An extremely rare horn and lacquer lantern Qianlong/ Jiaqing
Lot 449
An extremely rare horn and lacquer lantern Qianlong/ Jiaqing
£50,000 - 80,000
US$ 85,000 - 140,000
Auction Details
Lot Details
An extremely rare horn and lacquer lantern
Qianlong/ Jiaqing
The ten-lobed melon-shaped lantern applied on each lobe with alternating descending dragon and phoenix amidst colourful cloud scrolls composed of enamelled horn sections, below a gilt-lacquer crown adorned with ruyi-heads, lotus-petal panels, floral scrolls, key-fret and wave borders surmounted by the everted openwork lotus sprays divided by flanges, and above a similar spreading base suspending strings of glass-beads, all suspended from the gilt multi-coloured lacquer five-petal crown with woven seed-pearls and glass strings and tassels, decorated with openwork borders below the everted lotus shaped petals each with stylised archaistic dragons flanking a ruyi-head enclosing a shou character in the centre, all below the openwork superstructure and encircled by five glass-inlaid gilt bronze cloud pins suspending long tassels and mother-of-pearl plaques. (14).

Footnotes

  • Imperial lanterns such as the present lot served a double purpose of lighting and adorning the Imperial palaces. A painting attributed to Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766) in the Palace Museum, titled Emperor Qianlong's Pleasure during Snowy Weather, circa 1738, depicts the Emperor amidst his children between two related globular lamps suspending tassels; see Chuimei Ho and B.Bronson, Splendors of China's Forbidden City: The Glorious Reign of Emperor Qianlong, London, 2004, pl.232. Other similar and related Imperial lanterns still adorn the halls of the Forbidden City, composed from materials such as horn, lacquer, glass, cloisonné, tassels and beads, see Wan Yi, Wang Shuqing and Lu Yanzhen, eds., Classics of the Forbidden City: Life in the Forbidden City of Qing Dynasty, Beijing, 2007, pls.176-177 and see also another painting depicting the Qianlong Emperor below two related lanterns, ibid., pl.430. Lanterns in the Chu Xiu Gong and Chang Chun Gong, the Forbidden City, are illustrated in Ming Qing gongting jiazhu daguan, vol.II, Beijing, 2006, pls.776 and ibid., vol.I, pls.413-414. Another similar horn lantern (but missing the upper section), attributed as early 18th century, reportedly from the Summer Palace, Chengde and now in the British Museum (no.1942,0714.1), is illustrated by R.Soame Jenyns in Chinese Art, vol.III, Oxford, 1981, pl.149. See also Yang Boda, Tributes from Guangdong to the Imperial Court, Hong Kong, 1987, fig.11 for a lamp in the Eastern Chamber of the Yangxin Hall in the Forbidden City, and idem, fig.14 for a lamp in the Western Chamber of the same Yangxin Hall; the author notes that this hall was where the Imperial workshops were located in the 18th/19th century.

    Lord Macartney's important account of his Embassy to the Imperial Court, Beijing, in 1793-1794 describes the method by which horn lanterns were made:

    "The usual method of managing them, according to the information obtained on the spot, is to bind the horn by immersion in boiling water, after which it is cut open and flattened; it then easily scales and is separated into two or three thin laminae or plates. In order that these plates should be made to join, they are exposed to the penetrating effect of steam, by which they are rendered almost perfectly soft. In this state the edges of the pieces to be joined are carefully scraped and slanted off so that pieces overlapping each other shall together exceed the thickness of the plate of any other part. By applying the edges thus prepared immediately to each other and pressing them with pincers, they intimately adhere, and, incorporating, form one substance, similar in every respect to the other parts, and thus uniform pieces of horn may be prepared to almost any extent." see ibid., note to pl.149.
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