the screen of the manchu palace
Luxury is extreme. The wood is covered with black lacquer inlaid with mother of pearl and tortoiseshell that support the painted colors and are improved with gold and silver. Its very good condition is remarkable when considering the difficulty to keep the nacre. The reverse is painted in bright colors.
This technique was developed in a workshop that operated at the time of the minority of Kangxi 350 years ago. Its great rarity suggests to attribute the screen for sale to that specific period.
Kangxi was the second emperor of all China in the Qing dynasty of Manchu origin. The figuration includes many Manchu elements including details of clothing and riding women. This scene was intended to decorate a private room where it could remind the Manchu customs without offending the Chinese. This comment is also supporting a dating from the early Qing.
The image is dynamic and funny, with galloping riders, banner holders, hounds, game and birds. Kangxi was a keen hunter for whom immense wildlife parks will be created later. Hunt is also a training for war.
The fifth panel is centered with a character in Manchu imperial dress who chairs the party under a golden canopy. The assumption that he would be the Kangxi emperor himself, resulting that the zhang could be later than his minority, cannot be ruled out.
MODERN ART UNDER AND AGAINST THE QING
Graphic art in ancient China is inseparable from calligraphy, of course, but also from poetry and even from metaphysics. It is rooted in the mists of time, but some particularly outstanding artists have influenced the style.
Shitao was related to the Ming dynasty, overthrown by the Qing when he was still a small child. He became a monk, Buddhist at first and later Taoist, and was known as a theoretician of contemplative art. His pioneering role combining realism and atmosphere was widely acknowledged by Chinese artists of the twentieth century.
Christie's is proud to present an album of eight leaves showing landscapes, 39 x 28 cm. This collection was made 300 years ago, in the last years of the career of the artist, using the conventional techniques of ink wash and brush. The album was mounted at a later date.
It is presented as a tribute to the poetic sensibilities of the great poet Du Fu of the Tang dynasty a millennium before.The continuity of Chinese culture, which transcended political regimes, may well attract the admiration of foreign observers.
This lot is being advertised as exceptional. It is for sale in Hong Kong on May 28, with an estimate of HK $ 120 million.
Shitao was an eclectic artist. The article on Wikipedia shows a surprising self-portrait.
1707 merger of the artist in wilderness
Shitao's art expresses nature with a very tiny place left to human beings to fit into this immensity. He is a poet : his technique of drawing is highly original for his time, preferring washings and hatchings instead of the line. His landscapes cannot be located and are probably more imaginary than contemplative.
On April 3 in Hong Kong, Sotheby's sells an album of twelve drawings 14 x 26 cm in ink and colors, lot 2900. The human presence in the wilderness is symbolized by a hermitage, a group of houses or a bridge and sometimes animated by a quiet character. Each drawing bears the seal of the artist.
The wise man merged into nature before he died. The calligraphy of the twelfth drawing is dated dinghai with an evocation of the artist's illness. Dinghai, 1707 of our calendar, is the year of the death of Shitao aged 65. The album was dated with the same year by an admirer. It is in some way the artistic testament of a sage.
Kangxi - Qing Calligraphies
2009 SOLD 6.5 M RMB yuan including premium
Calligraphy has certainly started at the same time as writing, of which the oldest known examples exceed five millennia. This is less an archaeological than a logical argument. To be understood, which is the purpose of writing, it is best to write neatly and nicely.
Thus, the calligraphy is an ancient major art. In countries that use an alphabet with few letters, this art has fallen into disuse after the invention of printing. As against, for our greatest pleasure, Islamic and Chinese calligraphies continued to prosper.
In China, writing is linking all ethnic groups. Each sign represents a word, which is expressed verbally in different ways depending on the region. For this reason, the emperors themselves expressed with calligraphies. On May 28 at Beijing, Poly Auction sell fifteen of these works, created by eight emperors of the Qing dynasty.
The most beautiful, estimated 800 KRMB, is a tablet of silk 49 x 122 cm in three parts, each part being centered by an elegant thick sign in black ink, about 40 cm high. The Kangxi emperor released this message: "Be honest, be cautious, be diligent." This is good advice, still valid after three centuries!
POST SALE COMMENT
The estimate of 800 KRMB for a beautiful calligraphy from the hand of the Emperor seemed however very low.
Here is the result: 6.5 MRMB (about 650 K €) including fees.
The next lot of the same sale, a calligraphy of Yong Zheng, sold 4.7 MRMB inclusive.
Raft, Silk and Horn
2012 SOLD 950 K€ including premium
Coincidences sometimes happen in the auction world. Here are two Qing pieces in rhinoceros horn, both in uncommon shapes, carved on the same rare theme of the tribulations of Zhang Qian. One of them is in France for over a hundred years, the other has been discovered during an inventory in Massachusetts.
Zhang Qian is the military explorer with whom China opened to the West during the Han Dynasty. He discovered extraordinary animals such as donkeys, amazing products such as grape wine, and especially his explorations started the trade by the ways later known as the Silk Road.
The large horn, 26 cm, 344 g, for sale on December 17 by Artcurial in Paris, is a pouring vessel, which is the mostcomplex object in horn. Preparation required a softening of thr horn before hollowing. The hero runs his raft in a terrible storm visualized by the height of the waves.
La Gazette Drouot indicates the estimate: € 250K.
The cup for sale by James D. Julia in Fairfield ME during their three days auction from January 30 to February 1 (2013) is similarly large, 25-26 cm. In a symmetrical composition, it is more anecdotal with two characters in sharp carving: the explorer and a partially nude western woman.
This raft is mounted on a finely carved zitan stand which, again, symbolizes a dramatic sea. Two photos illustrate the article shared by Antiques, Collectibles and Auction News. It is dated more precisely from the Kangxi period.
POST SALE COMMENTS
The first result, by Artcurial, is excellent. The scarcity of shape and theme and the quality of the carving enabled this vessel to reach € 950K including premium.
The second raft was sold $ 35K before fees by James D. Julia on an estimate of $ 40K.
1732 A Promising Prince of the Qing
2018 SOLD for HK$ 46M including premium
At the Imperial court in the 11th year of the Yongzheng reign matching 1732 CE, a younger son of the emperor shows promising qualities. The emperor agrees to entrust responsibilities to him during his absences from the palace and it is well known at the court that in his early teens he had been the favorite grandson of Kangxi.
The prince was 21 years old. His birth name was Hongli but he was officially named Bao for designating him as a prince of the first rank. He was also nicknamed Changchun Jushi, the Scholar of Everlasting Spring, for his early literary abilities.
Prince Bao already used seals for stamping on documents the various circumstances and moods of his studies. When he opened the Qianlong reign by succeeding his father three years later, he had already accumulated a collection of 70 seals.
The three Bao seals of the set for sale, 6.5, 6.2 and 5.7 cm high and not decorated, are in soapstones. One square and one oval seals are in the tianhuang variant and the other square seal is in steatite.
They were certainly made in the 11th Yongzheng year as some inscriptions from the next year are known. The use of triplets by Bao and later Qianlong was frequent. They are kept together in a zitan box 8.7 x 10.2 x 5.6 cm from the Qianlong period.
The Qianlong emperor will be the most enthusiastic user of imperial seals during his 60 year reign and his three post-reign years. Many of his later seals are in jade which had been temporarily in short supply during his early years.
1738 THE SEAL OF THE WHITE BANNER
2013 SOLD 154 K$ INCLUDING PREMIUM
The Qing were foreigners when they conquered China. They wanted to protect their domination by assigning a greater responsibility to their fellow Manchu soldiers and developed the system of the Eight Banners organized as castes with hereditary affiliation.
They managed to increase their power, and the Banners got an important political role which was lowered when thevery suspicious Qianlong centralized the power around his Imperial person. Three upper Banners including the PlainWhite Banner, took their orders directly from the Emperor.
On August 23 in Fairfield ME, James D. Julia sells a seal for the use of the Plain White Banner, dated to the third year of Qianlong, 1738-1739 in our calendar.
It is made of bronze coated with a thick layer of pure gold, with an overall height of 6.5 cm on a 17 cm square base.The text of the seal is in Manchu language along with the inscriptions on three of the four edges.
Its carving is perfectly preserved despite great details. Standing on four legs, a large dragon with long winding whiskers is chasing the Pearl. It is surrounded by a family of eight smaller reclining dragons.
The announced estimate of $ 20K is only a calling value because this piece is too rare to actually predict its price. However, do not make a confusion between this administrative seal and the great jade seals for use of the literary activities of the same Emperor.
POST SALE COMMENT
Sold for $ 130K before fees.
I invite you to play the video shared on YouTube by the auction house:
1743 THE VAST MOUNTAINS OF SICHUAN
Trained in the workshop of his uncle Yuan Jiang in Yangzhou, Yuan Yao is a provincial. At the time of high concentration of figurative artists in the imperial workshops of Qianlong, he appears as an exception.
The uncle and nephew are landscape painters. Their technique of reconstructing the extension of the landscape by a succession of small separated hanging scrolls suggests that they were mostly decorators especially skilled to copy Song landscapes.
At all times the admirable mountains of Sichuan were the favorite theme of Chinese landscape artists. The painting by Yuan Yao for sale on March 20 at Sotheby's in New York is exceptional and even surprising in some of its features.
It was executed on a single piece of silk of gigantic size, 187 x 255 cm, almost square at the opposite of the usual panoramic formats. The colors are halftone as for not distracting from the countless tiny details all over the magnificent scenery. In the center of the image, two travelers on the cantilevered road seem to be lost in the vastness of nature.
The spontaneity of the brush painting suggests that this is not a copy from Song art. It is dated guihai corresponding to 1743 in our calendar, at the beginning of the career of Yuan Yao. It has to be considered as the masterpiece, in its first meaning of demonstration of know-how, of a young artist.
This monumental silk is estimated $ 2M, lot 565 in the catalog.
1746 Mid Autumn by Qianlong and Dong Banda
In the 11th year of his reign matching 1746 CE, he had the Hall of the Three Rarities located in the Hall of Mental Cultivation. He prepared his appreciation on the three old poems highlighted therein and entrusted one of his highest ranked ministers named Dong Banda to prepare graphic interpretations.
The three treasures were calligraphies by the three masters who established calligraphy as a major art during the Jin dynasty fourteen centuries earlier. One of the three manuscripts was Wang Xianzhi's Mid Autumn, expressing peace and prosperity.
The co-operative work made by Qianlong and Dong to highlight Wang's poem is a paper handscroll 24 cm high for an overall length of 6.40 m. The imperial calligraphy and the drawing are designed for resonating the rhyme of the antique poem.
It is divided in four parts, opening with a 80 cm wide title in four characters from the hand of the emperor, meaning The moonlight spreads, chilly and bright. The second section, 107 cm, is the autograph calligraphed appreciation.
The third part, 230 cm, is Dong's painting in faint ink and wash and some added color showing the Imperial garden at midnight sparsely populated for the festival with groups of literati. The rest of it is the flattering appreciation by nine top ranked ministers and calligraphed by one of them.
The scroll was sold by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on April 10, 2008 for HK$ 38.4M, lot 2859, and is estimated HK $ 70M for sale in the same venue on April 27, 2022, lot 2700.
Headlining Sotheby’s Hong Kong Classical Chinese Paintings Spring Sale on 27 April, discover the beginnings of a new era for the empire, with The Mid-Autumn Festival at the Imperial Garden by the Qianlong Emperor and Dong Bangda. Expert Voice: https://t.co/4PUoOVS7nL pic.twitter.com/l64pQiADJh— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) April 18, 2022
1746 Calligraphy on Jade
Under the Jin dynasty in the fourth century CE, Wang Xizhi equals Zhong and tries to match Zhang. His son Wang Xianzhi brings the cursive script to the rank of a major art. The gesture of the artist becomes much more important than the text. By attempting to make the most exact copy, scholars retrieve not only the gesture but also the emotion of the former artist.
No original by Wang Xizhi survives. An ancient but undated copy 24.7 x 13.9 cm of one of his calligraphies was sold for RMB 308M including premium by China Guardian in November 2010.
The Qianlong emperor brings together the whole cultural heritage of his predecessors. A special hall in the palace is dedicated to the preservation of three treasures of ancient calligraphy. Copies are made for dissemination and also for exercise, including by the emperor himself who records his appreciation on colophons and affixes his seal.
Qianlong knows that paper is incompatible with an eternal preservation. The albums are thus not enough. He has the most prestigious calligraphies incised in jade screens. Unlike other craftsmen in jade or porcelain, jade engravers sometimes sign their art, which shows how important their work was to the emperor.
The calligraphy on jade respects the accuracy of the line of the original document and also the hollows and bumps from overlapping characters and seals, which is a technical feat when considering that jade can only get a subtractive carving. The incisions are filled with a compressed gold powder.
On October 3 in Hong Kong, Sotheby's sells a screen 31 x 30 cm and 1.7 cm thick, lot 3203 estimated HK $ 40M. The celadon jade is deliberately sprinkled with white spots imitating the snow.
It is engraved and gilded on both sides. The front side reproduces one of the three treasures, which is also the only authenticated autograph by Wang Xianzhi, 22 characters in cursive script. The imperial colophon and the seals are also reproduced, including a date matching 1746 CE.
The other side is devoted to 250 characters in thirteen lines which are the only remains of a poem from the early third century CE. It is a copy of a non datable jade-like plaque engraved after a calligraphy by the same artist Wang Xianzhi. The lost original had been copied under the Song.
1747 Propaganda for Qianlong
2008 SOLD 68 MHK$ including premium
The Chinese graphic arts are particularly well represented, and we will present later in this group and in the group Current Art other lots to come into these sales. Attention, however, that the dates announced too early may be subject to change.
Let me start with you about a remarkable Qianlong scroll, that not only seems to be the most unusual lot of this group, but also is presented with the highest estimate (beyond $ 80 MHK). It will be sold on October 8.
First, it allows me to lean to my small way of not using the Western calendar for the countries or the dates on which it was not in force. Our scroll was created in the fourth year of the reign of Qianlong, 269 years ago.
It is a Dayue Tu, from a series of four, showing on 68 cm high and 15.5 meters long the Emperor reviewing his troops. This work was intended to assess the power of the Emperor. The detail published in the press release shows Qianlong on a white horse, followed by two of his officers and 26 riders in an arc, all of this being of course very finely drawn and colorful.
This is the third in the series. Sotheby's taught us that the second is in the Palace Museum in Beijing, and that the other two are no more extant.
POST SALE COMMENT
Before the sale, the scroll was considered a treasure by several commentators close to the Asian market.
It has not reached the price that Sotheby's expected, but the result must still be considered very good: 68 MHK $ including fees.
1747 Poetry of Rural China
Fan Chengda had written several series of poems on the theme of the seasons, which he observed in his villa near Suzhou. Qianlong has chosen from his work a series entitled Ten ballades in the fields and villages in the twelfth month. Ten artists were selected to execute the ten paintings on paper in a unique 113 x 29 cm format, suggesting that the final step was to assemble them on a folding screen. The screen was not mounted and the ten works were later turned into hanging scrolls to the delight of the Jiaqing emperor.
Qianlong himself calligraphed the ten poems and their titles and added on the last opus that the work had been done at his request in connection with Fan Chengda's poems. He saw them as a happy symbol of peace and prosperity.
Nine leaves survive, seven of which are kept at the Palace Museum in Taipei. The other two have just surfaced after spending a hundred years in a Japanese collection. They are sold together by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on April 19, lot 3121. Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's.
One of them, opus 2/10 by Shen Yuan, shows a Lantern fair intended to prepare the festival of the same theme. The diversification of entertainment is worthy of Bruegel, with shops, lanterns and other goods, butchers, musicians. Women and children are active.
The other, opus 4/10 by Li Shizhuo, is a landscape centered on an open pavilion in which a family is sharing the rice porridge around the table.
1752 A Taoist Scroll for the Qianlong Emperor
2013 SOLD 33 MHK$ including premium
In all areas and for all times, the Chinese art of living is a synthesis of all the progresses of the past. Religion, inseparable from morality, makes no exception. The three main paths that interfere continuously are Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, all of them having appeared a little more than 2000 years ago.
At the 9th moon of the 17th year of Qianlong, corresponding to 1752 in our calendar, a painter named Zhang Weibang presents a scroll to the emperor. The colophon in which he noted the date also indicates that he was inspired from a Tang artist named Lu Huang.
Taoism, in a perpetual search for wisdom, has removed the boundaries between gods and humans. The Zhang painting is a truculent and picturesque scene. The bearded god is comfortably seated in a luxurious litter covered with a canopy. Surrounded by soldiers and fairies, this vehicle pulled by dragons goes forward inside a festive crowd which is waving banners.
This painting, certainly made on an imperial commission, was described in detail in 1816 when it was raised to the rank of Pearl of the Imperial Treasure. It then measured 57 x 583 cm.
It is now remaining as a wide fragment, 57 x 312 cm, which fortunately includes the major parts: the chariot, its escort and the first few rows of the crowd.
POST SALE COMMENT
Sold for HK$ 33 million including premium, this interesting scroll has exceeded both its estimate and the price obtained in Paris less than one year ago.
1767 In the taste of Huang Gongwang
2019 sold for hk$ 14.6m including premium
On April 1 in Hong Kong, Sotheby's sells a landscape painted on paper in ink and water wash without colors by Qian Weicheng, hand scroll 33 x 520 cm dated dinghai corresponding to 1767 CE, lot 2600 estimated HK $ 12M. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
For an autumn landscape in ink and color preserved in the collection of the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Qian stated that he had casually imitated Huang Gongwang.
Since the last years of the Ming dynasty, Huang is considered as one of the four great masters of the later Yuan period. He knew how to express the luxuriant variety of nature by a multitude of details while preserving the coherence of the whole. Some scattered houses bring the only testimony of human existence.
On the scroll that comes on sale, the combined influence of the four old masters is a feat. Huang brings the leading inspiration but the inimitable tranquility of Ni Zan, the realistic drawing of Wu Zhen and the textures in compact lines of Wang Meng are clearly perceptible in places.
The four masters were rejected by the official society in the turbid atmosphere of the end of the Yuan dynasty. They were not professional artists. Huang was a traveling diviner, Wu was an astrologer, Ni lived as a hermit in his floating house and Wang died in jail on a charge of conspiracy.
Qian was a high ranked mandarin. His sensitivity to the art of the four rebels of the Yuan period testifies to the extreme acuity of his artistic appreciation. His art was praised by Qianlong. A 34 x 460 cm scroll in ink and color lining up ten mountain landscapes, commented on each view by the emperor, was sold for HK $ 147M including premium by Sotheby's on April 3, 2018.
1736-1780 Qianlong Snuff Bottle
2008 SOLD 420 K$ including premium
The top lots are a rose enameled glass double gourd made in the Qianlong imperial workshops in Beijing (4.7 cm, 350 K$, lot 87) and a snuff bottle decorated with a woman and a child and bearing the mark of Qianlong (4.1 cm, 220 K$, lot 86).
POST SALE COMMENT
The most important piece, which was that miniature double gourd at lot 87, was very well sold, 420 K$ including premium.
The lot 86 was sold for 180 K$ including premium, remained far below its estimate.
1772 White Jade Ruyi Scepter of the Qianlong Emperor
Since the Tang, the ruyi is a talisman of good fortune and an attribute of Manjusri, the bodhisattva of Wisdom. It was also used in Daoism and was revived by the superstitious Yongzheng emperor. Meaning 'as you wish', it is fully suited to be used as the terminal of the scepter brandished by the Son of Heaven for expressing his decisions "with dignity and respect" as stated by the Qianlong emperor.
A ruyi scepter is estimated HK $ 60M for sale by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on October 13, 2021, lot 3603. The virtually flawless 39.5 cm long Xinjiang jade is a pure pale celadon with a slight yellow at the bottom of the shaft. It is 4.5 cm in height and its head is 10 cm wide. It still has its original ebony stand. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
This piece is dated to the new-year Qianlong renchen year corresponding to 1772 CE. Its ruyi handle is carved in low relief on the obverse with the flaming pearl among clouds and incised on the reverse with a poem by the Qianlong emperor appreciating the excellence of this specific scepter. The arched shaft is carved with an imperial five clawed dragon curling in the round in the pursuit of the pearl.
A 37.5 cm imperial ruyi scepter dated to the Qianlong guisi year, 1773 CE, was sold for HK $ 18.6M by Sotheby's on October 7, 2010, lot 2106. It is made in Xinjiang Hetian white jade. Its ruyi head is carved in relief with a dragon chasing the pearl and the shaft is incised with an imperial poem.
An undated scepter without the imperial mark, 43 cm long, carved on the ruyi with a ferocious scaly dragon in pursuit of the pearl, was sold for HK $ 8.7M by Sotheby's on October 9, 2007, lot 1310. The shaft is carved with bats in low relief.
1781 the catalogue of the imperial seal marks
At that time, the seals of his grandfather Kangxi are carefully preserved in the Imperial Palace. The few seals of Kangxi's predecessor Shunzhi, the founder of the Qing dynasty, were probably already lost. The Kangxi Baosou is therefore the starting point of this extraordinary catalogue. It consists of sheets 28 x 13.4 cm joined end to end for a total length of 5.65 m.
The inscriptions from 119 seals of the Kangxi emperor are here stamped in a great clarity with a crimson red ink. A pen transcription in usual writing is also offered in the vicinity of each mark. The document is protected in a luxurious binding including gildings and silk brocades.
Qianlong could not of course predict the catastrophic weakening of the Qing in the following century. Considering now that the seals have been scattered and many of them have not resurfaced, the Baosou are the irreplaceable and reliable sources for the authentication of the marks.
Two of the three original copies of the Kangxi Baosou survive. One of them is kept in the Palace Museum in Beijing. The other is for sale on April 6 by Sotheby's in Hong Kong, lot 3103.
1782 Imperial Learning
2011 SOLD 205 K$ including premium
Qianlong was not just a patron of the arts. This universal mind was also interested in all knowledge.
A coherent set of ten gray-green jade tablets reminds in incised characters a visit of the Emperor at the library of the Wenshuoge pavilion in 1782 of our calendar. The back of the plaques is decorated with golden dragons.
At that date, the great Siku Quanshu encyclopedia is in progress. It will include 3,500 articles covering 79,000 chapters divided in four categories of learning: the classics, history, philosophy and literature. Seven libraries including Wenshuoge received a copy.
24x10 cm in size, the tablets are kept in a precious box adorned with a yellow silk brocade. The lot is estimated $200K, for sale by Freeman's in Philadelphia on September 10.
Guided by Freeman's catalog, I found a lot of two tablets of similar design, 13 x 29 cm, sold for $ 300K including premium by Sotheby's on March 23, 2011 from an estimate of $ 30K. Dated from gengxu year, 1790 of our calendar, they are devoted to a philosophical thought of the emperor.
1786 Fish in Water
2019 SOLD for $ 2.9M including premium
On March 20 in New York, Christie's sells a fish bowl or washer made in the archaic style in carved jade for the Qianlong emperor, lot 806 estimated $ 1M.
The base of the bowl displays a poem incised in 40 characters arranged in three concentric circles around the imperial mark. It is signed with two seals of Qianlong as Son of Heaven and as Everyday Assiduous, and dated from the autumn of his bingwu year corresponding to 1786 CE. The most erudite of the emperors details in his poem the cultural interest of such replicas.
Its stone is pale celadon slightly spotted with white, approaching the color of the water preserved for the emperor. With or without water in the bowl, this hue brings onto the jade figures the illusion of the natural element of a real fish.
The emperor indicates that these fish in high relief are in the Han style, different from the vessels of the Zhou. Modernity is not essential but it is useful because jade does not have the poor taste of bronze.
Measuring 25 cm in diameter, this bowl raised on five small feet is the largest of only three known examples. One of them, 18 cm in diameter, is inscribed with the same poem and same date. The smallest, 13 cm, is not inscribed.
1790 the kesi of longevity
On April 5 in Hong Kong, Sotheby's sells at lot 3629 a hanging scroll 312 x 145 cm made in kesi with a woven assembly.
The center of the piece in a rectangular reserve is a huge character imitating calligraphy, woven in black on a beige background with a great firmness and regularity of the line. It is a shou, the character of longevity. The borders are animated by eleven gold wire dragons in various postures.
The top and bottom of the tapestry are decorated with flowers, fruit and five nice bats offering by rebus the wufu pengshou auspice meaning five blessings for longevity, a pun using the fu homophony between that animal and the longevity.
Qianlong loved this sumptuous gift, the only example of this size on the theme of longevity and using the best techniques of kesi with multiple and shimmering. colors. He stamped five well-aligned marks of his seals over the shou including the prestigious Qianlong yulan zhibao meaning treasure appreciated by Qianlong.
The decade birthdays of the emperors were the opportunity of grand celebrations prepared well in advance and Qianlong was very proud of his exceptional health and intact activity at 70 and 80. The dates of the five seals are consistent with the assumption that this kesi was offered to him for his eighties, 1790 in our calendar.
1793 Seal and Sentence for Qianlong
2010 SOLD 2.7 M£ including premium
These accessories were used to mark the literary and artistic documents of the imperial collection. Like calligraphy, which Qianlong avidly practised, they included a sentence that allowed the emperor to show his courtiers the moral trend in which he wanted to bring them.
Of course, the greatest are also the most expensive. On 7 October, Sotheby's sold a white jade seal 12.9 cm square, a considerable size for this type of object. Estimated HK $ 25M, it reached the exceptional price in its category of HK $ 121M including premium. Topped by a pair of addorsed dragons, it was engraved Xintian Zhuren (the ruler who believes in heaven).
Another dragon seal is for sale by Bonhams in London on November 11. It is smaller, 4 cm square, and does not fight for record, but it is extremely interesting because its origin is documented. It is illustrated in the press release shared by Auctionpublicity.
Also in white jade, it was carved in the workshops of Suzhou and was intended to the Yanchunge pagoda which served to the Emperor as a cabinet of curiosities. It is part of a set of three seals that have been delivered to Qianlong on the 2nd day of the 7th month of the 58th year of his reign (1793 in our calendar).
Its maxim is Ziqiang Buxi, which means that self strengthening never ceases. It is a direct allusion to the age and to the strong will of that octogenarian emperor who will however abdicate less than two years later because he was hurted that the duration of his reign could go longer than the reign of his grandfather Kangxi.
POST SALE COMMENT
The sale of this small seal is successful : £ 2.4M before fees, 2.7M including premium.
> 1759 Qianlong Pearl Jifu
2006 SOLD for HK$ 14.7M including premium by Sotheby's
see below the 2016 discussion of the same lot
The jifu is not a formal dress but is used for pleasure celebration like a birthday, a wedding, the first day of the year or a solstice. When it is intended for the use of a member of the imperial family, it is decorated with imperial dragons. The themes of good auspices are profusely illustrated.
This robe is modeled on a Manchu garment and it pleases the Qing. A daughter of the Kangxi emperor brought as a dowry in 1691 CE a robe embroidered with 100,000 beads which was discovered in 1976 in the tomb of her husband.
The Yongzheng emperor totally disapproved the pearl robes considered as an extravagance encouraging the corruption of donor courtiers. The position of the Qianlong emperor was less clear as some pearl robes were made during his reign for imperial use.
A highly rare pearl jifu from the Qianlong period was sold by Sotheby's for HK $ 14.7M on 10 April 2006, lot 1540. It was withdrawn before the sale by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on October 13, 2021, lot 3648.
This 145 cm garment is embroidered on a bright yellow satin ground with tens of thousands pearls. The dragon figures are executed with multicolored pearls and the lesser figures are made of three more usual techniques of embroidery stitches. Some of the secondary figures are constituting the Twelve Symbols of Imperial Authority that were introduced by Qianlong in his imperial regalia in 1759 CE.
same lot discussed in 2016 ! (unsold)
The jifu is not a formal dress but is used for pleasure celebration like a birthday, a wedding, the first day of the year or a solstice. When it is intended for the use of a member of the imperial family, it is decorated with imperial dragons on a bright yellow background in satin. The themes of good auspices are profusely illustrated.
This robe is modeled on a Manchu garment and it pleases the Qing. A daughter of Kangxi brought as a dowry in 1691 of our calendar a robe embroidered with 100,000 beads which was discovered in 1976 in the tomb of her husband. Yongzheng stated a profound disapproval against the pearl dresses considered as an unnecessary luxury encouraging the corruption of donor courtiers.
Qianlong's position was less clear as some pearl robes were made during his reign for imperial use. One of them was sold for HK $ 14.7M including premium by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on 10 April 2006, lot 1540. It was passed on April 8, 2011. It is back again in the same auction place on October 5, lot 3307 estimated HK $ 20M.
Dragons are embroidered with multicolored pearls and the lesser figures are made of three more usual techniques of embroidery stitches. Some of the secondary figures are constituting the Twelve Symbols of Imperial Authority that were introduced by Qianlong in his imperial regalia in 1759 of our calendar.
A FLOCK OF MAGPIES IN THE PLUM TREES
2010 SOLD 690 K£ INCLUDING PREMIUM
In our frequent discussions on the Qianlong period, we encountered mostly some useful objects: vases, clocks, seals.It is therefore interesting to see now an ornament piece, shared by AuctionPublicity.
It is a pair of bronzes 61 cm high, showing plum trees in winter, when they lost their leaves. The sharp branches have been invaded by a gang of magpies. The trees are made of bronze with a green and brown patina. The birds are in bronze with cloisonne enamel to show the colors of the plumage: green, blue and turquoise.
The artist wanted a realistic effect, and the birds are much active in their attitudes. The two bronzes are almost identical in mirror shape effect. The group symbolizes the expectation of spring.
This lot is discussed in the press release as having no known equivalent. It is being sold by Sotheby's in London on May 12. The price is difficult to predict. It is announced at £ 500K.
POST SALE COMMENT
This lot was sold 690 K £ including premium, in the range of estimates.
Qianlong - The Green Elephants
2010 SOLD 1.23 M£ including premium
So, I had discussed in June 2008 a remarkable Kangxi jade seal which had arrived in Toulouse after unsolved travels and was sold € 5.6 million including premium by a local auctioneer, Hervé Chassaing. This success has attracted the attention of another seller. On 17 April, the same auction house (renamed in the meantime Chassaing-Marambat), sold € 3.4 million including premium a Qianlong seal, also in jade.
The English countryside has an additional advantage: it is beloved by old Ladies. In May 2009, one of them had sold by Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury a green jade buffalo of Qianlong period. It got one of the highest prices of the specialty, £ 4.2 million including premium.
On May 19, in the same room, the top lot is a pair of jade elephants, grey-green improved with golden-brown striations. These figurines 17 cm high, weighing 12 kg as a whole, bear the four character imperial mark of Qianlong, and certainly come from the throne room. The wild elephant had disappeared from China long ago, but it remained a symbol of strength, astuteness and happiness that valued the power of the emperor himself.
It was the wish of the deceased owner, a Dorset Lady, that this outstanding lot is sold by Woolley and Wallis. Let us avoid talking about money before the outcome of the sale.
The story is delightfully told in yesterday's article shared by The Economist. The image of the lot is one of those that are accessed at the top of the page.
POST SALE COMMENTS
Good result, £ 1 million for the pair of elephants.
The Chinese art always generates surprises. The exceptional piece of the sale was an imperial white jade bell, estimated £ 200K and sold £ 2 million. Only three others are known.
These prices do not include fees.
Some additional informations have just been published and shared by The Art Newspaper, along with a photo of the jade bell.
The prices including premium are 2.46 M£ for the Qianlong jade bell (or ghanta) and 1.23 M£ for the pair of elephants. It is also told that these elephants had been estimated 200 K£.
Qianlong - The Third Seal
2011 UNPAID at € 12.4M including premium by Chassaing-Marambat
2012 SOLD 3.8 M€ including premium
On three times the auction house Chassaing-Marambat (previously Hervé Chassaing) has auctioned Qing seals. Their sales take place in Toulouse.
Sold € 5.5 million including premium on 14 June 2008, the first seal was outstanding for its period (Kangxi) and its dimensions. It did not return in the market to my knowledge, but I am willing to bet that it would be much more expensive today. Its success drew the other two.
Carved with a lying dragon, a Xintian Zhuren seal (a pseudonym of Qianlong after 1759) was sold € 3.3 million including premium on 17 April 2010. This one also did not reappear.
The third seal was carved of the most prestigious theme : two entwined dragons. From the Qianlong period and measuring 7.7 high with a 9.9 cm square print, it raised the bid of € 12.4 million including premium on 26 March 2011. The result was announced by the auction house as a world record.
One should not talk about world auction records. An operation is only complete when the lot is paid and delivered. This is not the case with the latter seal, which will be relisted at the same location on March 31.
It is a good opportunity to point out two exceptional prices announced by Poly from their sale in Beijing on December 6, 2011.
A small Tai Shang Huang Di cylinder seal (from the official name of Qianlong after his abdication) was sold RMB 160M including premium. The price of a Dao Guang seal, RMB 91M including premium, is also quite remarkable when considering its later date, 1831 in our calendar.
POST SALE COMMENT
The "record" is not confirmed. The seal was sold € 3.1 million before fees this year, after reaching € 12.4 million including premium one year ago.
According to the procedure of folle enchère (non-paying bidder) applicable under French law, the defaulting buyer shall pay a fine equal to the difference of the two prices, fees included. In this case involving an Asian buyer, such recovery may be difficult.
Qianlong - An Imperial Jade Seal from the Guimet Collection
2008 SOLD 63 MHK$ including premium
This seal, along with several others from the sale of October 8 in Hong Kong, comes from a collection that the French regard as an example: that of Emile Guimet, founder of a museum which remains the largest museum of Asian Art in Paris. This group had remained in the dining room of the Guimet family.
This jade seal is estimated beyond 50 MHK$ (4.34 M€)
On 13 and 15 June I discussed here the sale at 4.7 million € excluding costs of a Kangxi seal, large for this type of object, which was only in steatite but had the advantage to be presented with its original box.
The beauty of white jade and of dragons could generate a difference of price in favour of Sotheby's lot, which would be according to the auction house the largest jade seal of Qianlong.
POST SALE COMMENT
The Imperial Chinese seals are highly desirable, and their arrivals on the market generate a sustained interest.
The white jade seal, described above, was sold 63 MHK$ including fees. I noted its dimensions, which had not yet been published when I prepared my article: 12.5 x 12.5 cm.
In the same sale another Qianlong seal of the same material, 7.5 x 7.5 cm, also from the Guimet collection, was sold 37 MHK$ fees included on a low estimate of 5 MHK$. Considering its size, this result is particularly remarkable.
Qianlong - the seal of the autographs
2017 SOLD for € 1.23M including premium
Certainly passionate about this activity that helped him to define and maintain his role as the Son of Heaven, Qianlong owned no less than 1,800 seals that can be divided into two categories : the jade seals, often adorned with dragons in the round, presented to the emperor for birthdays and major events, and the seals for his common use.
On September 23 in Toulouse, Primardeco sells as lot 1 here linked on the website of the Ivoire-France auction group a seal 9.2 cm high on a square base 4.2 x 4.2 cm, exceptional by its inscription in four characters Qianlong Chen Han meaning "written with Qianlong's brush" to authenticate the writings made by his own hand. This beige steatite piece has the shape of a steep mountain incised in very low relief with scenes of good auguries including the yin and the yang.
Only one other example of Qianlong Chen Han seal is known. It is similar in form and kept to the Forbidden City of Beijing.
A seal of material, shape, size and decor similar to the lot that is now coming at auction was sold for € 600K including premium by Armor-Enchères on November 24, 2013. It inscribed a sentence coined by the emperor inspired by an ancient poem.
THE BEAUTY OF JADE
2009 SOLD 720 K$ INCLUDING PREMIUM
The gemstones are universal, but the jade is a specialty of the Far East. This very hard rock enables an artistic carving which is appreciated since ancient times. The carving may be figurative, as opposed to the cut of the diamond. Jade has a similar use as ivory.
What is most appreciated in a jade is the quality of its material, which at best is an almost translucent white. The brush pot that Christie's includes as number 433 of its specialized auction of March 18 in New York has such qualities.
Its shape is not original: it is a simple cylindrical pot 14 cm high. But the beauty of the material is enhanced by an exquisite and restrained chiselling. This object of Qianlong period shows immortals in a landscape, with other typical Chinese figures: a crane in flight, a deer, a pavilion.
The expected price is 600 K $ for this magnificent artwork.
POST SALE COMMENT
The price of this piece, K $ 720 premium included, is confirming that it was exceptional in its category.
HUANGHUALI, THE CHINESE ROSEWOOD
The precious woods of the Chinese furniture are the Zitan and the Huali, both related to rosewoods. The zitan, very dense, almost black, was used for Imperial furniture. The huali has a warmer tone, and its beautiful wood knotscontribute to its decorative effect.
The ancient huali is named Huanghuali for its color that varies from gold to purple red. The rare tree, exploited in the tropical island of Hainan, arrived in short supply during the reign of the Qing. They found a substitute, less prestigious, which was named Xinhuali (new huali).
An important event took place last May in the auction world. A Huanghuali bed was sold 32.2 million yuan by China Guardian in Beijing. It is the new assessment of a strong interest of Chinese collectors for high quality furniture even ifunrelated to the emperors.
Another Huanghuali bed, of Qing period, for sale on September 7 in Dallas by Dallas Auction Gallery, is superb. It is a canopy bed whose upper and lower railings and posts provide a large surface for openwork carvings with a greatrefinement of motifs of symbols and of lesser dragons.
2.15 m high for an area of 2.25 x 1.55 m, the bed is estimated $ 800K, and illustrated in the catalog shared by the web auction provider LiveAuctioneers.
POST SALE COMMENT
This beautiful bed appears to be unsold ("passed") on the online catalog of LiveAuctioneers. It was dated "circa 18th Century", which means that it has no history.
Imperial Green Pendant
2022 SOLD for HK$ 33M by Sotheby's
Its large melon shaped carved stone is 55 x 41 x 12.3 mm. A report from Gübelin Gem Lab assesses that this Type A jadeite possesses the richly saturated and evenly green known as imperial green combined with a high translucency and a very fine texture.
It is mounted in 18 karat white gold with a brilliant-cut diamond-set surmount. The reverse is decorated with two brilliant diamonds. The whole is hanging as a pendant to a black chord.
2019 SOLD for HK$ 25M before fees by Poly
2022 SOLD for HK$ 28.4M by Sotheby's
It is made of forty-one jadeite beads from 11.6 to 13.9 mm weighing approximately 753 carats overall.
A report from Gübelin Gem Lab assesses that this Type A jadeite possesses a richly saturated Imperial green combined with a high translucency and a fine texture.
When light passes through jadeite, the effect is a muted, enigmatic glow that is both indescribable and can fill volumes. This autumn Sotheby's Hong Kong is offering a selection of jadeite jewellery, ranging from bangles, beads and cabochon: https://t.co/bbh8fSBLcO pic.twitter.com/4jZMBgsSm5— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) September 30, 2022
1886 The Armies of Empress Cixi
2019 sold for $ 500k including premium
In 1842 the Qing dynasty comes out in ruins from the first opium war, including some subservience to the Western powers. The great rebellions begin in 1851. These civil wars are among the deadliest in history.
The lack of coordination between the Taiping and Nian rebellions is due to their very different origins. Taiping is mystically inspired. Nian is political, in response to the inability of the imperial government to prevent famine after the catastrophic flood of the Yellow River.
The immensity of the territory to be controlled is one of the causes of the very long durations of these rebellions, repressed respectively in 1864 and 1868. The two other major conflicts are Muslim rebellions, in other provinces, respectively terminated in 1873 and 1877.
At the imperial court, the dominant personality from 1861 to 1908 is Regent Cixi, with the title of Empress Dowager. The suppression of the four rebellions is a great achievement for her armies. In 1886 the father of the young Guangxu emperor orders the creation of silk paintings glorifying the imperial victories against Taiping and Nian. A little later a similar work is commissioned to commemorate the Muslim battles.
This set totaling 67 artworks is exhibited from 1890 to 1900 in a pavilion rebuilt in 1885 where Qianlong had used to celebrate his victories. The complete series of 12 paintings from one of the Muslim campaigns is kept at the Palace Museum in Beijing. The surviving pieces for the other three rebellions are rare.
The Nian series included 18 paintings. The battle scenes are remarkably detailed, with different faces and expressions for each character. Officers are identified by their name and it is considered that their faces are recognizable.
The clans are identified by their flags, five horizontal stripes for the imperials and monochrome in five variants for the rebels, and by the headdress, plait and hat for the imperial soldiers and an orange-red turban for the rebels. The armament, probably supplied to both parties by Western adventurers, is modern despite the preponderance of the cavalry.
A Nian painting 136 x 301 cm was sold for € 810K including premium by Tessier et Sarrou on June 26, 2017 despite some accidents and the absence of the inscription identifying the battle. On March 20 in New York, Sotheby's sells the Nian opus number 7, 137 x 310 cm, showing the siege of a walled city, lot 719 estimated $ 300K.
This impressive work belongs to a set of 18 paintings commissioned to commemorate the Qing military's victories over major 19th century rebellions in China. Click to view the details of this grand work, offered in our Important Chinese Art sale on 20 March https://t.co/g3dDUykU2N pic.twitter.com/x02Mb8v7pk— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) March 7, 2019