A very rare Imperial famille rose twelve-leaf screen   Jiaqing
Lot 214TP Y
A very rare Imperial famille rose twelve-leaf screen
Jiaqing
Sold for £485,000 (US$ 634,441) inc. premium

Fine Chinese Art

11 May 2017, 11:00 BST

London, New Bond Street

Lot Details
A very rare Imperial famille rose twelve-leaf screen   Jiaqing A very rare Imperial famille rose twelve-leaf screen   Jiaqing A very rare Imperial famille rose twelve-leaf screen   Jiaqing A very rare Imperial famille rose twelve-leaf screen   Jiaqing A very rare Imperial famille rose twelve-leaf screen   Jiaqing A very rare Imperial famille rose twelve-leaf screen   Jiaqing
A very rare Imperial famille rose twelve-leaf screen
Jiaqing
Each leaf enclosing five famille rose porcelain plaques; the main famille rose panels superbly enamelled with groups of Immortals and sages, each with his attribute, engaged in various pursuits in a mountainous river landscape with trees, flowers and bamboo; the smaller rectangular top, middle and bottom famille rose panels colourfully decorated with a pair of confronted chi dragons clawing at a foliate lotus blossom, each panel framed by a floral scroll on a lime-green ground; the square famille rose plaques each finely enamelled with a flower representing one of the twelve months, all set within a hardwood and possibly zitan frame. Overall 362cm (142 1/2in) wide x 152cm (59 3/4in) high.

Footnotes

  • 清嘉慶 御製粉彩道仙人物圖瓷板十二開屏風

    Screens were commonly used in ancient China to keep out draughts, shut out light and partition rooms. Apart from practical functions however, screens also had an essential social and decorative function. In the Imperial halls, they were often used as backdrops to thrones, reinforcing the Imperial eminence and stature behind the throne. The importance of such screens is further demonstrated in that no cost was spared in their production, using precious materials generously, such as zitan and huanghuali woods, cinnabar lacquer, gilt on black lacquer and embellishments with porcelain panels, hardstones, and cloisonné and painted enamels.

    The twelve leaves are resplendently inset with 64 famille rose porcelain plaques. These are superbly enamelled with mythical imagery of Daoist Immortals, auspicious flowers and birds, laden with puns, rebuses and symbolic significance.

    Taking the main panels on the screen from left to right:

    Panel 1

    The first panel on the far left depicts Liu Hai tempting his three-legged toad with strings of gold coins. Together, they are symbolic of wealth and prosperity. The Chinese word for 'toad' is chan (蟾); and in some dialects, the character chan is a homophone to the character for 'money' or qian (錢). Thus, in a dialect, one could easily hear 'Liu Hai playing with the toad' as 'Liu Hai playing with gold coins'. Hence the present plaque bears the auspicious wish for wealth and good fortune.

    Panel 2

    The second panel depicts two sages pointing up at two red bats flying in the sky; a pair (shuang 雙) of bats (fu 蝠), is a rebus for 'double blessings' (shuangfu 雙福). Beside the sage is a deer (lu 鹿) which is a homophone for 'emolument' (lu 祿) and represents success in office. It is possible, therefore, that the sage next to the deer is a representation of the Star God of Lu. Across the stream another grey-bearded sage proffers a peach, a symbol of longevity.

    Panel 3

    The third panel depicts three female immortals, probably Guanyin flanked by Buddhist lion, Magu carrying the jar containing the elixir of immortality, and the Spirit of the Well holding a ruyi sceptre, descending from a palace shrouded in wispy clouds.

    Panel 4

    The fourth panel depicts two sages by a stream with an attendant carrying a red-headed crane, one gentleman points at the sky to the crane in the next panel; in the foreground an elderly sage with a staff is followed by a child carrying a basket of flowers, possibly representing Lan Caihe.

    Panel 5

    The fifth panel depicts the God of Longevity, Shoulao, with a prominent cranium and a long staff, surrounding him are children, one riding a deer and holding a peach, further symbols of longevity and prosperity, two boys pointing to a flying crane in the sky.

    Panel 6

    The sixth panel depicts Magu, the Goddess of Longevity, on a log raft with He Xiangu steering it. Magu (literally meaning 'Hemp Maiden') is portrayed wearing a cape of hemp leaves, beside a basket of flowers and a jar of fungus longevity wine. He Xiangu is distinguishable from the lotus she is wearing. Magu points up towards the shore where a Buddhist lion treads behind another female Immortal.

    Panel 7

    The seventh panel depicts three wizened old sages standing together, one holding a melon above his head.

    Panel 8

    The eighth panel depicts the Hehe Erxian floating on the clouds, the twin Immortals carrying a lotus (he 荷) and a box (he 盒), both homophones with harmony (he 和) and union (he 合). Beneath them, a young boy beside a man, possibly the Star God Fu, the God of good fortune, proffers a floral sprig to the Star God Lu, holding a ruyi sceptre beside a child, and attendant carrying a vase with a halberd arrow (ji 戟), which is a homophone for 'grade' (ji 級). The theme of the panel is thus the wish for attainment of good fortune, prosperity, rank and influence.

    Panel 9

    The ninth panel depicts four of the 'Eight Daoist Immortals'. Seated in a raft is the Immortal Lan Caihe beside a basket of flowers with the Immortal He Xiangu steering the vessel. The latter was said to have had a divine revelation in a dream, and ate powdered mica to prolong her life. The two Immortals gaze from the raft across the stream to the Immortal Cao Guojiu holding castanets, said to have the power to purify his surroundings. In the foreground, the Immortal Han Xiangzi plays the flute beside a crane, a symbol of longevity and immortality.

    Panel 10

    The tenth panel depicts the other four of the 'Eight Daoist Immortals'. Atop a mountain terrace, Zhongli Quan proffers a peach. Below on the river, Li Tieguai, or Iron-crutch Li, rides atop the waves on a magical double-gourd said to be filled with medicine to heal the sick. Further down the stream, standing atop a carp, is Zhang Guolao carrying his 'fish drum', a bamboo cylindrical tube that carried iron mallets dispelling evil. Beside Zhang Guolao is Lu Dongbin, with his sword and fly whisk that dispels evil, standing atop a lotus leaf.

    Panel 11

    Flying above in the sky on a phoenix is the Queen Mother of the West, Xiwangmu. According to legend, the Queen Mother of the West lives in the mythical Western Kunlun Mountains near the legendary Orchard of Immortality Peaches. These peaches would ripen only once every three thousand years, and she would hold a large banquet for all the Immortals to eat these peaches so that they could prolong their life for another six thousand years. Beneath her are three sages gesticulating wildly around three bats, symbols of fortune.

    Panel 12

    The twelfth panel depicts a sage carrying on his shoulder a sprig of peaches as he gazes up at Xiwangmu in the previous panel. He could perhaps be a representation of Dongfang Shuo, who was a 'banished Immortal' for stealing Xiwangmu's peaches.

    Twelve floral panels

    Twelve square panels are finely enamelled with a variety of floral sprays. The blossoms include peony, lotus, chrysanthemum, camellia, prunus, apricot, poppy, rose, morning glory, wintersweet, aster, and nandina as well as lingzhi fungus and bamboo. The flowers are probably a symbolic representation of the twelve months.

    Further symbolism is represented by the top and bottom panels, each enamelled with a bat suspending a cluster of peaches above a lotus blossom. These symbolise the wish for blessings and longevity whilst the lotus, one of the Eight Buddhist Emblems is also representative of purity. The set of panels decorated with a pair of confronted chi dragons.

    Compare with a magnificent Imperial twelve-leaf screen, Jiaqing, which was sold in these rooms on 15 May 2014, lot 88.
Activities
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