Ever the 'eclectic collector', I have now owned these two antique 15½ x 9 inch Chinese decoratively carved gilt-wood panels for just over ten years, having been purchased at an antiques fair. As 'impulse' buys go I am still well satisfied. Their original provenance is unknown but a vast quantity of Chinese heritage has been scattered to the four winds after the upheavals which have racked China over the last 100 years. The losses to traditional Chinese heritage and arts during the great 'Cultural Revolution' of 1966-1976 alone were quite substantial. But thankfully the tide has well and truly turned.
|Panel One Detail|
Apparently known as Chaozhou Woodcarving 潮州木雕 from South China's Guangdong Province, they would originally have been made to form part of a larger object of furniture or decorative element in the home of a wealthy person, both panels having a 'lip' at top and bottom to slot into a grooved holder. That there is some wear of the gilt down to the underlying red lacquer would strongly indicate that they were originally used for the purpose intended rather than being specifically made as stand-alone decorative items for the foreign market. The age of these items could easily range from the late 19th century up to the Chinese Revolution of 1911. I am possibly lucky that the items have not been re-gilded which I believe helps to preserve their historical authenticity and truly gives them that authentic 'aura' of age. Such gentle wear is now part of their history. Having observed and spoken with professional conservators at work I am a firm believer that 'over restoration' is not always a good thing and should be approached with caution.
So, what can we make out in these surprisingly detailed panels? The over-riding theme appears to be of Manchu Warriors wearing elaborate dress and headgear both on horseback and on foot wielding long spears and swords. A traditional ornamental gateway appears at the top of the panels together with a Chinese 'Moon Gate', being a well known traditional architectural element in Chinese gardens and generally used to frame a delightful view.
|Panel Two Detail - Urging on the|
The two panels, apart from some delicate filigree work and the spears which are mostly still extant, would appear to have been created as a whole rather than being individually carved. Great skill and patience would have been required of the unknown Chinese artisan. Created to 'delight the eye', they still fulfil this purpose today and are now used as matching decorative wall panels.
|Panel Two Detail - Horseman|
I am, however, not an expert on the interpretation of the 'story' carved into these Chinese panels but would happily welcome any educated responses so that I can learn more about these beautiful items.
|Panel One Detail - Moongate|
- Images are from my own collection and may be freely copied provided a link is given back to this page.