Acquired in London, late 1970s / early 1980s.
This exquisitely carved and painted miniature album belongs to a special group of items that was produced for the Qianlong emperor, who was an enthusiastic collector of curios and miniature artefacts that were made of various materials. An array of objects, including vessels, scholar's items and sculpture, were made in various mediums and precious materials. While large artefacts immediately attract the viewer for their impressive size, the beauty of miniature pieces lies in the extraordinary level of craftsmanship and detail achieved by the artist who has applied his masterly skills onto a small surface.
Smaller objects in the imperial collections were managed and housed in treasure boxes (duobaoge). The contents of these treasure boxes usually cover the entire range of the imperial collections, from jades and bronzes of all ages to decorative arts in every medium and exotica from foreign countries. Thus the treasure box is a microcosm of the emperor's collection; reducing the vast imperial collection to a manageable size and format. See two treasure boxes filled with miniature treasures including albums, exhibited in Possessing the Past. Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1996, cat. nos. 352 amd 353.
The album is painted by Yu Rong, a native of Jinding known for his service in the Inner Courts and his tributes of paintings and poems to the Qianlong emperor from the middle of his reign. Yu was celebrated for his paintings that were executed in imitation of Song and Yuan works. The Qianlong emperor titled Yu's anthology of paintings Yilouji. The style of the paintings in this album reflects the practice of Qing artists who produced miniature copies of works by great painters of the Song period. Miniature albums containing reduced-scale copies of letters and manuscripts of master calligraphers of the Northern Song period were also produced.
For small albums of painting and calligraphy made for the Qianlong emperor, see two sets in the Palace Museum, Beijing, included in the exhibition The Imperial Packing Art of the Qing Dynasty, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2000, one with textile covers and housed in an exquisite zitan box inlaid with a jade bi and inscribed with the characters Ji Sheng Yan xi, cat. no. 37, the other with a zitan box containing ten albums of flower paintings, all bound between zitan covers, cat. no. 38.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.