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A MAGNIFICENT IMPERIAL YELLOW KESI TWELVE-SYMBOL 'DRAGON' ROBE MADE FOR THE EMPEROR, LONGPAO
A MAGNIFICENT IMPERIAL YELLOW KESI TWELVE-SYMBOL 'DRAGON' ROBE MADE FOR THE EMPEROR, LONGPAO
A MAGNIFICENT IMPERIAL YELLOW KESI TWELVE-SYMBOL 'DRAGON' ROBE MADE FOR THE EMPEROR, LONGPAO
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A MAGNIFICENT IMPERIAL YELLOW KESI TWELVE-SYMBOL 'DRAGON' ROBE MADE FOR THE EMPEROR, LONGPAO
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A MAGNIFICENT IMPERIAL YELLOW KESI TWELVE-SYMBOL 'DRAGON' ROBE MADE FOR THE EMPEROR, LONGPAO

QIANLONG-JIAQING PERIOD (1736-1820)

Details
A MAGNIFICENT IMPERIAL YELLOW KESI TWELVE-SYMBOL 'DRAGON' ROBE MADE FOR THE EMPEROR, LONGPAO
QIANLONG-JIAQING PERIOD (1736-1820)
The kesi ground is woven in shades of blue, violet, red, pink and gold threads with nine five-clawed dragons and confronting flaming pearls on a densely patterned ground of stylized wan emblems amidst clusters of ruyi-shaped clouds interspersed with bats, shou characters, and auspicious emblems. The Twelve Symbols of Imperial Authority are arranged in three groups of four: the sun, the moon, constellation and mountain around the neck; the fu symbol, axe, paired dragons, and golden pheasant around the body; and the pair of libation cups, aquatic grass, grains of millet and flames around lower body, all reserved on a bright yellow ground above the Eight Buddhist Emblems rising from the terrestrial diagram and lishui stripe at the hem; with gold cuffs and collar decorated with further dragons and bats.
87 ½ (222.3 cm) x 57 ½ in. (146.1 cm.)
Provenance
Prominent private collection, New England.

Brought to you by

Vicki Paloympis (潘薇琦)
Vicki Paloympis (潘薇琦) Vice President, Specialist, Head of Sale

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Lot Essay


The Twelve Ancient Symbols of Imperial Authority first appeared on the Manchu emperor's clothing after 1759. The Huangchao liqi tushi (Illustrated Precedents for the Ritual Paraphernalia of the Imperial Court), which was enforced in 1766, restricted the use of the Twelve Symbols to the Emperor. The symbols imply the notion of Imperial authority, signifying that the Emperor is the Ruler of the Universe. In the Qing dynasty, the first four symbols - sun, moon, stars, and mountain - were placed at the shoulders, chest and mid-back; the symbol of distinction (fu), axe, paired dragons, and the golden pheasant appeared at waist level; and temple-cups, aquatic grass, grains of millet, and flames were placed at knee level on the skirts of the coat.

The cosmic imagery of the dragon robe, rather than construction features, was of paramount concern. See J. E. Vollmer, Five Colours of the Universe: Symbolism in Clothes and Fabrics of the Ch'ing Dynasty (1644-1911), Edmonton Art Gallery, Hong Kong, 1980, pp. 22-3. As a result, the garment extended from shoulder to floor for both genders to provide an uninterrupted surface for decoration. Gender identifiers were reduced to subtle, non-structural features. Male longpao were vented at the center front and back acknowledging Manchu origins as mounted warriors. Womens' longpao remained vented at the sides. In addition, female coats carried an extra band that matched the neck facings and cuffs.

The current kesi robe is a spectacular example of a late 18th-early 19th century Emperor's longpao. Most published examples have a main design which is reserved on a plain yellow ground, while the design on the present robe is reserved on an intricate wan-fret ground. The present robe also differs from the more typical examples of yellow ‘twelve symbol’ dragon robes in its shou characters rendered in a pale blue color, which stand out from the overall design scheme. See a very similar kesi dragon robe from the Qianlong-Jiaqing period, also with decoration reserved on a wan-fret ground and with pale blue shou characters, in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, accession number T.199-1948.

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