Antique Ancestor Official in Ornate Robe with Raised Lacquer Designs (5686BREM)

$4,950.00

H: 23.5″  W: 15.625″  D: 10″ |  CALL US AT 213-568-3030 for SHIPPING and Price INFORMATION

This exceptional Qing carving portrays a seated official ancestor wearing  traditional official’s clothing, a red and black official’s hat and black boots. His inset glass eyes and high cheekbones frame a large curved nose, a strong projecting chin and forehead wrinkles indicating a man of importance with the wisdom of age who demands respect. The top two robe layers have wide borders with marvelous raised lacquer decorations that include beautiful cloud forms, flying phoenixes with spread wings and floral sprays.

Description

This fine Chinese wood carving is a seated ancestor figure portrayed as a Chinese official. By the 10th century, the Chinese  bureaucracy was run by a class of scholarly elite officials who passed a variety of tough examinations in history, philosophy and the Confucian teachings of statecraft and ethics. Passing made them eligible for positions from local magistrate to the highest state ministers (Blofeld, p. xv) giving them and their families status, power and financial stability for life. Families honored their ancestors in paintings and carvings reflecting both their wealth and  filial piety. This statue reveals both. The man’s forceful face with inset glass pupils, high cheekbones, projecting chin, forehead wrinkles indicating his wisdom of age and the holess that held hair for his moustache and beard commands great respect. His official attire is meant to impress from his hat to his extravagant robes to his boots. The first layer is a barely visible around his neck. The middle yellow-gold layer is decorated with a wide red trim (the color of fu or blessings) and a bead shaped border enclosing beautifully lacquered floral sprays in relief. The outer robe is covered with a wealth of raised  lacquer designs. Its U-shaped border is covered with raised spirals. The robe has elegant folds and a set of flying phoenixes on the shoulders and another at the knees symbolizing the prosperity, rank and great blessings of his official status (Welch, p. 124 and 160). Linked to peaceful, benevolent times, a phoenix symbolizes good fortune, a homophone for the salary, high status and rewards that come with a civil service position. These homophonic words also amplift the meaning to “… rapidly advance in one’s career.” (p. 83) Stylized clouds (yun) are scattered there and are a homophone for good fortune (fuyun) and, as they are high in the sky, they also symbolize high rank. (Bartholomew p. 105) Covered with a smokey black coating from incense and candle offerings, they compound the natural darkening of Chinese lacquer over time. The rear cavity indicates this piece was consecrated. A form of ancestor worship, it could have been on a home altar. But given its size and beauty, it may have been in a special family or clan shrine. The front of the carving is in very good condition with expected surface losses; the back has age and some old stanilized insect deterioration. This special piece is set on a modern frosted Lucite stand that works in any decor.

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Sources

Terese Tse Bartholomew, Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art, San Francisco, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, 2006.      

Patricia Bjaaland Welch, Chinese Art: A Guide to Motifs and Visual Imagery, North Clarendon, Tuttle Publishing, 2008.

Additional information

Place of Origin

China

Period

Antique, Qing Dynasty

Date

18-19th Century

Materials and Technique

Wood

Dimensions (inches)

Ht: 23.5” W: 15.625” D: 10”

Dimensions (metric)

Ht: 59.69cm W: 39.68cm D: 25.4cm

Reference Number

5686BREM

Condition

Very good, see description