The Multiple Shades of Power
A Fine Selection of Imperial Chinese Textiles

Bonhams Fine Chinese Art auction will showcase a fine selection of Imperial textiles dating to the Ming and Qing dynasties. Leading the group is an exceedingly rare Kesi Orange-ground 'Twelve-Symbol' robe, 19th century (Lot 132), superbly woven with Nine resplendent five-clawed Dragons, the robe, which is estimated at £150,000-250,000. The decoration of an Imperial robe with the Twelve Symbols was strictly regulated and permitted for the sole use of the Emperor or Empresses. The combination of the Twelve Symbols with the orange colour is particularly rare and the present robe was likely made for the Guangxu Emperor (1875-1908). This robe is particularly prized for its pristine condition and vivid colours.

Further highlights include a very large yellow-ground silk 'dragon panel', Qianlong (1736-1795) (Lot 145), estimated at £30,000-50,000. Impressive in its exceptionally large size, this remarkable brocade testifies to the scale and opulence of the Qianlong Court probably complemented the elaborate setting of one of the Imperial ceremonial halls within the Forbidden City. 

A midnight-blue-ground silk 'dragon' panel, dating to the Kangxi (1662-1722) (Lot 144), estimated at £30,000-50,000, is brilliantly woven in gold and five-coloured silk threads and displays the extraordinary weaving of the early Qing dynasty.

Finally, two large Imperial velvet 'Lotus' dais covers, dating, respectively, to the Yongzheng period (1723-1735) (Lot 137), estimated at £60,000-80,000 and mid-Qing dynasty (18th/19th century) (Lot 140), estimated at £50,000-80,000, were probably produced for the Imperial Court in workshops based in Fujian and Jiangsu Provinces. Constructed of three silk-velvet panels which were joined together after weaving, these lavish hangings underscored powerful religious associations relating to the attainment of immortality. The rich strawberry-red and gold coloured lotus flowers in fact recall the transmutation of cinnabar into gold, a Daoist alchemic process aimed at driving away the malignant spirits, allowing the practitioner to ascend to heaven.


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