Fair highlight from Maggs Bros. Ltd
UNKNOWN CHINESE ARTIST.
Six-fold Screen with view of the Yihe-yuan Imperial Summer Palace.
Each panel measuring 136,5x44,5cm. mounted on gold-leaf paper with brocade borders. Gouache on paper, Some water staining, minor repairs, new backing on first and last leaf, minor surface wear, but overall in very good condition. Beijing, ca. 1890s.
A superb panoramic view of the Yihe Yuan seen from the eastern shore. The garden was first constructed during the Qianlong period (1750) and is dominated by Longevity Hill (60 meters high) and Kunming Lake. Covering 2.2 square kilometers the lake was entirely man made and the excavated soil was used to build the hill behind it. The palace complex achieved notoriety when it was sacked and destroyed during the Anglo-French invasion of 1860 (2nd Opium War). In 1886 it was rebuilt by order of the Empress Dowager Cixi who famously diverted 30 million taels of silver, originally designated for the Chinese navy, into the project. The Wenchang Ge tower in the lower right corner is useful in the dating of this painting: It was burned down in 1860 and reconstruction was completed in 1892. In 1889 the Empress Dowager purchased two small steamers for her enjoyment on Kunming lake, both of them pictured on the center of the lake. The other pavillion in the foreground is called Kuoruting (Pavillion of the Expanding Ru[yi]) which stands at the foot of a large marble bridge leading to an artificial island. Technically the painting is unusual for employing a single point perspective while retaining a birds-eye view at a relatively high level. A similar view of an earlier date is in the collection of the Library of Congress (G7824.B4: 2Y4A35.I2). Their copy shows the palace complex before it was destroyed in 1860.