Important Chinese Art
Important Chinese Art
The Legacy of Cixi. Late Qing Porcelain from the Barbara Jean Levy Collection
September 20, 05:51 PM GMT
20,000 - 30,000 USD
A yellow-ground famille-rose 'magpie and prunus' dish
Mark and period of Tongzhi
清同治 黃地粉彩喜上眉梢紋盤 《同治年製》款
the base with a four-character mark in iron red
Diameter 11 in., 28 cm
Ming Gallery, Hong Kong, 21st December 1996.
Porcelains adorned with magpies and blossoming prunus were one of the types of wares commissioned for the Tongzhi Emperor's wedding in 1872. The event was particularly significant as it was the first imperial wedding of a sitting emperor since that of the Kangxi Emperor, over 200 years earlier. Approximately 7,000 individual porcelains of various forms (some functional, others purely decorative) were ordered for this celebration in twenty-three specially-commissioned designs.
A drawing of the design of the magpies and prunus is preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing, where it notes the quantities of each form to be produced, see Guanyang ciqi: Gugong bowuyuancang Qing dai zhici guanyang yu yuyao ciqi [Official Designs and Imperial Porcelain: Official Porcelain Designs and Imperial Qing Dynasty Porcelains in the Palace Museum], Beijing, 2007, pl. 12, where it is illustrated alongside a slightly smaller dish (22cm diameter) of the same design (also illustrated on the front cover). Compare another dish (26cm diameter) in the Chang Foundation, Taipei, illustrated in Ronald W. Longsdorf, 'The Tongzhi Imperial Wedding Porcelain', Orientations, October 1996, p. 73, fig. 13.
The popularity of the design of magpies and prunus at the late Qing court is illustrated by the Xianfeng Emperor and Dowager Empress Cixi's admiration for Tang Zhengzhong's (fl. late 12th - early 13th century) Fragrant Dreams of Luofu, recorded as being in the Imperial Collection in the Shiqu baoji san bian. The original painting (now held in a private collection) bears a colophon by the Xianfeng Emperor, expressing his admiration for the image. Cixi later painted a copy of it, completed in 1889, which is now in the collection of the the Long Museum, Shanghai, and illustrated in Ying-Chen Peng, Artful Subversion. Empress Dowager Cixi's Image Making, Yale, 2023, p. 136, fig. 86.