1753) and followed by two seal marks reading Qian and Long respectively, all below nine polychrome lacquer panels, each divided into three main registers, the first of three rectangular cartouches, each enclosing a pair of mythical beasts, the second register of two stylised narrow bands of scrolls and florets flanking a rectangular panel centred with a medallion enclosing the wan symbol surrounded by a trefoil lappet border, all within floral scrolls, the third with stylised leafy floral scrolls
132 by 105 cm, 52 by 41 3/8  in.
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Provenance

Christie's London, 25th/26th November 1974, lot 162.

Catalogue Note

Superbly arranged with an array of auspicious motifs to welcome the New Year, this panel reveals the wealth and abundance of the Qing empire under the Qianlong Emperor through the various objects represented. From the finest quality jade, carnelian, agate and organic materials, through to rich metalwork and porcelain, it not only shows every material at the Emperor's disposal but also the availability of the most skilled of artisans to work with them. The craftsmen have employed the 'reverse trompe l'oeil' technique to full effect; the various objects are produced with their original materials but recreated in two dimensions. The production of complex, high-relief encrusted panels such as the present would have required the collaboration of a number of departments within the Imperial Workshops. Every detail within this composition of old and new objects has been carefully chosen, manufactured and finished to create an aesthetically pleasing piece.  Such panels were a Qianlong innovation and speak of the prosperity of his reign.

Panels that combined ancient with contemporary objects began to be created during the Kangxi period and flourished under the Qianlong Emperor. This fusion of past and present is evident in the archaistic fangding which reveals the scholar's reverence for the past, and its juxtaposition with the later gilt-bronze incense burner provides a neat representation of the passing of time. The porcelain, cloisonné enamel and jade pieces show that the finest quality materials were selected and created for this panel. References to antiquity are also made in these materials with the flambé vase looking back to the celebrated Song wares and through the archaistic style of decoration of the jade chime and cloisonné vase.

This assemblage of auspicious objects suggests that the panel was created in celebration of a New Year's festival. Firecrackers are believed to ward off evil, a belief that continued from the ancient practice of burning bamboo to scare off evil spirits, and are also a pun for 'year after year' (suisui) as they break into fragments after explosion. The branch of peonies is included as they are the first to bloom each year and thus one of the most important flowers for the New Year. This branch of peonies, finger citron and lychee have been magnificently recreated in hardstone to represent the wish for wealth, honour and many sons. The ivory figures of boys at play, in this case with musical instruments, symbolise the wish for raising many outstanding sons and add a touch of festive playfulness to the scene.

Very few panels of this type are known, particularly of this impressive large size; compare a smaller example, inscribed with a poem with a cyclical date corresponding to 1779, sold in these rooms, 29th April 1997, lot 770; another dated 1773, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 29th May 2009, lot 1816; and a third example, sold in Christie's London, 16th December 1981, lot 349 and again in these rooms, 7th October 2015, lot 3001. Compare also panels of this type, but lacking the carved lacquer cartouches at the top, such as one on display in the Suianshi (Room of Finding Peace) in the Yangxindian (Hall of Cultivating Mind) in the Forbidden City, Beijing, where the emperor is said to have rested during fasting periods, illustrated in situ in Qingdai gongting shenghuo [Life in the Forbidden City], Hong Kong, 1985, pl. 175, together with a wall panel simulating a display cabinet filled with precious objects, pl. 178; and another sold in our London rooms, 11th June 1996, lot 154, and again in these rooms, 23rd October 2005, lot 362.

Compare also inlaid panels, but without an imperial inscription, such as one mounted in a zitan frame, sold in our London rooms, 11th June 1996, lot 154, and again in these rooms, 23rd October 2005, lot 362; and another sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 26th April 1998, lot 572.

Gems of Chinese Art – The Speelman Collection II

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Hong Kong