An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe 19th century

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 132
An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe
19th century

£ 150,000 - 250,000
US$ 190,000 - 320,000
The Property of a Gentleman 紳士藏品
An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe
19th century
The kesi ground finely worked in satin stitches in shades of blue, green, red, aubergine and ochre couched vibrant gold threads with nine five-clawed dragons pursuing 'flaming pearls' amidst trialling ruyi clouds interspersed with bats; the Twelve Imperial Symbols arranged in three groups of four beginning with the sun, moon, constellation and mountains around the neck; the axe head, the fu symbol, paired dragons and pheasant around the upper body of the robe; the water weed, pair of sacrificial vessels, fire and grain above the terrestrial diagram and lishui stripe at the hem, all interspersed with the Eight Buddhist Emblems and further dragons emerging from rolling waves, against a rich apricot ground; the matching dark blue-ground cuffs and collar worked with further dragons amidst bats, clouds and waves, below sleeve extensions woven with roundels depicting further dragons chasing flaming pearls, lined in original imperial yellow silk, with a three-character inscription and seal mark on the inside flap.
183cm (72in) wide x 145cm (57in) long.

Footnotes

  • 十九世紀 御製杏黃地緙絲金龍十二章紋龍袍

    Provenance: Linda Wrigglesworth, London, 1997
    A Western private collection

    來源:英國倫敦古董商,Linda Wrigglesworth,1997年
    西方私人收藏

    RISING TO POWER
    THE HIDDEN TALES OF A SUBLIME IMPERIAL 'TWELVE-SYMBOL' APRICOT-GROUND ROBE

    Linda Wrigglesworth

    Superbly woven in the refined kesi technique with nine resplendent, lively, five-clawed dragons riding the heavens and finely worked in metallic gold threads amidst a profusion of shaded blue trailing clouds interspersed with the Twelve Symbols of Imperial Sovereignty, the present robe is exceptionally rare for its pristine condition. No identical examples would appear to have been preserved in public collections.

    The yellow lining, dragon cuffs, neck bands and gold brocade edgings are all original to the robe. In addition, the imperial dragons emerging from the turbulent waves and the roundels depicting further dragons, woven within the rich midnight-blue ground of the sleeve extensions, are very unusual and rarely encountered on imperial orange-ground robes.

    This robe probably dates to the 1880s and may have been worn by the Guangxu emperor (1871-1908) during the earlier years of his reign. The apricot-orange colour xinghuang, is referred to in the Huangchao liqi tushi 皇朝禮器圖式 ('Illustrated Precedents for the Ritual Paraphernalia of the Imperial Court'), edited in 1759, as one of the 'Five Imperial Yellows' used at the Qing Court, which could only be worn by Princes and Princesses of the First Rank and Imperial Consorts of the Second and Third Degree (See note 1).

    Following the death of the Tongzhi emperor in 1875 and in the absence of an immediate heir, his mother, the formidable Dowager empress Cixi, designated her four-year old nephew, Zaitian, to be successor to the throne as the Guangxu emperor, although she continued to be in control of the government for the first fourteen years of the new ruler's reign (See note 2). At this time, the court dress legislation, promulgated by the Qianlong emperor more than a century earlier, appears to have become similarly adapted to these new circumstances. Not only do numerous portraits depict the Dowager empress wearing imperial yellow robes, as was appropriate to her rank, but also a few 'Twelve-Symbol' robes, dating to the Guangxu emperor's reign, survive displaying a wide range of the basic ground colours. These deviations probably reflected Cixi's break from the Court conventions of previous times, particularly when she appointed her nephew Zaitian, a cousin of the Tongzhi emperor's, to succeed him (See note 3). Within this context, an apricot-ground 'Twelve-Symbol' robe would have certainly been considered appropriate to signify the young Guangxu emperor's status as heir apparent, when he had not yet formally assumed control of the government (See note 4).

    The quintessential symbol of imperial power, five-clawed dragons embodied royalty and dominion and expressed the visual metaphor of the good ruler who behaved wisely for the wellbeing of his subjects. The Twelve Symbols of Imperial Authority further reinforce the emperor's essence over eloquence, articulation, forcefulness and vigour. According to the 'Book of History' (Shujing 書經), the legendary Emperor Shun, believed to have ruled during the third millennium BC, referred to these symbols as suitable decoration for imperial formal attire and in 1766, the Qianlong emperor restricted the use of these motifs to imperial robes (See note 5).


    A rigid scheme defined the position of the Twelve Symbols on the robes. The sun, moon, stars, and mountain, symbolised the four main ceremonies which the emperor presided throughout the year at the Altars of Heaven, Earth, Sun and Moon. They were placed in pairs at the shoulders, chest and mid-back area. The paired dragons, the golden pheasant, the confronted ji character and the hatchet, represented all things on earth and the ruler's ability to make decisions. They decorated the chest area, while the sacrificial vessels, the aquatic grass, the grains of millet and the flames, representing ancestor worship and four of the Five Elements, were placed at the mid-calf level of the coat.

    The seven-shaded lishuibands are flawlessly woven and include the aniline purple tone, which was imported into China from Europe circa 1863 and was highly-favoured by the Dowager empress Cixi (See note 6).

    Compare with a related orange-ground, 'Twelve-Symbol' kesi robe, Guangxu period, lacking the water dragons from the foaming waves in the lishui and featuring the more common gilded stripes on the sleeve extensions instead of the woven 'dragon' roundels, which decorate the present robe, from the Mactaggart Art Collection, University of Alberta Museum, Alberta, illustrated by J.Vollmer and J.Simcox, Emblems of the Empire, Alberta, 2009, pp.30 and 31.


    Footnotes

    1. M.Medley, The Illustrated Regulations for Ceremonial Parphernalia of the Ch'ing Dynasty, London, 1982.

    2. M.Holdsworth and C.Courtauld, Forbidden City: The Great Within, London, 1995, p.123.

    3. J.Vollmer and J.Simcox, Emblems of Empire, Alberta, 2009, p.30.

    4. L.S.Kwong, 'Chinese Politics at the Cross-roads: Reflections on the Hundred Days Reform of 1898,' Modern Asian Studies, 2000, vol.34, no. 3, pp.663-95.

    5. G.Dickinson and L.Wrigglesworth, Imperial Wardrobe, Berkeley, 2002, pp.14-30.

    6. R. Silberstein, 'Vicious Purple' or a "First Class Dye"?: Finding a Place for the Foreign in Nineteenth-Century Chinese Dress Culture,' Paper presented at College Art Association Annual Conference, New York, 2013.
Contacts
An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe 19th century
An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe 19th century
An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe 19th century
An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe 19th century
An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe 19th century
An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe 19th century
An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe 19th century
An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe 19th century
An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe 19th century
An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe 19th century
An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe 19th century
An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe 19th century
An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe 19th century
An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe 19th century
An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe 19th century
An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe 19th century
An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe 19th century
An exceedingly rare Imperial kesi orange-ground twelve-symbol robe 19th century
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories, buyer's premium excluding Cars, Motorbikes, Wine and Coin & Medal sales, will be as follows:

Buyer's Premium Rates
27.5% on the first £2,500 of the hammer price;
25% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £2,500 up to and including £300,000;
20% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £300,000 up to and including £3,000,000;
and 13.9% of the hammer price of any amounts in excess of £3,000,000.

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

For payment information please refer to the sale catalog.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.