AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE IMPERIAL YELLOW-GROUND SILK EMBROIDERED 'LADIES AND LIONS' SCREEN PANEL  Qianlong

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Lot 81
AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE IMPERIAL YELLOW-GROUND SILK EMBROIDERED 'LADIES AND LIONS' SCREEN PANEL
Qianlong

Sold for £ 325,250 (US$ 397,795) inc. premium
AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE IMPERIAL YELLOW-GROUND SILK EMBROIDERED 'LADIES AND LIONS' SCREEN PANEL
Qianlong
Comprising nine sections superbly and colourfully embroidered in satin stitch with a continuous scene of eight female Immortals engaging in leisurely activities with nine playful Buddhist lions, all set in a wondrous Immortal landscape dotted with elegant pavilions, meandering streams, jutting ornamental rocks and various delicately-rendered trees including the fabled tree bearing the large peaches of Immortality, each Immortal figure wearing a feathered cape or apron over highly-detailed garments, one shown on a raft besides a flower vase holding lotus, two other figures conversing whilst crossing a natural footbridge, one carrying a hoe, the other a basket of lingzhi, followed by a joyful lion trailing behind them, two figures holding, respectively, a brocade ball and a cub gazing at its mother standing at a short distance, another pair standing in similar poses as the previous figures, a further figure standing beside a female lion holding a small cub on its back, all reserved on a brilliant Imperial yellow silk satin ground, mounted. 255cm (100 3/8in) wide x 121cm (47 5/8in) high.

Footnotes

  • 清乾隆 御製明黃地繡仙山瑞獅仕女采芝圖屏

    Provenance: Sotheby's Belgravia, early 1980's
    Linda Wrigglesworth, London

    來源:二十世紀八十年代初,購自倫敦蘇富比貝爾格萊維亞
    倫敦Linda Wrigglesworth

    The superb satin-stitch embroidery of the present panel, combined with the rich yellow ground, the meticulous attention to detail and the extraordinary sense of realism and liveliness conveyed by the decorative subjects, reflect the highest standards achieved by Imperial commission during the Qianlong period. It was under the emperor's patronage that the silk industry reached its artistic zenith. Every detail, no matter how small, is realistically reproduced with very fine silk floss threads. The patterned textiles of the garments and the serene facial features of the figures, from the eyebrows to the lips and the subtlety of the hairlines, the depictions of lichen on rocks, the shimmering mane of the Buddhist lions and their joyful expressions, and the smallest architectural elements, are all embroidered with utmost precision and care.

    The graduated shape and size of the panels making up the present lot suggest that it was made for an Imperial screen. The outer two lengths are in fact considerably narrower, a feature noted in several surviving palace screens. Although drawn as a continuous scene and now stitched together, each panel was embroidered individually up to the selvage edges of the cloth but not across the vertical seams. See for example a nine-panel black lacquer screen, Yongzheng, featuring nine embroidered dragons stitched in gold thread, and the panels inserted within the frame of a black lacquered screen, Yongzheng/Qianlong, both in the Qing Court Collection, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Furniture of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, vol.2, Hong Kong, 2002, pls.198 and 200.

    The allusion to Immortality, conveyed by the subjects depicted on the present screen panel, indicates that this textile may have been created to celebrate the birthday of Dowager empress Chongqing (1669-1777), mother of the Qianlong emperor, to whom he was particularly close and visited daily. The screen panel may have been commissioned for the Dowager empress's residence, the Palace of Longevity and Health, Shoukang Gong, which was completed in 1736. The complex included a Main, Rear and Rearmost Hall, respectively dedicated to the performance of court rituals, devotional activities and living quarters. The Palace of Longevity and Health was furnished with a dazzling array of sumptuous objects, many decorated with objects underscoring wishes for longevity conveyed by depictions of Immortal deities; see J.Stuart, Empresses of China's Forbidden City 1644-1912 2018, Salem MA, pp.78-87.

    The scene depicted may relate to the mythical Immortal realm of Kunlun. The Zhuangzi, thought to have been composed between 370 BC and 280 BC, is one of the earliest textual references to this wondrous realm, mentioning: 'In the far-away mountains of Gushe live divine humans. Their skin is cool as frost and snow; they are shy and delicate as virgins. They do not eat grains, but breathe wind and drink dew'; see S.Little, Taoism and the Arts of China, Chicago, 2000, p.36. The peaches growing in the Orchard of Immortality of Kunlun were believed to ripen only once every three thousand years and could prolong one's life for another six thousand years. Compare with a continuous scene depicting the Immortals gathering to celebrate Xiwangmu's birthday, which includes similarly-clad female Immortals and Buddhist lions, depicted on a famille rose twelve-leaf screen, Jiaqing, which was sold at Bonhams London, 11 May 2017, lot 214. Two lions playing with an embroidered or brocade ball is a common design, which may have the same significance as two dragons fighting for the pearl of supremacy, thus symbolising Imperial power.

    Undoubtedly, Buddhist lions were also viewed in connection with beliefs in Immortality as they were often depicted as companions to female Immortals from at least the Song dynasty; see, for example, 'Picking Up Lingzhi Fungi to Celebrate Longevity', a painting by Li Zhaoqing, attributed to the Song dynasty, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, acc.no.001256-00001. See also the playful lions accompanying the female deities depicted on the Imperial famille rose twelve-leaf screen, Jiaqing, which was sold by Bonhams London, 11 May 2017, lot 214.

    The embroidery style of the present lot closely compares with a yellow-ground panel depicting an Immortal landscape, Qing dynasty, in the Qing Court Collection, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures from the Palace Museum. Textiles and Embroideries of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Hong Kong, 2005, p.199, fig.220. See also a related yellow-ground embroidered panel depicting Immortal female figures, Qing dynasty, illustrated in Beauty of Tapestry and Embroidery, Taipei, 1995, p.156. Compare also a large embroidery, Qianlong, depicting the birthday celebration of General Guo Zhiyi, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Embroidered Pictures, Shanghai, 2005, no.54.

    A related blue-ground embroidered Daoist Immortals panel, Qianlong, much smaller than the present example, was sold at Christie's New York, 22 March 2019, lot 1654.
Contacts
AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE IMPERIAL YELLOW-GROUND SILK EMBROIDERED 'LADIES AND LIONS' SCREEN PANEL  Qianlong
AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE IMPERIAL YELLOW-GROUND SILK EMBROIDERED 'LADIES AND LIONS' SCREEN PANEL  Qianlong
AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE IMPERIAL YELLOW-GROUND SILK EMBROIDERED 'LADIES AND LIONS' SCREEN PANEL  Qianlong
AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE IMPERIAL YELLOW-GROUND SILK EMBROIDERED 'LADIES AND LIONS' SCREEN PANEL  Qianlong
AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE IMPERIAL YELLOW-GROUND SILK EMBROIDERED 'LADIES AND LIONS' SCREEN PANEL  Qianlong
AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE IMPERIAL YELLOW-GROUND SILK EMBROIDERED 'LADIES AND LIONS' SCREEN PANEL  Qianlong
AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE IMPERIAL YELLOW-GROUND SILK EMBROIDERED 'LADIES AND LIONS' SCREEN PANEL  Qianlong
AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE IMPERIAL YELLOW-GROUND SILK EMBROIDERED 'LADIES AND LIONS' SCREEN PANEL  Qianlong
AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE IMPERIAL YELLOW-GROUND SILK EMBROIDERED 'LADIES AND LIONS' SCREEN PANEL  Qianlong
AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE IMPERIAL YELLOW-GROUND SILK EMBROIDERED 'LADIES AND LIONS' SCREEN PANEL  Qianlong
AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE IMPERIAL YELLOW-GROUND SILK EMBROIDERED 'LADIES AND LIONS' SCREEN PANEL  Qianlong
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