A pair of massive Imperial zitan rectangular panels Mid-Qing Dynasty (2)

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Lot 50 W
A pair of massive Imperial zitan rectangular panels
Mid-Qing Dynasty

HK$ 6,000,000 - 8,000,000
US$ 770,000 - 1,000,000
A pair of massive Imperial zitan rectangular panels
Mid-Qing Dynasty
Each towering panel lavishly decorated in high relief with circular cartouches above larger rectangular ones, each enclosing intricately carved various antiques, including several archaistic bronze vessels, incense burners, hand scrolls, brushpots, ruyi sceptres, inkstones, carvings and other scholarly objects, all set within a continuous meander of Rococo-style acanthus leaves borne on leafy tendrils with seashells, intertwined around a geometric scroll lattice bordered by later jichimu frames. Each: 164cm (64 1/2in) long x 84cm (33in) wide (2).


  • 清中期 紫檀雕西番蓮紋博古圖大屏一對

    Provenance 來源:
    Marcel Proust (1871–1922), and thence by descent, by repute


    Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust (1871-1922) was a renowned French novelist, author of the famous seven-volume novel À la recherche du temps perdu, written between 1913 and 1927, based on Proust's personal life told from a psychological and allegorical point of view. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest authors of all time. Proust's father, Adrien Achille Proust (1834-1903), was a prominent pathologist and epidemiologist, dedicated to the research and study of the cholera disease. It is known that Proust senior dedicated his life to this medical field and travelled extensively to Asia. For his services and exceptional contribution to the understanding of how to control cholera, he was conferred the distinction of Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur in 1892.

    Zitan was exceptionally prized in China, particularly by the imperial court during the Ming and Qing dynasties. By the early Qing dynasty, zitan was very expensive, as supply had dwindled dramatically from excessive lumbering activities throughout the preceding Ming period. As zitan trees require centuries to fully mature into usable material, stockpiled wood from the Ming dynasty and imported supplies from the South Pacific islands were used to manufacture many pieces.

    During the Qing dynasty, the production of palace furniture was commissioned and carefully monitored by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Zaobanchu 造辦處. Records such as the Neiwufu Zaobanchu huojidang reveal that the court issued instructions for the search and purchase of zitan and other valuable timber from private hands as imported supplies were low during the 18th century; see Guo Fuxiang, The Art of Furniture-Making in Imperial China, 2nd Century BC - 18th Century, Barcelona, 2006, pp.111 and 113.

    The present pair of panels, with elegantly scrolling acanthus leaves and seashells, continues the tradition of adapting European Rococo-style motifs and aesthetics showing three-dimensional form and space, which flourished under the Yongzheng and Qianlong reigns. In Chinese, such décor was coined Xiyang huawen, or 'Western decorative pattern', and reflected the fascination and taste for the style and splendour of Western aesthetics. From the 17th century, the Qing court became increasingly open to accommodate Western innovations, culture and influences. Starting from the Yongzheng period and up to the Daoguang period, there was a rise in popularity for the construction of European-style architecture in China, with the Western palaces in the vast Imperial Summer Palace complex, Yuanmingyuan, north of Beijing, being the finest of such examples. Furnishings for the interiors of these palaces were made with corresponding European influences in order to suit and match the magnificently elaborate and luxurious Western-style architecture. Zitan examples tended to be of the most exceptional quality, with craftsmen exercising their full talent of skill and creativity to create masterful works of art, as demonstrated in this lot.

    Shells, with their delicate interlacing of natural curves were quintessential to French Rococo-style. The word rococo, derives from the French word Rocaille and denotes the shell-like delicate scroll motifs used. This in particular, captivated the Chinese emperors, as shown in imperial architecture and furniture suffused with shell motifs including: the Hall of Calm Seas, haiyan tang, in the Yuanmingyuan; see a copperplate print, 1786, illustrated in Yuan Ming Yuan, Qing Emperor's Splendid Gardens, Taipei, 2013, pp.258-259, no.V-10; and a zitan armchair with a back ending in a large shell-form head rest, in the Qing Court collection, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Furniture of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (II), Hong Kong, 2002, pl.39.

    The opulent and complex three-dimensional decoration of these panels, with both carved and applied elements, is a powerful example of the level of technical skill and ingenuity furniture makers of the Qing period possessed. The carving of these pair of zitan panels are refined, fluid and especially deep. Furthermore, by carving out the motifs against a reserved ground, the background areas have been carefully finished and superbly polished to ensure an even surface without a trace of tool marks.

    In continuation of the Yongzheng and Qianlong emperors advocacy of tradition and innovation, as often seen in other mediums such as imperial porcelain and jade carving, master furniture craftsmen combined European-styles with the Chinese traditional repertoire, as seen in the carved 'antiques' and mythical beasts. Compare an eight-panelled zitan door frame, with similarly carved 'antiques', in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Architecture and Decoration of the Forbidden City: Classics of the Forbidden City, Beijing, 2013, pp.148-151, no.129. The stylised dragons that form the round cartouches on the current panels are also reminiscent of those found on Ming dynasty furniture, such as those forming the brackets of a square table, dated 1550-1600, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, illustrated by C.Clunus, Chinese Furniture, Hong Kong, 1988, pp.57-59, no.47. The bold decoration of such Chinese motifs juxtaposes with the elegant European Rococo decorative elements, resulting in a unique and striking blend of styles. This convergence of Eastern and Western iconography conveys the dynamic cross-cultural exchange of the Qing period.

    Compare the panels on the doors of a tall compound cabinet in the Palace of Double Brilliance, Chonghua gong, with similarly ornate but shallower carvings of a round cartouche above a rectangular cartouche surrounded by leafy scrolls, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Furniture of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (II), Hong Kong, 2002, pl.260; see also a zitan display cabinet embedded with birch wood, with two bottom door panels with similarly carved peonies within Rococo-style acanthus leaf scrolls issuing from cornucopias, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Eternal Knowledge: Imperial Books, Art Works and Culture of the Qing, Macao, 2007, p.463, no.149.

    A pair of zitan chairs with related Rococo-style decoration including shells and acanthus leaves, Qianlong, was sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 3 December 2008, lot 2503.



    紫檀木料極其珍貴,雖然明代開始為宮廷所用,但後因宮中木料匱乏,便遣使於東南亞尋找紫檀原料存於宮中以供後日使用。至清朝時,宮中所使用紫檀原料皆為前朝所取。清代宮廷家具的設計和生產一般都需要按照皇帝的要求製作,整個過程都有內務府及造辦處協調完成。從《內務府造辦處活計檔》中的記錄也可知,清廷對猶如紫檀這樣珍貴木料的控制也非常嚴格。即使內務府順應旨意不斷向民間徵收上等紫檀木料,但宮中紫檀木料至十八世紀已經開始匱乏,見郭福祥,《The Art of Furniture-Making in Imperial China, 2nd Century BC - 18th Century》,巴塞羅那,2006年,頁111及113。



    清式家具的工藝和風格可算是在雍正、乾隆兩朝奠定。社會整體的審美觀從崇尚簡潔演變為追求華麗繁縟,加上當時西洋工藝傳入中國,所生產出的家具都有明顯的時代風格。本拍品有著承先啟後、仿古創新及具備東西文化的特色,就像在官窯瓷器和玉雕上看到的風格一樣。北京故宮博物院藏一重華宮紫檀屏風八扇,所飾的博古紋與本對屏風可作對比,見《故宮建築內檐裝修》,北京,2013年,頁148-151,編號129。另外,本對屏風上所飾之開光龍紋也具有明代遺風,可對比倫敦維多利亞及阿伯特博物館藏一桌,定為1550-1600年,見C.Clunus,《Chinese Furniture》,香港,1988年,頁57-59,編號47。

    紫禁城重華宮西次間家具陳設裏北牆靠牆有一紫檀雕花頂豎櫃,其紋飾與本拍品可資對比,唯重華宮之例雕刻較為淺,見《故宮博物院藏文物珍品全集:明清家具(下)》,香港,2002年,圖版260;也參考北京故宮博物院藏一件清中期紫檀嵌樺木櫃格,下部對開兩門的門心正中所雕的折枝牡丹紋與本拍品相似,同樣也是在周圍雕西洋巴洛克花紋,見《永樂文淵 – 清代宮廷典籍文化藝術特展》,澳門,2007年,頁463,編號149。

A pair of massive Imperial zitan rectangular panels Mid-Qing Dynasty (2)
A pair of massive Imperial zitan rectangular panels Mid-Qing Dynasty (2)
A pair of massive Imperial zitan rectangular panels Mid-Qing Dynasty (2)
A pair of massive Imperial zitan rectangular panels Mid-Qing Dynasty (2)
A pair of massive Imperial zitan rectangular panels Mid-Qing Dynasty (2)
A pair of massive Imperial zitan rectangular panels Mid-Qing Dynasty (2)
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