A very rare Imperial gilt-bronze hat stand Qianlong
Lot 67
A very rare Imperial gilt-bronze hat stand
£ 80,000 - 120,000
US$ 110,000 - 160,000

Lot Details
A very rare Imperial gilt-bronze hat stand Qianlong A very rare Imperial gilt-bronze hat stand Qianlong A very rare Imperial gilt-bronze hat stand Qianlong A very rare Imperial gilt-bronze hat stand Qianlong
A very rare Imperial gilt-bronze hat stand
Unusually formed as a gilt-bronze elephant with harness studded with coloured glass beads and flowers and suspending seed pearl tassels, the ornate floral repoussé saddle supporting a kneeling figure of a European in a frock coat with arms raised to hold a flat octagonal tray upon his head, the tray bearing a lobed vase covered in filigree white metal overlaid with glass flowers and enamelled leafy scrolls, with five standing ruyi sceptres balanced on the rim of the vase made from gilt bronze and set with various semi-precious stones including jadeite, lapis lazuli and rose quartz surrounded by Buddhist Emblems, the heads of the sceptres supporting a circular box chased on the exterior with leafy scrolls, the separate lining joined with a screw fastening to the cover also chased and scrollwork and inlaid with yellow, red, blue and green cut glass beads imitating precious stones in a floral arrangement, the stand all based on a very dark blue and opaque white glass chequered floor.
49cm (19¼in) high


  • 清乾隆 御製銅鎏金嵌百寶象式冠架

    Provenance: a German private collection, acquired by the father of the present owner in China prior to 1936.


    The gilt-bronze and filigree semi-precious stone inset hat-stand stands amongst the finest works of art made in the Imperial workshops in Guangzhou for the Imperial court during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. Hat stands were made for the Imperial court in various materials from porcelain, to cloisonné enamel, jade, painted enamel on copper, bamboo and other mediums. The present hat stand is extremely rare and no other similar example appears to have been published.

    In its superb craftsmanship and decorative style it is reminiscent of the impressive clocks made in Europe for the Imperial court and those of similar style produced in the Imperial workshops in Guangzhou as tribute for the Qing court. This is evident in the various decorative elements which will be discussed below:

    The very fine 'checkerboard' black and white enamelled rectangular base is very similar to that engraved on a gilt bronze pedestal on an automaton clock made by William Carpenter, circa 1780, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (see I.White, English Clocks for the Eastern Markets, Ticehurst, Sussex, 2012, p.231). An interesting anecdote related to this design is Lord Macartney's note on 23 August 1793 during his embassy to meet the Qianlong Emperor, describing in his journal the floor of the great throne hall in the Yuanming Yuan as made '[...]of chequered marble, grey and white, with neat mats laid upon it in different places to walk upon.' (see Lord Macartney, An Embassy to China: Being the Journal kept by Lord Macartney during his embassy to the Emperor Ch'ien-lung 1793-1794, ed.J.L.Cranmer-Byng, 1962, p.95).

    The elephant is symbolic of strength and wisdom and when combined with a vase as in the present piece (supported by a kneeling European figure) represents the wish for peaceful times. The elephant is a popular symbol in Chinese art and depicted in various mediums. The use of an animal as the supporting and central element can be seen on other clocks made for the Chinese market, also using the forms of deer, crane, horse, bull, lion and ram. Compare several clocks with gilt-bronze elephants from the Qing Court Collection in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated by White, ibid. pp.188,192-3 figs.7.32 and 7.36-7 and see also Liao Pin, Clocks and Watches of the Qing Dynasty - From the Collection in the Forbidden City, Beijing, 2002, p.73, pl.40. It is possible that the use of elephants originated in clocks made by the renowned London clock makers William Carpenter and James Cox who used gilt-bronze elephants as supports and whose clocks were amongst those included in the Imperial collection during the Qianlong period (see Liao Pin, ibid. pp.110-1, pl.71; and Schatten uit de Verboden Stad - Treasures from the Forbidden City, Museum Speelklok, Utrecht, 2010, p.91, fig.2.1). The caparisoned elephant is adorned with inlaid pastiche glass and semi-precious stones typical of the workmanship in the late 18th century.

    The gilt-bronze figure kneeling on the back of the elephant supporting a vase, can be identified as European by his buttoned long coat with lace adorned sleeves, scarf and the neatly tied queue at the back of the neck. A similarly poised figure can be seen in a James Cox clock in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated by I.White, ibid. p.188, fig.7.32. The filigree and enamel pastiche-glass inlaid lobed vase, forming the pun for peace, is formed after a porcelain shaped vase.

    Among the more remarkable and rare features on this hat stand are the five semi-precious-stone-inlaid gilt-bronze ruyi sceptres forming the supports for the hat and the engraved box and cover. The ruyi further reinforce the wish for peace, strength and wisdom and are decorated with bats suspending peach, the Endless Knot and other auspicious symbols. These represent the wish for good fortune and happiness (fu) and longevity. A related example of the use of ruyi as means of supporting a hat with a perfumier box and cover in the centre can be seen in a painted enamel on copper hat stand of the Qianlong period, from the Museum of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, illustrated by J.Getz, Catalogue of the Avery Collection of Ancient Chinese Cloisonnés, New York, NY, 1912, p.72, no.143.

    The cover of the separate box and cover is inlaid with pastiche glass and its radiating floral form is similar to rotating pastiche-glass inlaid flowers decorating clock automatons.

    There is no doubt that the present remarkable hat stand was inspired in its subject matter, design and quality by the finest European clocks made for the Chinese market in the 18th century. Its particular purpose and the clever use of the ruyi shape to form supports for the hat, clearly point to the ingenious adaptation by the Imperial workshops in Guangzhou and is a testament to their superb craftsmanship and innovation.



    冠架的底座如同黑白棋盤的四方形格紋,與William Carpenter約1780年製作的自動機械鐘上的銅鎏金底座非常相似,此鐘現藏於倫敦維多利亞與艾爾伯特博物館,見I.White編《English Clocks for the Eastern Markets》,薩塞克斯,2012年, 頁231。關於這個設計,有一則趣聞軼事曾記敘在Macartney勳爵於1793年8月23日覲見乾隆皇帝時所寫的筆記。據記載,「圓明園大殿內以大理石鋪地,地板都嵌成灰白格紋,在不同的位置上也整齊地鋪了地毯...」,詳見Macartney勳爵編《An Embassy to China: Being the Journal kept by Lord Macartney during his embassy to the Emperor Ch'ien-lung 1793-1794》, J.L.Cranmer-Byng,1962年,頁95。

    大象在中國傳統文化裡是吉祥和太平的象徵,也是強壯與智慧的化身。象馱寶瓶的圖案取「瓶」與「平」之同音,寓意著「太平有象」,如同此拍品。大象在中國藝術上是一個十分受歡迎的吉祥圖案,因此也用在不同的材料上。在其他為中國宮廷製作的西洋鐘上也能看見運用了動物來做支柱和主要元素,例如鹿,鶴,馬,公牛,獅子和羊。可參考其他清宮舊藏的銅鎏金象式鐘,現藏於北京故宮博物院,見White編同書,頁188,192-193,圖7.32和7.36-7.37。另一件例子,可參考廖平編《清宮鐘錶集萃:北京故宮珍藏》,北京,2002年,頁73,圖版40。倫敦著名鐘錶大師William Carpenter 和James Cox可能是首位鐘錶匠以大象作為鐘的造型。他們以銅鎏金大象作為鐘的支柱,例子可參見乾隆時期的宮廷珍藏,見廖平編同書,頁110-111,圖版71;及烏特勒支博物館編,《Schatten uit de Verboden Stad - Treasures from the Forbidden City》,烏特勒支,2010年,頁91,圖2.1。大象配鞍,再嵌上玻璃及百寶是十八世紀晚期典型的工藝。

    此拍品上騎在象背的銅鎏金人物托著寶瓶,從服飾風格上可辨認為歐洲人。北京故宮博物院藏有一件James Cox製的西洋鐘,鐘上的人物與本拍品類似,詳見I.White編同書,頁188,圖7.32。人物托著的寶瓶以瓷瓶作為藍本,運用了纍絲及嵌琺瑯玻璃的工藝,呈瓜棱形,此瓶有太平的寓意。

    另外值得注意的是鐘的頂部設有五件銅鎏金如意作為冠帽與圓蓋盒的支托,每一件如意嵌有寶石,實屬難得一見。如意意味著如意吉祥,稱心如意,也寓意平安、強壯與智慧,加上蝙蝠桃紋、如意結和其他吉祥物,此物有福壽雙全的象徵。布魯克林博物館藏的一件乾隆時期的銅胎畫琺瑯冠架有類似的結構,也是以如意作為冠帽與蓋盒的支托,參見J.Getz編《Catalogue of the Avery Collection of Ancient Chinese Cloisonnés》,紐約,1912年,頁72,編號143。


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Lot symbols
Item contains ruby or jadeite

Please note that as a result of recent legislation ruby and jadeite gem stones of Burmese (Myanmar) origin may not be imported into the US. Rubies and jadeite of non-Burmese origin require certification before import into the US.

  1. Gigi Yu
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