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An Imperial bronze five-piece altar garniture, China, Qianlong mark and period | Lot | Sotheby's

An Imperial bronze five-piece altar garniture, China, Qianlong mark and period. Photo Sotheby’s

impressively large, comprising a pair of gu-form vases, a pair of candlesticks and a rectangular censer, all cast and repoussed in multiple sections with raised decoration against a dense cloud ground; each side of the vases with confronted foliate kui dragons flanking a shou medallion, between a dragon in high relief holding aloft a shou medallion on the neck and foot; the pair of candlesticks each supported on a square-sectioned bell-shaped base, each side with a pair of dragons, the tapering shaft with lingzhi, key-fret, stylized shou character and dragon, the drip pan with bats flanking a basin of jewels; each side of the censer with a pair of dragons flanking a shou medallion, supported on four stylized elephant-head feet, the mouth set with opposing bail handles and fitted with a liner, the edges of the censer and vases fitted with dentil flanges, the six-character marks all set in a line on one side below the upper rims (5). Height of vases 20 3/8  in., 52  cm. Estimation 60,00080,000 USD

The basic furnishing for an altar was the five-piece garniture set, known as the wugong, five offerings. Their shapes are based on archaic ritual vessels of the Shang and Zhou periods.

The Qing emperors were devout Buddhists. Many garniture sets were commissioned in a variety of materials to furnish the altars of private shrines, temples, and ritual spaces within the compounds of Imperial palaces and gardens.

Another example of a five-piece garniture set was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 11th April 2008, lot 2816, and a pair of similar gu-form vases, Qianlong mark and period, with a similar design to the present lot, but with parcel-gilt highlights, was sold in our London rooms, 16th June 1999, lot 749. 

Sotheby’s. Images of Enlightenment: Devotional Works of Art and Paintings, New York | 17 sept. 2014, 10:00 AM