Can you tell me about this?
I absolutely love this work! It's a cloisonne from the reign of the Qianlong Emperor in China. Cloisonne is an enamel technique that was very popular in the court at the time.
There are so many incredible details! The enamel, essentially glass, is put into little metal enclosures, which allows for stability and a number of colors to be used in the design. The flowers are my favorite. How about you?
Thank you for the excellent answer! i was actually curious about the color and how it was done? Could you also tell me if this work had a function other then an object, like maybe an altar?
Of course! As for the color, each separate color would have been a different colored glass. There were only so many colors that the artisans were able to use and, outside of a few, they didn't mix enamels quite often. To reach the brilliant colors seen here, the vessel would have been fired several times, to make sure each little enclosure is completely full.
The object would likely have been part of a larger Buddhist shrine. In Buddhist shrine displays, especially for wealthy patrons, shrine furniture could be made to house important images. It's probable that a different, likely larger, statue was once housed in this shrine.
Wow, very interesting! Thank you!
You're welcome! This particular shrine object is a great example of the internationalism happening at the Qianlong court. The shape is based on Italian architecture, the designs in the cloisonne are Chinese, and the image is from Tibetan Buddhism.
I see this was inspired by the Baldacchino at St. Peter's Basilica. How did the Chinese come into contact with Rome during this period?
There were a number of Jesuits at the court of the Emperor Qianlong, who ruled during the time period in which the object was created. Through reports and etchings from the Jesuits the court became aware of European art and architecture. The Emperor Qianlong and his court were very interested in foreign traditions from the East and West.
Was there really no canopy before the Jesuits in China?
Certainly not of this type! However, the halo around the head of a deity predates the Jesuits in China, so there is imagery here that certainly wasn’t Jesuit inspired
What is this?
This is a bodhisattva in a cloisonné shrine, inspired by the Baldacchino at St. Peter's Basilica.
The label for this artwork mentions that the shape of the shrine "corresponds" to Bernini's Baldacchino. Is there more information or theorization about this potential connection?
Bernini's Baldacchino has the same twisting "Solomonic" columns with gilded vines.
The Baldacchino was widely reproduced in 18th century prints, and it is plausible that a Chinese craftsman could have been aware of the design. The Imperial cloisonne workshops in Beijing were originally set up under the influence of Jesuit missionaries, although I don't believe the connection to the Baldacchino is certain.
You're welcome! European designers were extremely influenced by Asian art in this period, but it's interesting to consider ways in which design ideas flowed in the opposite direction!
What do the bells signify on this piece?
These might be bells or even just hanging chimes, both of which are common in Buddhist religious settings as a call to worship for monks or even just a reminder to remain ever diligent in one's faith.
You'll notice that they are in the form of lotus flowers, a potent buddhist symbol for enlightenment!
Where would something like this be seen?
The shrine was likely displayed in a Buddhist temple.