Large And Fine Pair Of Imperial Cinnabar Lacquer 'Dragon' Frames. Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period

each of rectangular form, profusely and deeply carved around the front face with pairs of large scaly five-clawed dragons in mutual pursuit of a flaming pearl, the sides with a geometric strapwork band, the back lacquered black, glass plates later. 115 by 71cm., 45 1/4 by 28in. Estimate 60,000—80,000 GBP

NOTE: The present pair of cinnabar-lacquer frames is remarkable for its fine relief carving of magnificent five-clawed dragons chasing flaming pearls amongst clouds. The dragon is symbolic of the emperor and is depicted with a ferocious expression, bulbous eyes and scaly body. The intricacy of the carving is especially noteworthy with the dragons rendered to appear both animated and naturalistic.

For carvings of five-clawed dragons chasing flaming pearls see two screens from the Palace Museum, Beijing, included in the exhibition China. The Three Emperors, The Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2006, cat. nos. 17 and 229. Compare also a lacquer screen carved with large scaly dragons sold at Christie's New York, 20th September 2005, lot 104.

Lacquer frames were typically made for lacquer panels; for example see a large panel in the Palace Museum, carved with a scene from the Lanting xu (Orchid Pavilion) illustrated in Furniture of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (II),Beijing, 2002, pl. 181. See another lacquer panel depicting the victorious army of General Agui advancing through the mountains of Sichuan, its frame similarly carved with five-clawed dragons amongst clouds chasing pearls, as seen on this pair, sold at Christie's London, 12th November 2002, lot 41.

The five-clawed dragon can be found on various imperial pieces, especially textiles. The inspiration for the decoration may have come from Imperial Court robes (jifu), which formed part of the wardrobe of the Qing Imperial family and was worn by the Qianlong emperor on his birthday celebrations, such as the robe sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 10th April 2006. Wood panels were also decorated with this motif; for example see the zitan Imperial panels sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 8th April 2007, lots 871 and 872.

Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art. 05 Nov 08. London. Photo courtesy Sotheby's.