Lot 96
  • 96


25,000 - 40,000 GBP
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  • approximately 387 by 353cm; 12ft. 9in., 8ft. 4in.
  • Qing dynasty, second half 18th century


The Textile Gallery, London, 1989, Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection


Spuhler, Friedrich, The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, London, 1998, pl. 60, p.222
Franses, Michael, The lion-dog carpets, Classical Chinese Carpets I Lion-dogs Hundred Antiques, London, 2000, pl.15, pp. 48-49


Overall measurements: 353cm across the top, 353cm across the bottom, 387cm the left hand side, 385cm the right hand side. Pile between 6 - 8mm in depth, thick lustrous wool. One minor area with spot foundation visible to the upper right of the central medallion and an area of discolouration within one of the fo-dogs; this mark is solely on the surface. An area of old moth damage, central left of lower right quadrant and one further lower left between main border and inner guard; these are very minor. Two notable areas of re-piling in lower right of the brown surround visible as lighter patches in image. Heavy oxidisation in the upper right hand corner. Both ends with trimmed fringing. Overall carpet is in exceptional condition for age.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

This lion-dog and ‘hundred antiques’ dais carpet can be usefully compared with the earlier Larsson dais carpet, lot 71 in this sale, which employs some of the same iconography, but also serves to highlight the development of the design through the 18th century. For a longer discussion of the lion-dog motif, see the Larsson carpet, lot 71; in the present example we see that the lion-dog has become ever more friendly and ‘domesticated’, the yin and yang of two equal and opposing lions replaced by a single larger dog and four smaller ones, more akin to a Pekinese with her puppies. The austerity of the cloud-collar medallion in the Larsson carpet is here rendered as more clearly stylised clouds with a definite attempt at creating a more three-dimensional rendering through colour. This approach can also be seen in the treatment of the fretwork in the major border with its oblique projection of the frets; Franses (2000a), p. 54 notes this is one of the earliest known examples with this feature.  The formality we see in earlier production has here given way to a greater sense of naturalism, seen in the rendition of the leafy flower sprays in the corners and the minor border. This development is on a par with the shift in aesthetics under the Quianlong emperor (1736-1796) and would have complemented the greater emphasis on floral decoration in the other decorative arts, seen during his reign. The field is decorated with some of the Four Gentlemanly Accomplishments, see Eiland (1979), p. 32, Fig. 14; the chessboard, books, paintings and with a brush holder with brush, scroll and flywhisk, amongst flower baskets and vases. For a more extensive discussion of the genesis of the ‘hundred antiques’ design, see lot 71 in this sale, and references. Franses (2000a):  Franses, Michael, The lion dog carpets, Classical Chinese Carpets I Lion-dogs Hundred Antiques, London, 2000, pp. 25-55

Eiland (1979): Eiland, Murray L., Chinese and Exotic Rugs, London, 1979, I The Rugs of China, Symbols used on Chinese Rugs pp. 29 -41

A Note on Classical Chinese Carpets

The study of pre- 1800 Chinese carpets is a relatively recent discipline.  Carpets from Persia, India and the Ottoman Empire were extensively traded from at least the late 15th century; their aesthetic and commercial value has been well understood by collectors since they first arrived in the West.  In contrast, the classical carpets of China were little known until the early 20th century, during the final years of the Qing dynasty, (1636–1912), when they began to appear on the international market.  The rug scholar, Arthur Urbane Dilley wrote “The advent of Chinese rugs in America was as dramatic as their quick capture of popular approbation.  As if the art arrived from another planet, The American Art Association announced the first sale of it in 1908”1. They were enthusiastically  taken up by collectors such as Dilley himself, Louis Tiffany,  J K Mumford, Frederick Moore, T B Clarke and the patron of modern art and literature,  and collector, Scofield Thayer, whose dais carpet is included in this sale (lot 89). As calculated by Michael Franses 2 some 1,650 ‘antique’ Chinese carpets had been offered across 15 auction sales in New York by 1920, when the sales effectively ceased, as the sources of these pieces dried up.  Illustrated examples in the American Art Association catalogues show many pieces in pristine condition, but the depredations of time and use have had their effect.  Franses3  suggests fewer than six hundred classical Chinese carpets survive today with the Palace Museum in Beijing having the largest collection, of something less than one hundred, mainly examples from the reign of The Wanli Emperor, fourteenth Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, (1573-1619). In addition there are ‘some sixteen rugs’3 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a similar quantity in the Textile Museum in Washington, mainly from the collection of George Hewitt Myers, with the majority of the remainder held in private collections In Europe and the United States. 

This sale offers a unique opportunity to acquire several exemplary examples of Chinese carpet weaving, both published and unpublished.  The works offered are in the main attributed to the weaving centre of Ninghsia in Western China, which seems to have seen an expansion in the production and availability of its weavings after a military expedition to the area by the Kangxi Emperor, fourth Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, (1662-1722), in 1696-97, during which he asked to see carpets being woven and was presented with several examples.4  Carpets were clearly highly prized as prestigious possessions: virtually all the portraits of the Ming and Qing emperors include depictions of carpets, see König. H. & Franses. M, 2005,5 pp. 19-23, pp.33, 39 for examples.  Photographs of interiors of the several halls in the Forbidden City, dating from circa 1900, show how carpets were still being displayed in the palace by that date, see König. H. & Franses. M., ibid, pp.24-25. The sale includes a rare early example of a silk and metal thread carpet inscribed for Imperial use in the Palace of Heavenly Purity, possibly for the throne platform, dated to c.1800, (lot 54).  Carpets were used on raised platforms (dais), on beds, kang, as chair, bench, table and saddle covers, to define areas of importance, provide warmth and comfort, and through their motifs and decoration, create a harmonious aesthetic which integrated their symbolism with the other Chinese works of art with which the royal household, their courtiers and officials surrounded themselves. In particular, the Larsson lion-dog medallion with 'hundred antiques' dais carpet, (lot 71) dating from the first half 18th century, and the Thyssen- Bornemisza lion dog medallion and ‘hundred antiques’ dais cover (lot 96), from the second half of the 18th century, exemplify the tradition of using symbols and homophones to decorate works of art. Further information can be found in the catalogue entries for these pieces. This sale also includes examples of carpets and rugs displaying all the key motifs associated with the genre:  dragons, designs derived from woven silks, peony and lotus flowers, and complex fretwork and geometric patterns, which together provide a rare opportunity to appreciate the range and subtle beauty of classical Chinese pile weavings.

1 Dilley, Arthur Urbane, Oriental Rugs and Carpets,  A Comprehensive Study, Scribner’s,  New York, 1931 cited in Franses, Michael,  A Brief Introduction to classical Chinese carpets, in Classical Chinese Carpets I, London, 2000

2    Franses, Michael,  A Brief Introduction to classical Chinese carpets, in Classical Chinese Carpets I, London, 2000, p.14

Franses, Michael , A Brief Introduction, Classical Chinese Carpets in Western Collections, The Kangxi period, 1661 – 1722, London, 2002

4 Franses, Michael , The emperors and their carpets, Classical Chinese Carpets in Western Collections, The Kangxi period, 1661 – 1722, London, 2002, p. 7&10, quoting Du Halde, Description geographique, historique , chronologique, politique et physique de l’empire de la Chine, Vol LV, fol 02, no.39, Biblioteque Nationale, Paris, 1697, p. 372 (26 April)

5 König. H. & Franses. M., Glanz de Himmelssöhne, Kaiserliche Teppiche aus China 1400 – 1750, Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Köln, exhibition catalogue,  London, 2005