Late 18th century Painted to the reverse with opaque pigments and touches of gold, the sky unpainted revealing the silvery mirror, in a gilt wood frame. 17 9/16 x 30 1/8in (44.6 x 76.5cm)
Provenance: Purchased at Temple Williams Antiques, London, June, 1964.
The mirror plate is delicately painted with a scene depicting several high ranking Manchu ladies at leisure in a palace garden, surrounded by attendants bearing luxurious porcelains and art objects. The distinctive hairstyles and ornaments worn by the elegant group correspond to fashions of the Qianlong period. The faces of the figures are remarkable for their individuality and the intricate details of the costumes indicate the hierarchy of rank. The central figure, clothed in a dragon robe and seated on gilt lacquer furniture, inset with marble or ceramic panels, glances towards a kneeling attendant who proffers a lacquer tray bearing a gold bowl, inset with gems, and containing a steaming beverage.
Although the majority of reverse painted mirrors were produced in Guangdong and made for the European and American market, their presence in the Qianlong emperor's own collection as table screens indicates that several were made under the aegis of the emperor for his own use and enjoyment. See Nancy Berliner The Emperor's Private Paradise, Treasures from the Forbidden City, New Haven, 2010, pp. 175-177.
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