A very fine Canton enamel and gilt 'Imperial-tribute' pavilion clock Mid Qing dynasty
Lot 398
A very fine Canton enamel and gilt 'Imperial-tribute' pavilion clock
Mid Qing dynasty
HK$ 2.8 million - 3.4 million
US$ 360,000 - 440,000

Lot Details
A very fine Canton enamel and gilt 'Imperial-tribute' pavilion clock Mid Qing dynasty A very fine Canton enamel and gilt 'Imperial-tribute' pavilion clock Mid Qing dynasty
A very fine Canton enamel and gilt 'Imperial-tribute' pavilion clock
Mid Qing dynasty
Exquisitely crafted as a European garden pavilion, the main body of an arched trapezoid shape raised above Baroque-style cabriole feet at the four corners, surmounted by a square domed marquee ending in an urn finial at the tip, the blue-ground body enriched with a lustrous arrowhead and floral diaper pattern, the mounted decorative details around the edges raised in relief and carefully picked out in gold, particularly an elaborate pierced oval cartouche decorated with floral sprays and issuing foliate trimmings on each side, the front mountings around the door further inset with encrusted glass beaded border in alternating ruby red and white colours, the roof with oval panels showing garden fountains issuing blossoming flowers in bright tones of violet, pink, yellow and lavender on a white ground, the enamelled circular dial set with minute and hour hands showing Roman and Arabic numerals, within encircling floral shrubs above a turquoise ground, all beneath a forest scene featuring automata movements simulating running a tiger, boar and elephant, all before a backdrop of vertical glass rods simulating rain or a waterfall, the rear door opening to reveal the movement with three turn-dials, a weighted pendulum, the triple fusee movement with verge escapement striking the hour on a bell and playing on a run of bells and hammers, the backplate engraved with a signature within a shaped cartouche surrounded by foliate scrolls and an engraved running border.
44.8cm high.

Footnotes

  • 清中期 銅鎏金畫琺瑯轉花活動山水動物樂鐘

    Provenance 來源:
    The Jingguantang Collection, Hong Kong
    Christie's Hong Kong, 27 April 1997, lot 85
    A private Asian collection

    It has always been a fascination of the Imperial Court to pursue and study astronomy, which reflects the auspicious and cultural importance of calendars in every aspect of the Chinese social hierarchy. Mastering time and the calendar solidified the Emperor's position as the Son of Heaven having divine powers and the ability to control the mysterious universe.

    The Canton enamel 'Imperial-tribute' pavilion-style clock not only serves its function of telling the time, but is also a window into the fruitful period of the Chinese forging unique long-lasting foreign trade relations, as well as laying the foundations which have resulted in centuries of cultural exchange between the East and the West.

    During the period of turmoil towards the end of the Ming dynasty where the high seas were riddled with Japanese pirates, the Ming authorities enforced a strict iron-curtain policy by banning all maritime and inland trade routes, successfully isolating China from the rest of the world. Even the Spanish missionary Francis Xavier (1506-1552) who attempted to bring Christianity to China during the thirty-first year of the Jiajing period (1552), was denied access to Guangdong at that period.

    It is recorded that during the tenth year of the Wanli period (1582), a rare opportunity arose for two Jesuit priests, Michaele Ruggieri (1543-1607) and Francisco Pasio (1554-1612). They presented to the Governor of Guangdong a Western chiming clock; a fascinating and curious piece of ornate machinery which had never been seen or heard of by the Chinese. Ricci embarked on a perilous journey north to Beijing, and after six years of arduous traveling he arrived at the capital, where he presented to the Wanli Emperor, two chiming clocks.

    The Kangxi Emperor (1654–1722) in particular had great enthusiasm for Western science and technology and developed a strong passion for chiming clocks. It is recorded that the Kangxi emperor composed a poem titled 'The Chanting of the Chiming Clock', which translates and reads, 'methods originating from the West, taught us with a keen heart. Wheels circle on a quarterly basis, hands move according to minutes. Dawn needs not to be announced, golden clock reports in advance. Work hard on government affairs in the morning, memorials are never completed in a later manner.' The extract serves to show that not only was the Kangxi emperor very well acquainted with the mechanics of chiming clocks, but also stated his appreciation for chiming clocks as well as how important he regarded their functions to be in the passage of government affairs.

    The Qianlong Emperor (1711-1799) most definitely acquired his refined taste in clocks from his grandfather. Under the rule of the Qianlong Emperor, both the country and society were stable; the Court enjoying the luxuries of life including appreciation of expensive toys and garnitures. The Qianlong Emperor not only had many clocks imported from Europe, but specifically ordered by decree for both his Chinese and European clockmakers from the Imperial workshops to create and replicate these timepieces. These skilled artisans were given priority access to an assortment of expensive raw materials, including gold, jade, lacquer, ivory, gemstones and sandalwood; all working hard and determined to make every clock with unique and resplendent styles in homage to their foreign counterparts. References to the Imperial workshops making timepieces were found dating back to 1723, where production began during the Yongzheng period. It is also recorded that there were once as many as three thousand four hundred and thirty-one timepieces on display within the Imperial palace at one time, by request of the emperor. It is interesting to note that the Imperial court recruited many clockmakers from the south, known as 'South Clockmakers' from Guangdong, Fujian, Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces; artisans who excelled at producing Imperial timepieces such as the current lot.

    The current lot would have been an important Imperial-tribute timepiece presented by the regional officials to the emperor. Custom officers from the Guangdong province would have considered the collection of such timepieces as a matter of utmost importance; they would often acquire them through the bustling trade in Guangdong, or even go as far as confiscating them from local magnates and merchants.

    Compare a related pavilion-style clock in the Imperial collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Momentos da Eternidade. Coleccao de Relogios do Nuseu do Palacio, Macau, 2004, pp.54-55. This Palace example resembles to the current lot and is decorated in a style which is similar in many respects, including the use of red glass beads, gilt copper finials at the extremities and layers of scenery above the clock face set with movements and vertical glass rods.

    此鐘為徐展堂靜觀堂收藏,並於1997年4月27日於香港佳士得出售,編號85。康乾盛世時期,國家社會穩定,生活富裕。自康熙朝開始,皇帝即對西洋科技尤其西洋自鳴鐘情有獨鍾,至乾隆一朝,乾隆皇帝好古求新,除熱衷於古物及書畫外,亦沉迷於海外舶來之新奇品,其中西洋鐘錶則由原來的西方先進機械科學轉變為皇宮中高級玩具及奢侈觀賞擺設。此時除直接從歐洲進口的鐘錶外,乾隆帝亦下旨命宮廷內外歐洲及廣東鐘錶技師仿造西洋製造各種奇鐘。

    廣州是清代機械鐘錶製造的重要中心之一,亦是中國最早接觸西洋自鳴鐘的地區。廣州還是當時中西方貿易的中心,由外國進口的西洋大鐘大量在廣州集散。廣州當地鐘錶製造業既是在這樣的條件誕生,而地方官員則藉此作為貢品獻給皇帝,使清宮成為廣州鐘錶最集中的典藏寶地。用於進貢宮廷的廣州鐘錶尤以其表面鮮豔琺瑯彩及細密繁縟裝飾花紋最為突出,此鐘便為一佳例。

    清宮舊藏中,亦有與本鐘相似的西洋鐘原型,著錄與澳門藝術博物館編,《日昇月恆:故宮珍藏鐘錶文物》,澳門,2004年,頁54-55,對比可見其對廣州畫琺瑯鐘之影響。另見同著錄中其他乾隆時期廣州製宮廷進貢鐘,頁298-328。而當時面向民間市場的廣東鐘,與此類宮廷進貢畫琺瑯鐘無論是設計還是內部機械結構都無法相提並論。
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