Curio in National Palace Museum, Qianlong reign (1736-1795), Qing dynasty
Welcome to the National Palace Museum's collection of curios from the Qianlong reign (1736-1795) of the Qing dynasty! Here, you can explore some of the most exquisite artifacts from this era. We have a variety of different curios on display here, including a Cloisonne and painted enamel butter tea jar, Round Bamboo-Veneered Curio Box with Lotus Blossom Decor (Containing 27 Curios), Inkstones for Imperial Usage, Carved Polychrome Lacquer Box in the Shape of Conjoined Spheres and Square Sandalwood Curio Case (Containing 32 Curios). These are all beautiful pieces that tell us about the artistry and craftsmanship of this time period. Come take a look at these amazing artifacts today!
1. Cloisonne and painted enamel butter tea jar
The most outstanding examples of cloisonné enamelware during the Qing dynasty were the painted enamelware. Painted enamelware entailed first applying a layer of opaque glaze to the surface of a piece, which was then fired, and then painting scenes over the glaze, before giving it a second firing, this time at a low temperature. This tea jar, with its "Made in the Qianlong reign (1736-1795)" reign mark inscribed around the rim of the lid, is a full, round shape and boasts an ornate, ostentatious gilt-gold lid knob and three gilt-gold bands, each inlaid with coral, lapis lazuli and turquoise, in a distinctly Tibetan style. The jar is covered throughout with a filigree lotus scroll pattern on turquoise enamel glaze ground, interspersed with inlaid painted enamel panels. The use of these decorative panels was common on cloisonné in the West, although here the filigree work sets the outline of scenes of mountain huts, beautifully decorated with figurative paintings of ladies and butterflies, as well as landscapes, to enhance the overall three-dimensionality of the scene. Qianlong reign cloisonné enamelware such as this, combining a range of cloisonné techniques and fusing Occidental and Oriental styles, were resplendent examples of the new era of cultural exchanges between China and the West.
2. Round Bamboo-Veneered Curio Box with Lotus Blossom Decor (Containing 27 Curios)
This round curio box has been joined by bamboo thread and a "chu-huang" bamboo veneer, carved with lotuses, applied to the outer surface. The ingenious design allows for the four fan-shaped quadrants of the body to be either spread out so that they stand end to end in a straight line, or for them to be turned around 360°so that they form a square display box. Each quadrant is divided into a number of compartments, one of which has a rotating stand with more sections. These compartments house a total of 27 individual curios, and in addition to ancient and Qing dynasty jades, there are also handscroll paintings and album leaves by artists working for the court of the Qianlong emperor (r 1736-1795). A triangular drawer in the lower section of the quadrants each contain a handscroll, but at the moment there are only three, with a landscape by Fang Zong, and two paintings of flowers, one by Yang Dazhang, and the other by Li Bing, each measuring only 7 cm in length. One of these triangular drawers also contains an album leaf figure painting by the artist Jin Tingbiao, measuring roughly 3 cm along each side. These paintings are the smallest examples of their type in the collection of the National Palace Museum
3. Inkstones for Imperial Usage
The base of the inkstone is carved with six cloud-head feet and a round and square seal in the middle. The upper one in relief is in clerical script in two lines and reads "Pure Curio of the Qianlong [Emperor]", while the lower one is engraved in two lines of seal script and reads "Presented to the Three Altruisms." The cover is carved in relief with a scene of egrets and reeds as well as a poem by the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-1795).
4. Carved Polychrome Lacquer Box in the Shape of Conjoined Spheres
This is a double-union treasure chest. The surface was applied with two kinds of colored lacquer. The panels on the surface are carved in relief with images of tribute.
5. Square Sandalwood Curio Case (Containing 32 Curios)
When closed, this curio box looks like a plain container. The advantage to this type of container is that it does not take up much space in storage. Although the outside appears quite simple, it is by no means monotonous. The reason lies in the decorative method of using "panels" by the artisans who made it. The artifact allows viewers to appreciate its painting and calligraphy, which pique viewers' curiosity about what lies inside. Viewers will be amazed by the wings of the panels that can be pulled out one by one to form a fan-shaped chest. Almost instantly, the static form of the box becomes animated. Combined with the center that can be turned, it looks almost like a windmill about to spin. The sumeru mount forming the pedestal of the box is also a storage area. Almost like a modern interior design, this technique of using panels to conceal objects is a perfect match. Such innovation is indeed unrivaled in traditional Chinese craftsmanship.