In their next silver sale at Donnington Priory on February 26, auctioneers Dreweatts and Bloomsbury feature two particularly important Chinese lots: a pair of export silver filigree vases and covers, and an unusual pair of Chinese export silver models of Huabiao ceremonial columns.
The vases, ascribed to the Quianlong period, do not carry any markings but, according to silver expert Adrien von Ferscht in his article The Art of Filigree, the best Chinese filigree was produced during the 18th century and most pieces do not carry a maker’s mark, in the way later 19th century pieces do. [The technique of filigree originated in Spain and was practised by Jewish Sephardi silversmiths who too it with them when they were expelled by the Moorish invasion in 1492].
During the 17th and 18th centuries filigree silver was produced throughout Asia where it was highly prized. Many export pieces were purchased for the collections of the first major European museums and affluent, often aristocratic, owners. Pieces similarly worked to those in the sale are illustrated in Silver Wonders from the East: Filigree of the Tsars, the catalogue for the 2006 exhibition at the Hermitage Amsterdam.
A pair of striking 29.5cm. high export silver models of Chinese Huabiao ceremonial columns by Bao Xiang, Beijing, carry the three hallmarks of Zu Yin, Bao Xiang and Bei Jing. They were crafted around 1890 and depict a dragon amidst clouds above waves in semi-relief and a cloud board on a hexagonal waisted plinth. The square base is enclosed by a pierced balustrade and shows dragons confronting a flaming pearl to the lower panels. The pair are estimated at a modest £1,500-2,000.
There are thirteen Chinese silver lots in the sale.