LARCHMONT, N.Y. – The Summer Sizzler auction at Clarke Auction Gallery on July 16 was topped by a Qing dynasty kingfisher feather headdress that flew past its $1,000-$1,500 estimate to achieve $23,040. Absentee and Internet live bidding was facilitated through LiveAuctioneers.
As early as the Song period, an artform known as tian-tsui had developed using the highly prized electric blue feathers of the Eurasian kingfisher. As the most prized specimens were imported from Cambodia and Vietnam, the fashion was a major contributor to the wealth of the Khmer empire.
The apotheosis of tian-tsui personal adornment – and the subject of a recent exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago – were these crowns, or feng guan. Originally, they were reserved for empresses and members of the royal household. The four oldest surviving examples were found in the late Ming period tomb of the Wanli emperor.
However, by the late Qing period in the 19th century, it was common for feng guan to be worn either by a wealthy bride on her wedding day or by a woman with honorable rank on formal occasions. Most Qing examples are adorned with traditional motifs emblematic of good fortune.
This example, accompanied by a fitted display case with a central stand and mirrored backing, was consigned from a Flushing, New York estate.
Click to view top auction results on LiveAuctioneers: https://www.liveauctioneers.com/pages/recent-auction-sales/