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Pair of Antique Lamps - Draw Attention from the Chinese Trade

17/11/2014 8:01 AM

A pair of antique lamps was recently sold at auction; not an uncommon event you might remark, but in this case their owners were more than pleasantly surprised. Seated beneath later brass lamp mounts were in fact a pair of Chinese hexagonal wig or hat stands from the late Qing period, decorated in the eighteenth century Qianlong style (pronounced Chi-an-lung ).

They were brought to light during a recent valuation by our general valuer, Jonathan Roberts.  Seeing their potential if sold at auction, he advised their owners of the benefits of instructing Culvertons to consign them to sale on their behalf.

The Qing ruled from 1644 until the early twentieth century, and were originally descended from Manchurian horsemen. Their rule replaced the Ming dynasty and was usurped by the Republic of China in 1912.  Qianlong was the sixth Qing emperor and reigned officially from 1735 to 1796, and a passionate patron and exponent of the arts. His reign has been described as one of China’s golden ages, and by the end of the eighteenth century China was the wealthiest and most populous country in the world.

At the end of the nineteenth century an artistic, scholarly style of decorated porcelain, using muted enamels, was fashionable and in demand especially from North America; an historic and important trading partner. The use of enamels as a decorative medium was popular within the Qianlong dynasty, and these stands, inspired by this period of artistic and technical excellence hark back to this time.

The quality of their decoration was fine but not outstanding – ‘pierced with a hole to each side and painted with four claw dragons amid flames on an anhua decorated wave ground’*.  However, they were in excellent condition, a vital factor for porcelain of this age, and were certainly of the Qianlong style, but far later in date than the painted marks to the underside would have you believe.

 ‘The only rule that is certain when it comes to Chinese porcelain marks, is that most of them are not from the period they say!’

Collectors and investors within any market place broaden their horizons and re-evaluate the previously unfavoured when the supply of ‘blue chip’ works dry up. In the case of Chinese ceramics, until recently the too-academic pieces or those whose purpose is obscure – such as these late nineteenth century wig stands – have been out of favour: but, clearly, not any more.

This change of attitude coupled with an insatiable demand from collectors in mainland China were the major contributing factors to lot 441 achieving a price of nearly five times the lower auction estimate: £1700.00

* Images of ‘four claw dragon’s’ – symbolised nobility

  The word ‘ anhau’ means hidden decoration

 ‘ Waves’  depicted in Chinese art – evoked the ancient belief that they were the abode of dragons.

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