Conceivably due to the nature of the material, extant zitan candlesticks are extremely rare, although bronze and cloisonné enamel figural candlesticks are known. See a cloisonné enamel figure of a kneeling foreigner depicted holding a vessel forming a lamp stand, attributed to the early Qing dynasty, from the Qing court collection, preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Metal-bodied Enamel Ware, Hong Kong, 2002, pl. 92; a pair of cloisonné ‘foreigner’ candlesticks sold at Christie’s London, 8th November 2011, lot 68; and a pair of earlier bronze candlesticks in the form of foreigners carrying drip pans, from the collection of Caramoor Centre for Music and the Arts, offered at our New York rooms, 15th March 2016, lot 148.
During the Qing dynasty, real elephants carrying vases on their backs appeared in processions celebrating the emperor's birthday. The combination of elephant and vase forms a pun for ‘peaceful times’ (taiping youxiang), and is symbolic of a peaceful kingdom. The depiction of lingzhi growing from the vase on these candlesticks would also have connotation of wishes for longevity, which further enhances the auspicious allegory of the piece. Such depictions are popular amongst many art forms especially during the Qianlong period, including an imperial jewelled elephant clock sold in these rooms, 8th April 2007, lot 517.
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