Christies to Auction a Monumental Imperial Dragon and Cloud Screen in Hong Kong

. May 18, 2011 . 0 Comments

A magnificent ten-fold ‘Dragon and Clouds’ screen measuring an imposing 9 ft 5 in. x 20 ft (2.9 m x 6.1 m) will be offered on 1 June at the Imperial Sale at Christie’s 2011 Spring Hong Kong Sale series. Incorporating the finest work carving, kesi weaving, lacquerwork and painting, the rosewood screen is believed to have been made by special commission for the celebration of an Imperial birthday, possibly that of the Emperor Kangxi’s sixtieth birthday in 1713, or perhaps that of his son the Emperor Yongzheng. As no other imperial screen decorated with this wealth of materials and techniques has been published, the appearance of this extremely rare work at auction offers collectors an extraordinary opportunity to acquire a truly magnificent masterpiece.

Collectors of fine furniture will also be presented with plenty of choices with other outstanding works, including an exquisite pair of hardwood tables with jade and cloisonné inlay and an elegant Huanghuali day bed.

Throughout the Han, Jin, Tang and Song dynasties, and into the Ming and Qing dynasties, screens developed into indispensable pieces of furniture for the households of the social and political elite as privacy buffers and room dividers. It is during the Qing dynasty in the Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong periods that Imperial screen-making reached its apogee and the present screen is a grand example of this consummate art form. (Lot 3609, image on page 1, detailed image left, estimate on request).

This magnificent screen displays the remarkable talents of some of the most accomplished artists in a variety of Imperial ateliers. These artists included the finest lacquer painters, kesi weavers, embroiderers, painters, wood carvers and gilders. One can imagine each group of artists working in their own studios and then bringing all their efforts together to create a glorious screen. It appears that no other Imperial screen decorated with this wealth of materials and techniques has been published. Its design combines a rich slightly European-influenced style with intricate traditional Chinese elements to create an opulent and impressive item of Imperial furniture, reflecting court taste of the high Qing.

At either end of the rosewood screen is an ornately framed panel containing sixty shou ?longevity characters delicately embroidered with great precision in silk thread. Each of the characters is different and many are depicted in distinctive archaistic seal script. On the upper panels are a variety of flowers on painted and woven silk panels meant to convey auspicious wishes, while on the lower panels are painted lacquer designs, including imposing flower and Imperial five-clawed dragons amongst clouds in gold lacquer on a dark lacquered ground.

Such a screen, which required the cooperation of craftsmen from such diverse workshops, would have been a specific Imperial commission, probably to commemorate a special Imperial birthday, possibly that of the Emperor Kangxi’s sixtieth birthday in 1713, or perhaps that of his son the Emperor Yongzheng.

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Category: Antiques

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