Lot 183. A rare and monumental pair of bronze 'deer' censers, Incised Qianlong six-character marks within rectangles and of the period (1736-1795). Hauteurs : 129 cm et 132 cm. Price realised EUR 277,200 (Estimate EUR 250,000 – EUR 350,000). © Christie's 2023
Les deux cerfs sont modelés au naturel, debout sur leurs quatre pattes. Tandis que l'un semble à l'arrêt, l'autre a sa patte droite avant étendue vers l'avant et sa patte gauche avant ramenée sous le corps donnant une impression de mouvement. Leur corps, leur cou et la naissance de leurs pattes sont ornés d'une multitude de fleurs de prunus incisées. Leurs yeux ronds grand ouverts et leurs oreilles légèrement inclinées en arrière animent leur gueule. Ils sont tous deux dotés de bois à plusieurs branches rehaussés par un travail de ciselure. Ils portent sur leur poitrail une marque Qianlong incisée à six caractères dans un cartouche; socles en bois.
Provenance: Acquired in France by the grandfather of the present owner before 1930, thence by descent in the family.
Note: Elegantly cast, our pair of bronze deers bearing a Qianlong mark are exceedingly rare.
Deer have a number of auspicious meanings in Chinese culture. Shoulao, the Star God of Longevity, is usually depicted accompanied by a spotted deer, crane, peach and pine tree. Thus each of these, including the deer, has come to represent long life. Deer are known to live for a long time and are believed to be the only animals that can find the fungus of immortality. In addition, deer may represent Luxing, the God of Rank and Emolument.
The theme of deer was obviously one close to the Qianlong emperor's heart, as can be seen in numerous court paintings dating to his reign as well as the porcelain 'hundred deer' vases. His appreciation of the theme also extended to cloisonne since a plaque from the collection of S. Soames, decorated with a river landscape through which wander the 'hundred deer' (see Sir Harry Garner, Chinese and Japanese Cloisonne Enamels, Faber & Faber, London, 1962, p. 93 and pl. 77), is inscribed on the back of the plaque with a Qianlong poem in which the emperor refers to the deer with their young in the royal park, and how they are free from fear because they are safe guarded by imperial decree from attack by archers with their arrows.
Christie's. Art d'Asie, Paris, 14 june 2023