A pair of beautifully carved cinnabar red lacquer beaker vases with animated scenes of figures in gardens and archaic and floral motifs, an interwoven B with an E carved in a medallion, the mark Caizheng bu yinshua ju zhi ("Made for the Office of Printing and Engraving ") carved in a cartouche on the central node, and the incised and gilded mark Jingxin Zhai (" Studio of the Quiet Heart ") at the base, Qing dynasty or Republican period, 20th C. century A restoration at the border rim of the neck of one vase on an area 8.5 cm long and to a maximum depth of 2.5 cm. Weight of the two vases: 814 g.
For a pair of similar high quality 23cm Hu-shaped red lacquer vases also bearing the Caizheng bu yinshua ju zhi mark, see Bonhams, San Francisco, December 18, 2017, lot 958 (sold for $ 10,000).
The Caizheng bu yinshua ju zhi mark is apart from these lacquer beaker vases and the pair of lacquered Hu vases sold at Bonhams unknown on Chinese works of art and it was automatically associated with the Ministry of the Finance under the Chinese Republic (1912-1949) in Beijing while the Hallmark Jingxin Zhai designates a garden near Beijing in Beihai in the lakes area in the Forbidden City, this garden being a private garden of Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795) also known as the 'Small Qianlong Garden' (Qianlong Xiao Huayuan). This last element put a serious doubt on the default dating of the only two known examples of cinnabar lacquers (including our vases) bearing this mark on the republican period, i.e. around the years 1915-1920 because the style of carving for these lacquers which is of very high quality is in every way similar to the very demanding style of lacquerware produced for the Court under the Qing and more precisely under the Qianlong period. The presence of an intertwined E and B, which can also be found on Bonhams vases, was interpreted as a possible evocation of a manufacture by the Ministry of Finance for an exhibition (E of Exhibition) while the letter B would refer to the term Bank and it would therefore refer to gifts made to a bank, possibly foreign.
However, some elements do not quite fit with this interpretation. First of all, the name of the Chinese Ministry of Currency and Finance created in 1907 at the end of the Qing and active during the Republican period is Duzhi bu yinshua ju (and not Caizheng bu yinshua ju) as emerges from the study "State and Crafts in the Qing Dynasty "by Christine Moll-Murata (2018), Chapter 7. On the other hand one can wonder about the Hall mark, or palace mark applied to the base of our lacquer beaker Gu vases (but absent from the lacquer Hu vases sold at Bonhams): this name is indeed that of a pavilion in a garden exclusively reserved for Emperor Qianlong. It is hard to understand his presence if this is not to mean that these vases are of such a quality that they are a tribute to Emperor Qianlong and to this Studio or Garden that he loved and where he retired to meditate .
In uncertainty and as a principle of prudence, we will therefore validate the dating already proposed by Bonhams for equivalent objects and we will attribute at least the period of manufacture of these lacquers of remarkable quality to the republican period. However, this period attribution allows to open in reverse a terrible questioning on the date of true manufacture of many lacquers of the same quality and of the same style but devoid of any mark or having received apocryphal marks of Qianlong, which are systematically on the faith of their stylistic quality presented as ....of the 18th century.
3 500 €