A rare imperial yellow-ground embroidered 'nine dragon' kang cushion cover Qianlong

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Lot 74
A rare imperial yellow-ground embroidered 'nine dragon' kang cushion cover
Qianlong

Sold for £ 125,000 (US$ 163,440) inc. premium
A rare imperial yellow-ground embroidered 'nine dragon' kang cushion cover
Qianlong
Of rectangular form, delicately worked in shades of red, blue, green, and white satin stitch and couched gold threads with a full-frontal five-clawed dragon coiled around a flaming pearl, flanked by eight ferocious dragons in different poses, all leaping amidst leafy lotus scrolls and trailing clouds, all within a border of turbulent waves and terrestrial diagrams surrounded by a key-fret band, the outer border with alternating designs of phoenixes and bats on further floral scrolls, framed and glazed. 190cm x 105cm (74 3/4in x 41in).

Footnotes

  • 清乾隆 明黃地緞繡九龍紋炕面

    Provenance: Spink & Son, Ltd., London, 16 January 1953 (invoice), according to which it was "Taken from a table in the private apartments of the Empress T'zu-Hsi, during the Boxer Rebellion, 1900."
    An English private collection


    來源:
    於1953年1月16日購自倫敦古董商Spink & Son, Ltd.,帳單上註明:「於1900年庚子拳亂期間得自慈禧太后寢宮」
    英國私人收藏

    Delicately woven with nine five-clawed dragons pursuing flaming pearls, this brilliant cover evokes multiple layers of auspicious meanings relating to the figure of the empress and her quest of attaining immortality. Capable of flying high in the sky and diving back in the sea, dragons were, since the earliest phases of Chinese history, seen as intermediaries between Heaven and Earth and regarded as vehicles transporting humans to immortal realms. According to the 'Book of Songs', compiled in the third century BC, dragons represent victory over the forces of darkness, cast light onto the Gate of Heaven and allow one to glimpse the wondrous residence of immortal beings. Complementing the design, the phoenix, symbolic of the empress, inhabited the immortal lands of the Queen Mother of the West, source of eternal light and the profusion of lotus, symbolic of Buddhist enlightenment, recalls the floral showers that accompanied the birth of the Buddha.

    The refinement of the embroidery characterising the present cover suggests that it may have been produced during the reign of the Qianlong emperor, when the silk industry reached the highest standards of its aesthetic development. Compare with a yellow-ground silk cover embroidered with designs of nine dragons, 18th century, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, illustrated by V.Wilson, Chinese Textiles, London, 2005, pl.39. A yellow-ground cover for a stool, decorated with similar designs of dragons, phoenix and bats and dated to the second or third quarter of the eighteenth in the Art Institute of Chicago, is illustrated by J.Vollmer, Clothed to Rule the Universe, Chicago, 2000, p.26, pl.VII.

    A much smaller yellow-ground silk 'dragon' throne seat cover, 18th century, was sold at Sotheby's New York, 17 September 2013, lot 238.
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A rare imperial yellow-ground embroidered 'nine dragon' kang cushion cover Qianlong
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