Poly Auction Hong Kong to Offer Exquisite Selection of Chinese Cloisonné Enamels from the Qing Dynasty

Cloisonné, a French word meaning "enclosed", is an ancient technique of creating designs on metal vessels with colored-glass paste placed within enclosures made of copper or bronze wires. Cloisonné objects made in the Ming and Qing dynasties are still highly-valued today. For the coming spring sales, Poly Auction Hong Kong offered two fine Chinese Cloisonné works from the peak of Qing dynasty —a Imperial Cloisonne Enamel Square Censer and Cover from the Kangxi period (1662-1722) and a Cloisonne Enamel Archaistic Vessel on Stand, Dun, from the Qianlong period (1736-1795).

During the early 13th to 14th century (around the period of Yuan dynasty in China), the technique of cloisonné was introduced to China following an influx of Islamic people. The earliest Chinese cloisonné could be dated back to the reign of the Ming Xuande emperor (1426-35). Chinese cloisonné blue is usually the predominant colour. The technique reached maturity in the period of Jingtai Emperor, and was therefore called "jingtailan" (Jingtai blue ware).

The glass paste, or enamel, is colored with metallic oxide and painted into the contained areas of the design. The vessel is put into the kiln and fired at a relatively low temperature, about 800°C, and enamels usually shrink after firing. The process is repeated several times to fill in the designs. Once this process is complete, the surface of the vessel is rubbed until the edges of the cloisons are visible. The whole process is complex and requires a lot of works.

Poly Auction Hong Kong offers an Imperial Cloisonne Enamel Square Censer and Cover from the Kangxi period. The two-tiered square censer is supported on four gilt mythical beast-head feet. The sides and flat eveted rim of the lower section are decorated with multi-coloured scrolling lotus which continues to the base. The sides of the upper section are each pierced with a gilt panel with cranes flying amidst swirling clouds, surrounded by scrolling archaistic kui dragons in predominantly blue enamels.

The bell-shaped cover with four facets is cast on each with a gilt openwork panel pierced with a scaly writhing dragon contesting a 'flaming pearl' amid cloud scrolls. The cover is surmounted by a gilt finial in the form of a dragon amidst clouds. 

It was previously sold at Koller Auction in 2006 and later in the hands of a European private collection. It is currently estimated at HK$10m-12m. A similar cloisonné enamel censer in square form with cover can be found in the Chinese Museum of The Palace of Fontainebleau in France.

Another great piece of cloisonne enamel, comes in a small size with a height of 37.5cm, will also be sold at the sale. A Rare Cloisonne Enamel Archaistic Vessel on Stand, Dun, from the Qianlong period, was made in imitation of Zhou dynasty prototypes. The oval vessel decorated on the sides with taotie masks set between petal lappet borders and below decorative bands on the neck, with a pair of handles formed by gilt-bronze dragons with backward-turned heads.

The archaistic vessel was estimated at US$120,000-150,000 when it was auctioned at Christie New York in 2006. It was sold for US$144,000 with buyer's premium. After 12 years, it is now offered at Poly Auction Hong Kong, carrying an estimate of HK$5m-6m.

Poly Auction Hong Kong Spring Sales
Sale: Imperial Delights - An Exquisite Private Collection of Chinese Cloisonné Enamels
Auction date: 2018/4/2

A Magnificent Imperial Cloisonne Enamel Square Censer and Cover
Kangxi Period, 1662-1722

Height: 69cm

  • A European Private Collection
  • Koller Auction, Zurich, Switerland, 23 September 2006, lot.213

Estimate: HK$10,000,000-12,000,000

A Rare Cloisonne Enamel Archaistic Vessel on Stand, Dun
Qianlong Period, 1736-1795

Height: 37.5cm

  • Christie's New York, 29 March 2006, lot 306 (US$144,000)
  • Collection of Fuji Fumihiro

Estimate: HK$5,000,000-6,000,000