A MAGNIFICENT LARGE PAIR OF CHINESE GOLD 'DAOIST EMBLEM' PRESENTATION BOXES
A MAGNIFICENT LARGE PAIR OF CHINESE GOLD 'DAOIST EMBLEM' PRESENTATION BOXES
A MAGNIFICENT LARGE PAIR OF CHINESE GOLD 'DAOIST EMBLEM' PRESENTATION BOXES
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A MAGNIFICENT LARGE PAIR OF CHINESE GOLD 'DAOIST EMBLEM' PRESENTATION BOXES
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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more THE RARE AND MAGNIFICENT 'COUNTESS VON BISMARCK' CHINESE GOLD PRESENTATION BOXESPROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE SWISS COLLECTION
A LARGE PAIR OF CHINESE GOLD 'DAOIST EMBLEM' PRESENTATION BOXES

QING DYNASTY (1644-1911)

Details
A LARGE PAIR OF CHINESE GOLD 'DAOIST EMBLEM' PRESENTATION BOXES
QING DYNASTY (1644-1911)
The shaped rectangular boxes are supported on four low feet, the covers and lobed sides finely chased with an interlocking geometric ground and the rims cast with an openwork border. Each cover is further embellished with a Daoist emblem, intricately worked in gold filligree, comprising a pair of be-ribboned castanets and a sword, each encircled within a border of rocks and scrolling leafy foliage that is hung with rubies, emeralds and sapphires.
Box with sword: 6 ¾ in. by 4 ½ in. by 1 ¾ in. (17.1 cm x 11.6 cm. x 4.7 cm.)
Box with castanets: 6 5/8 in. by 4 ¾ in. by 1 ¾ in. (16.9 cm. x 12.1 cm. x 4.6 cm.)
The pair: 2.2 kg.
Provenance
Countess Mona von Bismarck (1899-1983).
Sotheby's Geneva, The Magnificent Jewels of the late Countess Mona Bismarck, 13 May 1986, lot 114.
Property from a Private Swiss Collection.
Special notice

This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Lot Essay

It is unusual to find such lavish, magnificently worked Chinese boxes in gold suggesting that these would have been made for a member of China's wealthy, ruling elite. The present lot bears close comparison to the set of five Chinese gold boxes in the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA), Minnesota, USA, gifted to the museum in the first half of the 20th century by Mr and Mrs Augustus L. Searle, accession nos. 41.57.2, 41.57. 3A.B, 41.57.1A.B, 43.26.1A.B, 43.26.2A.B, two of which are illustrated in Fig 1. As with the current lot, each of these presentation boxes is decorated to the cover with one of the Eight Daoist Emblems: a fan; iron crutch; bamboo drum; flute; flower basket. The museum dates these boxes to 1779 and suggests that they were intended as birthday gifts for the Qianlong Emperor (1736-1795). The boxes in the MIA vary slightly in form, but are closely related to the current lot in terms of style, technique, size and decoration.
It is also worth noting that the Daoist emblems that decorate the covers of the current boxes, a sword and castanets, represent two of the three missing Daoist Emblems not represented on the five boxes in the MIA.
The Daoist Immortals are each identified by their attributes: Li Tieguai has an iron crutch or a double gourd; Zhongli Quan, a peach or fan; Lan Caihe, a flower basket; Zhang Guo, a bamboo drum; He Xiangu, a lotus or flywhisk; Han Xiangxi, a flute; whilst Lu Dongbin and Cao Guoji are represented respectively by the sword and pair of castanets, as seen on these boxes.

COUNTESS MONA VON BISMARCK
The legendary Mona von Bismarck (1897-1983) was one of the most glamorous and beautiful women in New York, a fashion icon and a member of the Cafe Society who maintained privileged relationships with large public figures such as President Roosevelt, President Eisenhower, the Duke of Windsor, Princess Grace of Monaco, and personalities of the Arts such as Greta Garbo, Cristobal Balenciaga, Hubert de Givenchy, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Paul Newman. Mona von Bismarck bears the name of the fourth of her five husbands, Count Édouard von Bismarck, grandson of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck of Germany but in the field of art history she is known as 'Mrs Harrison Williams', after her third husband, one of the wealthiest men in America. This wealth combined with a keen aethetic eye, allowed her to commission contemporary decorators, such as José Maria Sert and Syrie Maugham, to decorate her homes in Capri, New York and Paris, and to purchase a fabulous art collection which included Goya, Tiepolo and Fragonard. She also developed a particular love of Chinese porcelain and works of arts and became quite an expert in antiques. As a philanthropist and patron, she founded the Mona Bismarck American Center in Paris.

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