A rare imperial gilt-bronze and hardstone and glass embellished 'double phoenix' vessel and liner Qianlong (2)

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Lot 270
A rare imperial gilt-bronze and hardstone and glass embellished 'double phoenix' vessel and liner
Qianlong

Sold for £ 482,500 (US$ 625,446) inc. premium
The Property of a Gentleman 士紳藏品
A rare imperial gilt-bronze and hardstone and glass embellished 'double phoenix' vessel and liner
Qianlong
Expertly cast as two phoenix perched symmetrically on rockwork and gazing proudly up at a gnarled trunk forming the neck of the vessel, the crests, eyes, neck feathers, wings and long curling tails of the birds intricately inlaid with glass and hardstones including finely banded agate, lapis lazuli and quartz enriching the delicately incised gilt-bronze body feathers, the trunk similarly embellished with ruyi-shaped stones, the liner fitting snugly into the open mouth, and further ruyi-shaped stones issuing from branches around the rockwork base, the underside incised with a double vajra symbol.
21.2cm (8 3/8in) high (2).

Footnotes

  • 清乾隆 銅鎏金嵌寶雙鳳式花插

    Provenance: a European private collection

    來源: 歐洲私人收藏

    The gilt-bronze and hardstone embellished 'double-phoenix' vessel is an exceptional example of Qing magnificence at its peak. It is exemplary of the sumptuous Imperial taste during the Qianlong period. It demonstrates the remarkable casting, chasing and lapidary skills achieved during this celebrated period with no expense spared in its lavish production. In form and technique it is inspired by archaic bronze inlaid vessels of the Han dynasty, thereby combining Qianlong-period craft opulence with the emperor's call for inspiration by archaic periods and their associated respected morals. See the Qing Dynasty Compilation of Inspected Antiquities (Ning Shou Jian Gu, Xi Qing Si Jian), Vol.14, and related Qianlong period example, illustrated by The Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong Ltd., Art & Imitation in China, Hong Kong, 2006, Catalogue no.25.

    The mythical phoenix, considered the King of Birds, is associated with the direction South and takes the 'female' yin position when coupled with its counterpart in the animal kingdom, the dragon, representing the 'male' yang position. This symbolism is further underlined in the present lot as the original sealed base of vessel is finely engraved with a beribboned double vajra piercing four ruyi-shaped cloud scrolls encircling a central Yin and Yang medallion framed by lotus blossoms. The Buddhist engraved decoration on the base would indicate that this vessel and others similar to it may have been made as ritual vessels.

    As the Emperor was symbolised by the dragon, the phoenix evolved to represent the Empress. The phoenix is said to appear only during the reigns of righteous emperors and in times of peace, therefore further symbolising peaceful and benevolent times and good fortune. The present pair of phoenix are cast standing beside a tree trunk; thus representing All under heaven, 'tian xia', further reinforcing the imperial context. A double phoenix multiplies this symbolism and its auspicious representations.

    A very similar, but slightly shorter, gilt bronze double-phoenix and tree trunk hardstone-embellished vessel, Qianlong, with a similar engraved base, is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (inv.no.M.743-1910). See also a similar example (19.5cm high) sold at Christie's Hong Kong from the collection of Comte Fitick, on 29 September 1992, lot 911, which may be the pair to the present lot. Compare a related but smaller gilt-bronze and hardstone-embellished standing double-phoenix vessels, Qianlong, sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong on 8 October 2009, lot 1734 (15.3cm high from the Rothschild Family Collection, Paris) and at Christie's New York on 26 March 2010, lot 1179 (19.7cm high). However the present lot appears to be unique in retaining its original foliate-rim liner.

    The menagerie of related mythical-beast vessels similarly cast in gilt bronze and finely embellished with hardstones, Qianlong, includes vessels in the form of a qilin variously cast either with a tree-trunk-shaped neck, a gnarled funnel or as an incense burner and cover with the head forming the cover; and 'Yingxiong' incense burners in the form of a bird atop a mythical beast. For examples from the collection of the National Palace Museum, see the one illustrated in A Special Exhibition of Incense Burners and Perfumers Throughout the Dynasties, Taipei, 1994, no.119; and also Christopher Bruckner Asian Art Gallery, Chinese Imperial Treasures from Temples and Palaces, London, Catalogue no.28, pp.82-85; and Sotheby's Hong Kong, 23 October 2005, lot 396.
Contacts
A rare imperial gilt-bronze and hardstone and glass embellished 'double phoenix' vessel and liner Qianlong (2)
A rare imperial gilt-bronze and hardstone and glass embellished 'double phoenix' vessel and liner Qianlong (2)
A rare imperial gilt-bronze and hardstone and glass embellished 'double phoenix' vessel and liner Qianlong (2)
A rare imperial gilt-bronze and hardstone and glass embellished 'double phoenix' vessel and liner Qianlong (2)
A rare imperial gilt-bronze and hardstone and glass embellished 'double phoenix' vessel and liner Qianlong (2)
A rare imperial gilt-bronze and hardstone and glass embellished 'double phoenix' vessel and liner Qianlong (2)
A rare imperial gilt-bronze and hardstone and glass embellished 'double phoenix' vessel and liner Qianlong (2)
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