Lot 3416. A pair of embroidered civil official's rank badges of peacocks, buzi, Kangxi period (1662-1722); 12 1/4 x 12 1/4 in. (31 x 31 cm.)Estimate HKD 260,000 - HKD 350,000Price realised HKD 375,000© Christie's Images Ltd 2014.

Made for a third rank official, one badge is finely embroidered with a colourful peacock with the wings outstretched and the head facing the sun, flying above rocks and waves amidst scrolling clouds set against a shimmering ground of couched gold threads. The scene is framed by a square border of stylised scrolls. The other badge is a front badge similarly decorated with two peacocks embroidered in the same style but set in two separate panels, with the borders embroidered with peacock feathers.

Provenance: A private Swedish collection sold by Linda Wrigglesworth Ltd during the early 1990s.

NoteCompare the present lot to an example in the British Museum, illustrated by Jessica Rawson in The British Museum Book of Chinese Art, New York, 1992, p. 36, no. 14. Examples of third rank badges depicting the peacock standing freely, rather than its body forming a medallion, include one in the Letcher Collection, illustrated by Schuyler Cammann, 'Chinese Mandarin Squares', University Museum Bulletin, Vol. 17, No. 3, University of Pennsylvania, 1953, fig. 8, no. 9; one from a private collection illustrated on the front cover, Arts of Asia, May-June, 1991; another is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, illustrated by Young Yang Chung, The Art of Oriental Embroidery, New York, 1983, fig. 6-13; and another illustrated by Valery M. Garrett, Chinese Clothing, Hong Kong, 1994, pl. 31

It is rare to find extant examples of civil rank badges dating to the Kangxi period. During the mid-17th century, the placement of rank badges changed from display on court robes to a surcoat worn over them, due to pressure from the Manchu to institute their own style of court attire. The shape of buzi, insignia badges, became more exactingly square. This shift to an outer garment necessitated dividing the front badge vertically to allow the front opening of the surcoat. Wives and children of courtiers often wore garments ornamented with rank badges, although not sanctioned by legislation. See three Kangxi-period gold-couched-ground rank badges, including one with an egret which was included in the exhibition, Heavens' Embroidered Cloths, One Thousand Years of Chinese Textiles, Hong Kong Museum of Art, 1995, and illustrated in the Catalogue, p. 295, no. 100; one with a silver pheasant illustrated by B. Jackson and D. Hughes, Ladder to the Clouds, Berkeley, California, 1999, p. 229, no. 15.010, and later sold at Christie's New York, The Imperial Wardrobe: Fine Chinese Costume and Textiles from the Linda Wrigglesworth Collection, 19 March 2008, lot 28; and one with a peacock, also sold at Christie's New York, 21 September 1995, lot 535

Christie's. Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Hong Kong, 26 November 2014