An Exceedingly Rare Chinese Kingfisher Feather & H
AN EXCEEDINGLY RARE CHINESE KINGFISHER FEATHER & HONGMU TEN PANEL SCREEN, DAOGUANG/XIANFENG, 19TH CENTURY, The ten panels depicting a three-dimensional colorful and intricately detailed continuous river village landscape with mountains behind, each of the individual rectangular panels within a carved hongmu or possibly Zitan frame and comprised of 4 glass-fronted shadowbox sections with black velvet backgrounds, the central largest section depicting figures involved in various everyday pursuits in a village setting amidst a mountainous river landscape, all of the panels being meticulously detailed with pavilions, bridges and verdant foliage, the scene being continuous from the first panel to the last, the landscape sections centered by smaller sections above and below depicting finely detailed and colorful dimensional displays of auspicious blossoming branches, the base sections being a continuous deeply carved scene of stylized waves, clouds and sacred objects, each of the base sections with an asymmetrical aperture over a glass front shadowbox display depicting dragons, jumping carp and other swimming fish.Height of each panel: 47", width of each panel: 8 3/4". Overall screen length: 89".Note: Framed artwork utilizing the meticulously applied kingfisher feather ornamentation primarily comprised small single panel table screens or individual framed wall panels. Multi-panel screens are extremely rare, with only 3 examples being documented, according to our research. For 2,000 years, the Chinese have been using the iridescent blue feathers of kingfisher birds as an inlay for fine art objects and adornment, from hairpins, headdresses, and fans to even panels and screens. While Western art collectors have focused on other areas of Chinese art including porcelain, lacquer ware, sculpture, cloisonné, silk and paintings, kingfisher art is relatively unknown outside of China.Called tian-tsui ( , “dotting with kingfishers”), kingfisher feathers are painstakingly cut and glued onto gilt silver. The effect is like cloisonné, but no enamel was able to rival the electric blue color. Blue is the traditional favorite color in China.As with most iridescent, electrifying colors in animals such as Morpho butterfly wings, the intense color in bird feathers comes not from pigments in the feather itself, but from the way light is bent and reflected back out, much like a prism breaks white light into its spectrum of rainbow colors. These microscopic structures in feathers are called photonic crystals.The most expensive, commissioned pieces used a species of kingfisher from Cambodia. So great was the export to sate Chinese demand, the trade of feathers may have been a major contributor to the wealth of the Khmer Empire, and used to help fund the construction of the magnificent temples near Siem Reap, Cambodia including Angkor Wat. The finest pieces of kingfisher art were reserved for royalty or high-ranking Chinese government official (called a "mandarin (bureaucrat)").Kingfisher art as a high art form came to an end during the Chinese revolution in the 1940’s. Height: 47" Width: 8 3/4" Overall screen length: 89".