Lot 942. A rare gilt-metal and painted wood fan, Guangxu period (1875-1908). Estimate USD 20,000 - USD 30,000. Price realised USD 25,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2017
The gilt-metal head of the fan is chased on one side as a descending phoenix with a shou character on its breast, above a shou medallion and a bat suspending a ribbon-tied wan emblem, and the reverse is engraved with eight bats swooping amidst clouds, which is repeated as painted decoration on the separate wood pole which sits in a wood base of double-gourd shape painted with further shou medallions, and rests on a dome painted with wind-tossed waves. 82 ½ in. (208.53 cm.) high overall.
Provenance: Private collection, California, acquired before 1915, and thence by descent within the family.
Note: This rare fan is similar to those seen in a series of portraits of the Empress Dowager Cixi taken sometime after 1903, and illustrated by Liu and Xu Qixian (eds.) in Gu gong zhen cang ren wu zhao hui cui(Exquisite Figure-Pictures from the Palace Museum), Beijing, 1994, pp. 30-38. (Fig. 1) In these portraits the peacock fans are positioned in front of a screen and flank the Empress Dowager. These fans were a reference to royal status, and, as the peacock is associated with the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Guanyin), they therefore associated the Dowager Empress with Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy.
Fig. 1. Cixi, Empress Dowager of China, 1835-1908, Photographs, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., Purchase, FSA A.13 SC-GR-251.