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A PAIR OF CHINESE EXPORT REVERSE-PAINTED MIRRORS
A PAIR OF CHINESE EXPORT REVERSE-PAINTED MIRRORS
A PAIR OF CHINESE EXPORT REVERSE-PAINTED MIRRORS
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This lot will be removed to Christie’s Park Royal.… Read more
A PAIR OF CHINESE EXPORT REVERSE-PAINTED MIRRORS

MID-18TH CENTURY

Details
A PAIR OF CHINESE EXPORT REVERSE-PAINTED MIRRORS
MID-18TH CENTURY
Each depicting a courtly family within a landscape, in contemporary European black-and-gilt-japanned frames, both with handwritten label to reverse 'Lent by/The Countess Bathurst/Cirencester Park'
30 x 19 in. (76 x 48 cm.)
Special notice

This lot will be removed to Christie’s Park Royal. Christie’s will inform you if the lot has been sent offsite. Our removal and storage of the lot is subject to the terms and conditions of storage which can be found at Christies.com/storage and our fees for storage are set out in the table below - these will apply whether the lot remains with Christie’s or is removed elsewhere. Please call Christie’s Client Service 24 hours in advance to book a collection time at Christie’s Park Royal. All collections from Christie’s Park Royal will be by pre-booked appointment only. Tel: +44 (0)20 7839 9060 Email: cscollectionsuk@christies.com. If the lot remains at Christie’s it will be available for collection on any working day 9.00 am to 5.00 pm. Lots are not available for collection at weekends.

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Adrian Hume-Sayer
Adrian Hume-Sayer

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Lot Essay


Both the practice of painting on glass and the flat glass itself were introduced to China in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. China had a long history of producing utensils and decorative objects in glass. The glass workshop in the Forbidden City was established in 1696, but no flat glass was produced and when it was attempted it was reported that the manufacturers ‘do not know how to manufacture it with the proper materials’ (Breton de la Martinière, China, its costume, art etc, translated 1813). However, visiting dignitaries had brought mirrors as gifts for the Emperor, such as a Dutch mission which in 1686 presented the Emperor Kangxi with a pair of large European mirrors, the quality of which was a revelation to the Chinese.

The practice of painting on mirrors developed in China after 1715 when the Jesuit missionary Father Castiglione arrived in Peking. He found favour with the Emperors Yongzheng and Qianlong and was entrusted with the decoration of the Imperial Garden in Peking. He learnt to paint in oil on glass, a technique that was already practiced in Europe but which was unknown in China in the 17th century. Chinese artists, who were already expert in painting and calligraphy, took up the practice, tracing the outlines of their designs on the back of the mirror plate and, using a special steel implement, scraping away the mirror backing to reveal the glass that could then be painted. Common designs included still lives, birds and groups of figures, usually depicted against backgrounds of rivers or pavilions.
Many mirrors were brought back to Europe by the companies who routinely plied their trade in Asia, with some carried as ‘private trade’ by crew members (Graham Child, World Mirrors, London, 1990, pp. 361–386). The demand for such painting was fuelled by the mania in Europe for Chinese fashions, promoted by the likes of Sir William Chambers, whose Designs for Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines and Utensils was issued in 1757, and which found expression in the homes of the fashionable cognoscenti, such as the Chinese Bedroom at Badminton House, Gloucestershire, fitted up for the 4th Duke of Beaufort by William Linnell in 1752-54.

A similar pair of mirrors, of almost identical size, were formerly in the collection of Raine, Countess Spencer, sold Christie's, London, 13 November 2019, lot 259 (£62,500, including premium).

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