An Imperial pair of gilt-lacquer cabinets Qianlong
Lot 390W
A pair of important gilt-lacquer cabinets 18th century, Japanese, probably for the Chinese Imperial Court
£80,000 - 120,000
US$ 98,000 - 150,000

Lot Details
A pair of Imperial gilt-lacquer cabinets Qianlong An Imperial pair of gilt-lacquer cabinets Qianlong An Imperial pair of gilt-lacquer cabinets Qianlong An Imperial pair of gilt-lacquer cabinets Qianlong An Imperial pair of gilt-lacquer cabinets Qianlong
A pair of important gilt-lacquer cabinets
18th century, Japanese, probably for the Chinese Imperial Court
Each elaborately constructed as a central two-doored cabinet surrounded by three friezed compartments at the top and three low compartments at the bottom and two shelves on either side, the external sides filled with diagonal struts, one on each side with a pierced area diagonally across, all raised on an aproned platform on four straight legs, all the woodwork covered in black lacquer and gilded and the interior and exterior with Japanese genre scenes of huts in mountain landscapes with small figures, the tops each gilded with five cranes in flight over a riverscape, and the backs painted in gold with scattered blossoms including ivy, iris, aster and prunus.
Each 99.4cm x 39.4cm x 126.5cm high (39 1/8in x 15½in x 49¾in high) (2).


  • 十八世紀 御製黑漆描金山水人物圖多寶格一對

    Provenance: Luis Valera y Delavat (1870-1926), Marquis de Villasinda, Spanish diplomat in Beijing, circa 1900, and thence by descent. According to the family, the pair of cabinets was acquired at that time and originated in the Forbidden City.

    來源:Luis Valera y Delavat (1870-1926)藏品,並由其家族繼承下去。Luis Valera y Delavat來自Marquis de Villasinda,是約1900年西班牙駐北京的外交官。根據其家族,此拍品於當時獲得,並來自紫禁城。

    Luis Valera y Delavat (1870-1926) Marquis de Villasinda, diplomat and writer, was sent in July 1900 by the government of Spain to China as Secretary, with special powers to defend Spanish interests after the Boxer rebellion. Before travelling to China he served in the Spanish embassies in Brussels and Vienna, and later was Minister Plenipotentiary in Tangier (1911-1913). In 1916 he was appointed as ambassador to Russia, where he lived through the revolution and fall of the Tsars. Further diplomatic appointments included Lisbon and finally the Holy See. Expert and great art collector, the Marquis de Villasinda wrote several books, the most important of these being Shadow Plays, in which he chronicles the perilous journey from Hong Kong to Beijing, a few days prior to the end of the siege of the Diplomatic Legations in Beijing and the immediate aftermath.

    The present rare pair of Imperial cabinets is very similar to a pair of gilt-lacquer cabinets in the Forbidden City, in the Yucuixuan ('Bower of Purest Joy'), a hall within the Ningshougong ('Palace of Tranquility and Longevity'), the Qianlong Emperor's private palace designed for his retirement. One of the pair of the Palace Museum cabinets is illustrated by N.Berliner, The Emperor's Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City, New Haven, 2010, pl.54, p.178 and Catalogue no.18, pp.220-221; see also pp.179, and 191. For a related gilt-lacquer cabinet from the Palace Museum, Beijing, see Collections of the Palace Museum: Painted Furniture, Beijing, 2009, pl.97.

    'In my Eighties, exhausted from diligent service, I will cultivate myself, rejecting worldly noise' (the Qianlong Emperor, from a poem pasted in the Fuwangge, 1776, quoted by Berliner, ibid. p.94)

    Out of reverence to the Kangxi Emperor who ruled for 60 years, the Qianlong Emperor vowed not to out-rule his grandfather. Twenty years ahead of the planned retirement date, the Emperor set about planning his retirement quarters and chose the Ningshougong in the Northeast section of the Forbidden City. In the traditional manner, the palace was to echo the composition of the Forbidden City.

    The Qianlong Emperor was very much involved in the design and decoration of the complex, and indeed in the embellishment of the Yucuixuan, as demonstrated by the following Imperial edict:

    'On the 22nd day of the second month, eunuch Hu Shijie passed on the decrees: in the central room, within the partition, on the Western wall of Yucuixuan in the Tranquility and Longevity Palace, have Wang Youxue and others paint a xianfa painting'

    The Yucuixuan trompe-l'oeil mural provides us with the atmosphere and setting for the pair of the Palace Museum cabinets; see Berliner, ibid. pl.57, p.186. It is very likely that the present pair of cabinets, so similar to the Palace Museum ones, could have come from the Forbidden City and most probably from the Ningshougong and may have been part of a set of cabinets furnishing the Yucuixian.

    In 1793 the Qianlong Emperor composed a poem in the Yucuixuan, encapsulating the importance of this hall:

    'At the foot of the artificial mountain, winding and delicate, the jade-green bamboo sways and swishes. The high wall obstructs the wind. It has the delight of jade. I'm afraid a painting cannot capture its spirit. Inside I cultivate my purity. Do not say it is an empty room'.

    The wish of the emperor to preserve his creation resonates to this day:

    'These purified rooms, these Buddhist buildings, they are here today, there is no need to destroy them. These palace halls, they should always be as they are today'.

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  1. Asaph Hyman
    Specialist - Chinese Works of Art
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 20 7468 5888
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