Rosebery’s December sale of Fine Art will include what is believed to be a very unusual 18th century Imperial cloisonné enamel hat box.
From a Dorset manor house, the item has been in a family with strong diplomatic connections since the 1920s. The box was originally made during the 18th century, known as being the most prolific period for cloisonné production in China. Crafted through a process of firing glass to create vitreous enamel which is placed within a wire framework, the object is then fired again in a kiln to produce the finished cloisonné piece.
This opulent example is decorated with a central flower enclosed within bands of stylised scrolling foliage, bats and clouds. As with many other examples of Chinese artwork from the period, bats are included to symbolise happiness, joy and good fortune, and the clouds are an auspicious symbol meaning longevity in good fortune. The wooden frame for the box is thought to be constructed from zitan, an extremely rare red sandalwood derived from a slow growing tree which makes it a sought after commodity for furniture.
the auctioneers believe that this item must have Imperial provenance. Rosebery’s Asian Art specialist Peter Greenway said yesterday: “The quality of the materials used in crafting this box would suggest that it is was created for the Forbidden City. The cloisonné itself is made to such a high standard that I would imagine whoever made it would have had to make and reject a number of panels before they had a finished piece that was good enough to be sent to the Emperor or his court. The superiority of the materials used, and the time taken to produce it, would suggest that nobody in 18th century China would have been able to afford it outside the Imperial palace.”
This stunning box, Lot 1578, carries an estimate of £15,000 – 20,000.
From the same private UK collection is a rare Chinese red cinnabar lacquer quatrefoil music box and cover, and also from the 18th century. The common ore of mercury, cinnabar is most popularly known for its use in Chinese lacquerware, the process of carving art from layered lacquer. Initially popular during the Song Dynasty, it was used widely throughout Asian countries including China, Japan and Korea.
The lacquer is produced from the resin of the rhus verniciflua trees found in southern China. Recognised by its striking red colour, which intensifies during the layering process, this deeply carved box is decorated with figures in a landscape and animals including deer and herons. Inside is a gold four character Chinese mark which translates to “Precious Music Box”. A rare and interesting piece the box is estimated to sell for £10,000 – 15,000.
Held at Roseberys saleroom in south London on December10, the sale will be on show prior to the auction on Friday 5 – Monday 8 December