Fri, 15th Oct 2021 10:00

TWO-DAY AUCTION - Fine Chinese Art / 中國藝術集珍 / Buddhism & Hinduism

 
  Lot 54
 

54

A CARVED SANDALWOOD ‘RECUMBENT DRAGON’ SEAL, QIANLONG CHENHAN
龍鈕“乾隆宸翰”檀香木璽

China, 16th-18th century. Of square form, surmounted by a boldly carved handle in the form of a four-clawed dragon in a recumbent pose with its head facing back toward the articulated spine, further with bulging eyes, sharp fangs, neatly incised brows and scrolling mane, and furcated tail. The wood with characteristic grain as expected. A fabric cord, most likely dating from the same period, is attached to the pierced handle.

Inscriptions: The seal face reads ‘Qianlong chenhan’, which can be translated as 'Emperor Qianlong's Literary and Artistic Work'.

Provenance: From a private estate in the greater London area, United Kingdom.
Condition: Good condition with old wear, the wood with natural age cracks, some with old fills, as well as small nicks and light scratches. The dragon handle with minor old repairs, some with old fills. Remnants of seal paste. The fabric cord has been cut and shows loose threads. With a golden-brown, naturally grown patina.

Weight: 379.1 g
Dimensions: Size 10.8 x 10.8 x 8.1 cm, Inner seal face 9.3 x 9.3 cm

The fine material, the fullness of the recumbent dragon’s body, the three-dimensionality of his fierce yet elegant facial features, and the many intricately carved details overall set the present carving work clearly apart from the characteristic stiffness of later Qing Dynasty seals, for example those made during the Guangxu period (see Auction result comparison for one such seal).

The relatively short height of the seal block suggests that the seal face was at least once repurposed, the carving itself probably dating from significantly before the Qianlong period. The symmetrical wear to all edges and corners, the even patina and the boldly carved seal inscription, however, indicate that this refitting has probably not happened after the end of the Qing dynasty, thus very well might have been ordered by Qianlong himself, perhaps during his last years as Emperor Emeritus (1796-1799). The Emperor once wrote personally about ease in which even the most prominent seals could be repurposed, not without a somewhat waggish tone between the lines (Shu Ming liedai yuce shi - On Ming dynasty jade books, 1782).

The old fabric cord attached to the seal is clearly ancient and has been cut in such a manner as to suggest it was removed from its original storage place by force, possibly from a palace during one of the many turbulent events of 19th and early 20th centuries China. The slightly divergent lengths of the ends, yet with parallel intersections, indicate that the cord was stretched and then cut diagonally, probably with a melee weapon of military origin, in a hurried and forceful manner.

Expert’s note: Although the seal is not recorded in the Qianlong Baoshu, there are several indicators of an Imperial connection. The style and quality of the carving rule out a 19th-century dating, suggesting an original carving date between the 16th and 18th centuries, which is further underpinned by the extensive and symmetrical wear and the even patina. The Indian sandalwood has also been used for confirmed Imperial seals (see Literature comparison), and even the repurposing of the seal could conceivably have happened under Imperial command. As such, it is impossible to give a precise dating for the present lot; nonetheless, the present seal is without a doubt of exceptional quality, and it is this author’s sincere hope that further research about its origins can be conducted one day.

Literature comparison: Compare a seal of the Empress Dowager Cixi, carved from the same type of sandalwood, but of larger size, in Imperial Seals of the Ming & Qing Dynasties, The Palace Museum, Beijing, 2008, p. 286, no. 269.

Auction result comparison: Compare a related but later Imperial sandalwood ‘double dragon’ seal, dated to the Guangxu period and of smaller size (7.5 cm wide), at Christie’s Hong Kong in Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art on 26 November 2014, lot 3431, sold for HKD 750,000. Compare a related white jade seal, also with a handle in the form of a recumbent dragon, and with a possibly repurposed seal face, but of much smaller size (3.8 cm) at Sotheby’s London in Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art on 11 May 2011, lot 161, sold for GBP 80,450.

龍鈕“乾隆宸翰”檀香木璽
中國, 十六至十八世紀。方形印,四爪臥龍鈕,頭朝後仰天,雙眼突出,鋒利獠牙,鬃毛捲曲,龍爪緊抓璽面、端肅敦仪、凛然生威,雕工精细。木材具有預期的特征纹理。 一根很可能是同一时期的繩子穿鈕而過。

款識:乾隆宸翰。意指乾隆親筆手詔御禮等。

來源:英國倫敦私人收藏。
品相:品相良好,老磨損。有自然老化裂纹,局部有舊時填充物,小刻痕和輕微劃痕。 龍鈕有輕微舊修以及舊時填充物。 密封胶殘留物。 繩子已被切断有些鬆散。 具有自然生長的金棕色包漿。

重量:379.1 克
尺寸:10.8 x 10.8 x 8.1 厘米, 印章面 9.3 x 9.3 厘米

專家注釋:《乾隆寶藪》中雖未記錄這枚檀香木璽,但它還是顯示了幾項與皇族有關的迹象,其雕刻風格和質量排除了 十九世纪的可能性,應該是十六至十八世纪之間,通過對其磨損和包漿的研究更加確認了这一点。檀香也曾被用於雕刻御用印章。目前無法給當前拍品進行準確的斷代,但是木璽的品質毋庸置疑,筆者真誠地希望能有朝一日能對其來源進行進一步研究。

拍賣結果比較:一件光緒朝、尺寸稍小 (寬7.5 厘米) 的檀香木雙龍印,見香港佳士得Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art 2014年11月26 日 lot 3431, 售價HKD 750,000。一件臥龍鈕白玉印,其印章面可能曾被重新雕刻過,但尺寸稍小 (3.8 厘米) 見倫敦蘇富比Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art 2011年5月11日 lot 161, 售價GBP 80,450。

Sold for €5,056

including Buyer's Premium


 

China, 16th-18th century. Of square form, surmounted by a boldly carved handle in the form of a four-clawed dragon in a recumbent pose with its head facing back toward the articulated spine, further with bulging eyes, sharp fangs, neatly incised brows and scrolling mane, and furcated tail. The wood with characteristic grain as expected. A fabric cord, most likely dating from the same period, is attached to the pierced handle.

Inscriptions: The seal face reads ‘Qianlong chenhan’, which can be translated as 'Emperor Qianlong's Literary and Artistic Work'.

Provenance: From a private estate in the greater London area, United Kingdom.
Condition: Good condition with old wear, the wood with natural age cracks, some with old fills, as well as small nicks and light scratches. The dragon handle with minor old repairs, some with old fills. Remnants of seal paste. The fabric cord has been cut and shows loose threads. With a golden-brown, naturally grown patina.

Weight: 379.1 g
Dimensions: Size 10.8 x 10.8 x 8.1 cm, Inner seal face 9.3 x 9.3 cm

The fine material, the fullness of the recumbent dragon’s body, the three-dimensionality of his fierce yet elegant facial features, and the many intricately carved details overall set the present carving work clearly apart from the characteristic stiffness of later Qing Dynasty seals, for example those made during the Guangxu period (see Auction result comparison for one such seal).

The relatively short height of the seal block suggests that the seal face was at least once repurposed, the carving itself probably dating from significantly before the Qianlong period. The symmetrical wear to all edges and corners, the even patina and the boldly carved seal inscription, however, indicate that this refitting has probably not happened after the end of the Qing dynasty, thus very well might have been ordered by Qianlong himself, perhaps during his last years as Emperor Emeritus (1796-1799). The Emperor once wrote personally about ease in which even the most prominent seals could be repurposed, not without a somewhat waggish tone between the lines (Shu Ming liedai yuce shi - On Ming dynasty jade books, 1782).

The old fabric cord attached to the seal is clearly ancient and has been cut in such a manner as to suggest it was removed from its original storage place by force, possibly from a palace during one of the many turbulent events of 19th and early 20th centuries China. The slightly divergent lengths of the ends, yet with parallel intersections, indicate that the cord was stretched and then cut diagonally, probably with a melee weapon of military origin, in a hurried and forceful manner.

Expert’s note: Although the seal is not recorded in the Qianlong Baoshu, there are several indicators of an Imperial connection. The style and quality of the carving rule out a 19th-century dating, suggesting an original carving date between the 16th and 18th centuries, which is further underpinned by the extensive and symmetrical wear and the even patina. The Indian sandalwood has also been used for confirmed Imperial seals (see Literature comparison), and even the repurposing of the seal could conceivably have happened under Imperial command. As such, it is impossible to give a precise dating for the present lot; nonetheless, the present seal is without a doubt of exceptional quality, and it is this author’s sincere hope that further research about its origins can be conducted one day.

Literature comparison: Compare a seal of the Empress Dowager Cixi, carved from the same type of sandalwood, but of larger size, in Imperial Seals of the Ming & Qing Dynasties, The Palace Museum, Beijing, 2008, p. 286, no. 269.

Auction result comparison: Compare a related but later Imperial sandalwood ‘double dragon’ seal, dated to the Guangxu period and of smaller size (7.5 cm wide), at Christie’s Hong Kong in Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art on 26 November 2014, lot 3431, sold for HKD 750,000. Compare a related white jade seal, also with a handle in the form of a recumbent dragon, and with a possibly repurposed seal face, but of much smaller size (3.8 cm) at Sotheby’s London in Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art on 11 May 2011, lot 161, sold for GBP 80,450.

龍鈕“乾隆宸翰”檀香木璽
中國, 十六至十八世紀。方形印,四爪臥龍鈕,頭朝後仰天,雙眼突出,鋒利獠牙,鬃毛捲曲,龍爪緊抓璽面、端肅敦仪、凛然生威,雕工精细。木材具有預期的特征纹理。 一根很可能是同一时期的繩子穿鈕而過。

款識:乾隆宸翰。意指乾隆親筆手詔御禮等。

來源:英國倫敦私人收藏。
品相:品相良好,老磨損。有自然老化裂纹,局部有舊時填充物,小刻痕和輕微劃痕。 龍鈕有輕微舊修以及舊時填充物。 密封胶殘留物。 繩子已被切断有些鬆散。 具有自然生長的金棕色包漿。

重量:379.1 克
尺寸:10.8 x 10.8 x 8.1 厘米, 印章面 9.3 x 9.3 厘米

專家注釋:《乾隆寶藪》中雖未記錄這枚檀香木璽,但它還是顯示了幾項與皇族有關的迹象,其雕刻風格和質量排除了 十九世纪的可能性,應該是十六至十八世纪之間,通過對其磨損和包漿的研究更加確認了这一点。檀香也曾被用於雕刻御用印章。目前無法給當前拍品進行準確的斷代,但是木璽的品質毋庸置疑,筆者真誠地希望能有朝一日能對其來源進行進一步研究。

拍賣結果比較:一件光緒朝、尺寸稍小 (寬7.5 厘米) 的檀香木雙龍印,見香港佳士得Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art 2014年11月26 日 lot 3431, 售價HKD 750,000。一件臥龍鈕白玉印,其印章面可能曾被重新雕刻過,但尺寸稍小 (3.8 厘米) 見倫敦蘇富比Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art 2011年5月11日 lot 161, 售價GBP 80,450。

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