Dragons, Buffalo, Lions and Horses Lead Caravan of Chinese Art at Bonhams

Dragon entwined Imperial ceramics, jade animals and a spectacular lamp made of buffalo horn, offer much to excite buyers at Bonhams Fine Chinese Art Sale on November 10th at New Bond Street, London.

An object that speaks loudly of Chinese craftsmanship features numerous dragons. An Imperial enamelled and blue ‘nine-dragon’ vase bearing the Qianlong seal mark, has a slender shape with high shoulders and is enamelled in vivid iron-red with nine three and five-clawed dragons in various vibrant postures, all amidst swirling crested waves above rocky islands. It is estimated to sell for £300,000-400,000.

The Chinese dragon, which is traditionally associated with the Emperor, is powerful and is seen in a very positive light in contrast to European dragons, which are considered evil.

There are more dragons writhing on an Imperial cloisonné enamel and gilt-bronze ‘five-dragon’ sceptre linked to the court of the Qianlong emperor. The head, central section and lower end of the shaft are set with elaborate cast gilt-bronze inserts of dragons amongst pierced coils above breaking waves. A space underneath is left open, possibly for a perfume holder. It is estimated to sell for £300,000-500,000.

Another important item in the sale is a rare Imperial horn and lacquer lantern from the Imperial Qianlong/ Jiaqing period, estimated to sell for £50,000 to £80,000. Chinese craftsmen had worked out how to heat horn, allowing them to stretch it into preferred shapes. In this instance they have created a ten-lobed melon-shaped lantern featuring alternating dragon and phoenix images amidst colourful cloud scrolls composed of enamelled horn sections below a gilt-lacquer crown adorned with lotus petal panels and decorated with mother of pearl and glass.

Imperial lanterns served a double purpose of lighting and adorning the Imperial palaces. A painting attributed to Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766) in Beijing’s Palace Museum, titled ‘Emperor Qianlong’s Pleasure during Snowy Weather’, circa 1738, depicts the Emperor amidst his children between two related globular lamps with tassels.

The sale also features an number of very beautiful jades which are currently much in demand. A large pale green jade carving of a Buddhist lion, 18th Century on a wood stand, estimated to sell for £150,000-250,000, was once owned by the well known British entrepreneur and philanthropist, Bernard Sunley (1910-1964).

A very fine and large pale green jade recumbent horse dating from the18th century is estimated to sell for £200,000-300,000. Large jade animal carvings dating from the 17th and 18th century are some of the finest examples of jade carving emanating from workshops at the end of the Ming Dynasty. Horses and water buffaloes in jade are represented in many of the world’s finest collections of Chinese art. Several were exhibited in an outstanding exhibition of Chinese jade carving at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, illustrated in the Catalogue, Chinese Jade throughout the Ages, 1975

Image: An Imperial enamelled and blue ‘nine-dragon’ vase bearing the Qianlong seal mark. Estimate: £300,000-400,000. Photo: Bonhams.

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