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$ 2,800,000 - 3,400,000
US$ 360,000 - 430,000

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.


  • 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.



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  1. Xibo Wang
    Specialist - Chinese Works of Art
    Hong Kong
    Hong Kong
    Work +852 3607 0010
    FaxFax: +852 2918 4320
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