• Important Chinese Ceramics and auction at Christies

    Sale 2731

    Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art

    1 December 2009, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1956


    Price Realised  



    Superberly embroidered in satin stitches and detailed with couch stitched outlines to depict a standing figure of Guandi partially shrouded by clouds, dressed in military armour beneath a voluminous blue robe, rendered in satin stitch using hair-like filaments of silk floss, the front of the garment is delicately emblazoned with a fierce dragon above waves, his ample waist fastened with a jade embellished belt, the body slightly turned to one side, one hand holding his long pointed beard, the rounded face looking down at his attendant, Zhou Cang, who is looking up at his Master, holding a halberd over one shoulder, inscribed with ink in running script on upper left-hand side with a short poem, above an embroidered red seal, Qingbi Zhai, 'The Qingbi Studio', all against an embroidered back-ground of wispy clouds, the silk panel finely woven with a subtle fruit and flower pattern
    21 5/8 x 49 3/4 in. (55 x 126.5), mounted as a hanging scroll, brocade wrapper

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    The studio name Qingbi Zhai, 'Bright Green Studio', identifies the present hanging scroll to the work of the famous female members of the Gu family based in Shanghai whose fine embroidery work became legendary. One of their most renowned female members was Han Ximeng who spent several years embroidering reproductions of eight well-known paintings of the Song and Yuan periods. Han Ximeng's work was given the supreme accolade of laudatory inscriptions by Dong Qichang, one of the most famous artist-calligrapher of the late Ming dynasty. Han Ximeng's daughter Gu Lanyu followed her mother's work and opened a commerical studio, reviving Song dynasty embroidery techniques and also refined new techniques of subtle shading and the use of exceptionally fine threads.

    The inscription written in ink on the present scroll may be translated as:

    Balanced and righteous,
    a staunch loyalty that prevails throughout the day and night.
    Undoubtedly your unwaiving bravery,
    and heroic deeds will prevail throug history.

    The same inscription is found an a later Gu-style embroidery of a similar scene of Guandi, dated to the Qianlong period, in the Qing Court collection, and illustrated in Embroidered Pictures, The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 2005, p. 117, no. 63. The cult of Guandi, the deified military hero Guanyu of the Three Kingdoms period, was actively supported by the Ming Court and his image can be found in a number of Ming paintings. Images of Guandi are often accompanied either by Guan Ping, his adopted son, or Zhou Cang, his loyal general as depicted on the present embroidery.