Lot 122. An exceptionally rare pair of Imperial jade gilt-bronze cloisonné and champlevé enamel 'pagoda' incense holders, Qianlong period (1736-1795). Each 51.7cm (20 3/8in) high. Estimate: HK$1,500,000 - HK$2,000,000. Sold for HK$ 4,250,625 (€ 483,910) inc. premium. © Bonhams 2001-2019
Each of a tall hexagonal gilt-bronze, cloisonné and champlevé enamel pagoda-shaped structure supported on a waisted base of conforming shape with a low pierced balustrade enclosing six slender incised gilt-bronze columns, each enclosing a skilfully carved reticulated and multi-layered pale green jade incense holder framed by green jade terminals, the first incense holder carved with three ladies, a female attendant carrying a peach spray and a deer ascending a mountainous range strewn with pine, plantain, cypress, wutong, pagodas and streams, all below cloud scrolls, the other incense holder, similarly carved but with three sages, two male attendants and a crane, all set below a two-tiered sloping roof with gilt-bronze phoenix-head eaves, all below tear-dropped shaped finials.
Provenance: An Italian private collection.
Note: The present lot is exceptionally rare to have survived in its entirety, as most often the jade incense holders become separated from the original gilt-bronze, cloisonné and champlevé enamel pagoda-shaped structures. Compare, however, three related gilt-bronze, cloisonné enamel and jade incense holders, Qing dynasty, from the Qing Court Collection, illustrated in Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum: Jade 8 Qing Dynasty, Beijing, 2011, nos.208, 210 and 211. For related but smaller pale and dark green jade reticulated incense holders, Qing dynasty, but without the structures, from the Qing Court Collection, see ibid., nos.197, 198 (which uses very similar type of jade to the present lot), and 199-207. Such incense holders were also made on larger scale but using only gilt-bronze, cloisonné and champlevé enamel, such as the pair, mid-Qing dynasty, from the Qing Court Collection, illustrated in Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum: Enamels 4 Cloisonné in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Beijing, 2011, no.129.
Pairs of striking jade incense holders set within pagoda structures made of gilt-bronze, cloisonné and champlevé enamel, formed part of the Imperial throne paraphernalia. They would have been placed on either side and in front of the Imperial throne with a dual purpose of displaying the Imperial grandeur, whilst emanating pleasant sandalwood fragrance and forming an invisible sensory screen separating the emperor from his audience. See a related pair of reticulated green jade and gilt-bronze pagoda-shaped incense holders flanking the throne at the Chong Jing Dian ('Hall of Great Reverence') in the Forbidden City, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Furniture of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (II), Hong Kong, 2002, no.257.
The present lot is a result of the cooperation of the jade ateliers and cloisonné enamel ateliers, sparing no expense and displaying Imperial craftsmanship at its peak during the celebrated Qianlong reign. The superbly carved and pierced circular jade incense holders exhibit a masterful skill in rendering the varying levels of relief carving to achieve a highly accomplished fluid narrative design mirroring each other; three sages and two male attendants variously carrying peach, lingzhi fungus and lotus are contrasted with three ladies and a female attendant, variously carrying peach and lingzhi fungus; the crane on one is contrasted with the deer on the other - all symbols of long life.
See a related smaller pair of reticulated square celadon jade parfumiers, Qianlong, without the structure, which was sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 8 April 2011, lot 3239. See also a related pair of large gilt-bronze and cloisonné enamel parfumiers, Qianlong, which were sold at Christie's Paris, 7 December 2007, lot 24.
Bonhams. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, 28 May 2019, 15:30 HKT, Hong Kong, Admiralty