A rare and impressive imperial jade and hardstone-inlaid lacquered wood 'birds and wisteria' panel, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period | 清乾隆 鸂鶒木仿天然木框黃漆百寶嵌紫藤綬帶鳥圖掛屏
A rare and impressive imperial jade and hardstone-inlaid lacquered wood 'birds and wisteria' panel,
Qing dynasty, Qianlong period
of rectangular form enclosed by a dark reddish-brown jishimu frame imitating the natural woody vines, the panel vividly depicts two paradise flycatchers compose of finely-carved white jade as the body, lapis lazuli as the crests, red carnelian as the beaks and claws, and mother of pearl inlaid with black stones as the eyes, one bird to the upper right poised to descend with its tail cocked and faces to the other one to the lower left, both perching on the wisteria branches extending organically form the frame, the wisteria leaves and flowers intricately inlaid with green jasper and crystal, all reserved against a finely lacquered yellow ground, the back of the panel lacquered in black, a brass loop attached to the top
76 by 126 cm
A Rare and Impressive Imperial Jade and Hardstone-inlaid Lacquered Wood 'Birds and Wisteria' Panel
A pair of hanging screens of the same size as the present lot is preserved in the Yucuixuan (Gallery of Jade Purity), part of the architectural complex of the Qianlong Garden in the Forbidden City (fig. 1). Apart from minor differences in the image composition and the poses of birds, all three panels share the same materials, forms, and crafts. The Qianlong Garden is located within the Ningshougong (Palace of Tranquil Longevity) complex, which was first built in the 28th year of the Kangxi reign (1689) in the northeast corner of the Inner Court of the Forbidden City. The palace then experienced a major renovation between the 37th and 41st year (1772-76) of the Qianlong reign. The reason for the renovation is mentioned in the Ningshougong Ming (the Epigraph to the Palace of Tranquil Longevity):
The Dazhengdian (the Hall of Grand Ruling) in Shengjing (present-day Shenyang), which was later called the Qingninggong (Palace of Peace and Tranquillity), was where my ancestors held God-worshipping ceremonies, after which the princes and ministers would be summoned into the palace to enjoy the meat used as the offering. As the state was established and the capital relocated to Yanjing (present-day Beijing), the rituals were instead held in the Kunninggong (the Palace of Earthly Tranquillity) behind the Qianqinggong (the Palace of Heavenly Purity). However, the rituals remained the same as in the Qingninggong. In the future, after I retire and the throne is yielded to the new emperor, the shrine and the sacred solon pole enshrined in the Kunninggong shall be moved to the Ningshougong, where the same worshipping ceremony will continue.
The construction and decoration of the Ningshougong complex, which was designed to be the Qianlong Emperor's retirement paradise, can be considered a Qing dynasty architectural masterpiece. The furnishings of the three major buildings in the Qianlong Garden, Fuwangge (the Wish-fulfilling Pavilion), Juanqinzhai (the Lodge for Retired Life), and Yucuixuan, are even more lavish and exquisite, representing the pinnacle of craftsmanship at that time. Many of the furnishings in the Qianlong Garden, from furniture to affixed hangings and displays, are decorated with images of wisteria, such as the scenic illusion paintings in the Juanqinzhai and the door headers in the Fuwangge. The present lot, which also features wisteria as the main subject, is thus mostly likely also from the Yucuixuan in the Qianlong Garden. The Yucuixuan is located in the fourth courtyard of the Qianlong Garden, next to the wall of the Ningshougong complex to the west and facing the Fuwangge to the east. It was built in the 37th year of the Qianlong reign (1772), modelled on the Ninghuitang in the garden of the Jianfugong . It is three bays wide with a front porch and features a hip-and-gable round-ridge roof of yellow tiles bordered by green tiles. The inside of the Yucuixuan is divided into three parts. The room in the south is called the Dexianshi (the Chamber of Leisure), and the one in the north is used as a Buddhist prayer room. A passageway from within the Yucuixuan connects it with the Zhuxiangguan (the Cottage of Bamboo Fragrance) to the north. A short wall decorated with coloured stone slabs in the southeast and a veranda to the north connecting to the Fuwangge enclose the Yucuixuan in a small courtyard. In the south of Yucuixuan, there is a garden rock work with steps leading to the top. As the layout of the Yucuixuan suggests, it is a secluded and quiet place hidden away in the Forbidden City. The wisteria panels that used to hang here, including the present lot, may have been thought of as window views, complementing the outdoor landscape. Due to its twining vines that seem to be without an end and the abundant flowers, wisteria has also long been considered an auspicious plant, symbolising longevity and prosperity.
Jichimu wood was extensively used in the Qing court. Its grain resembles the textural...