A magnificent and large pair of Imperial cloisonné enamel cranes 18th/19th century
Lot 251W
A magnificent and large pair of Imperial cloisonné enamel cranes
18th/19th century
£150,000 - 200,000
US$ 230,000 - 310,000

Lot Details
A magnificent and large pair of Imperial cloisonné enamel cranes 18th/19th century A magnificent and large pair of Imperial cloisonné enamel cranes 18th/19th century
A magnificent and large pair of Imperial cloisonné enamel cranes
18th/19th century
Each majestic crane superbly cast and enamelled with tall slender legs in gilt bronze ending in four-clawed feet, the separately-cast body covered with white enamel streaked with gold to simulate soft feathers leading up the elegantly-curving neck to the small rounded head capped with a red cranium above the expressive eyes flanking the sharp gilded beak, the body ending in feathers brightly and naturalistically enamelled blue, green and black, and further covered with another layer of separately-cast feathers, each bird supported on a rounded mountain of overlapping layers of hills decorated with pink flowers, all upon a hexagonal stand fringed with a reticulated fence set upon a band of keyfret above two rows of lappets formed from crashing waves between bands of cloisonné panels with floral scrolls.
Each 218cm (85¾in) high (8).

Footnotes

  • Provenance: an Italian private collection

    十八/十九世紀 御製掐絲琺瑯仙鶴一對

    來源: 意大利私人收藏

    This magnificent pair, measuring over two metres high, would have adorned an Imperial throne hall, flanking the throne. Their majestic graceful form and impressive size would have served to impress upon those present the importance of the stately room as well as reinforcing their auspicious symbolism.

    Cloisonné enamel cranes standing on either side of the throne in Imperial halls can be seen in the Forbidden City in the Taihedian (Hall of Supreme Harmony), the largest and most important building in the Forbidden City, popularly known as the 'Throne Hall'; and in the Qianqinggong (Palace of Heavenly Purity), which was another major throne room in the Palace during the 18th century. Similar cloisonné enamel cranes serving as pricket candlesticks holders can be found on either side of the throne in the Forbidden City's Changchungong (Palace of Eternal Spring). Another related example, with pricket candlesticks (146cm high), can be seen in the Shenyang Palace and is illustrated in The Prime Cultural Relics Collected by Shenyang Imperial Palace Museum: The Enamel Volume, 2007, pp.88-89.

    These magnificent cranes are an extravagant reflection of the auspicious beliefs attached to red-capped cranes by the Chinese Court. According to legend, cranes could live for one thousand years or more and thus have become associated with long life. In the context of the Imperial palaces they conveyed the wish for the Emperor to live long. The Chinese word for crane is he, which is a homophone for the word for harmony, and thus cranes represent peace. Their long legs were described as resonating with the harmonies of nature and Heaven. The present cranes are modelled standing on top of undulating mountain peaks strewn with flowers and lingzhi fungus, reinforcing the wish for longevity. These mountains most probably symbolise the mythical mountain on the island of Penglai, said to be in the eastern end of Bohai sea, and home to the Eight Immortals.

    A smaller pair (96.8cm high) of cloisonné enamel crane censers and covers, similarly modelled standing on top of a fenced tiered stand, Qianlong marks and of the period, from the Qing Court Collection, is illustrated by Zheng Xinmiao, ed., in Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum: Enamels, vol.3, Cloisonné in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Beijing and Hefei, 2011, pl.18. The stands of the Palace Museum Qianlong cranes are similar in general form but do not have the impressive mountain peaks used to further elevate the cranes and to reinforce the imagery and mythical symbolism. However, related mountain peaks are present on two pairs of smaller cloisonné enamel cranes (114cm and 136.5cm respectively) from the Palace Museum, Beijing, dated as Mid-Qing Dynasty, and illustrated ibid., vol.4, pls.70 and 71; similar stands also appear on the Shennyang Palace crane, dated as Qianlong, ibid. pp.88-89. This would indeed suggest an attribution of the present monumental pair of cranes to the Qianlong or Jiaqing reign period.

    For another related example of cranes (184cm high) see Zhang Xin, ed., Colorful, Elegant, And Exquisite: A Special Exhibition of Imperial Enamel Ware from Mr. Robert Chang's Collection, 2007, pp.70-71. Compare a related pair of double cranes also standing atop peaked mountains scattered with flowers but above waves, attributed to the Yongzheng period, sold at Christie's Hong Kong on 1 December 2012, lot 2983. A similar pair of cranes was sold by Christie's London on 1 April 1968, lot 139, attributed as late 18th century; and another pair sold at Christie's London on 6 November 1973, Lot 239.
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