Em­peror’s art­work up for auc­tion

Sale: Rare paint­ings could fetch £50k

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - NEWS - BY KIRSTEN ROBERT­SON

Rare paint­ings cre­ated for a Chi­nese em­peror and once owned by a lieu­tenant from the north-east could sell for up to £50,000.

The 12 paint­ings are on 10 al­bum leaves from the Il­lus­trated Reg­u­la­tions for Cer­e­mo­nial Para­pher­na­lia of the Present Dy­nasty, and were crafted by an anony­mous court pain­ter be­tween 1750 and 1759 for Qian­long’s court.

Thought to have been housed at one time in Bei­jing’s Old Sum­mer Palace, the paint­ings are in­tri­cately il­lus­trated on silk with ink and gilt.

They were cre­ated for Qian­long, who ruled from 1735 to 1796 dur­ing the Qing dy­nasty.

Decades af­ter his death, Qian­long’s story merged with that of Cap­tain Wil­liam Gor­don Chalmers.

Born in the ham­let of Monkshill, near Fyvie, he be­came a lieu­tenant in the 51st Ben­gal Na­tive In­fantry in Jan­uary 1857.

Three years later he ac­quired the paint­ings dur­ing the Sec­ond Opium War at the Taku Forts near Tian­jin and in Bei­jing.

Chalmers died in 1868 at Kus­sowlie, Hi­machal Pradesh, In­dia.

A ceno­taph bear­ing his name and those of other Chalmers fam­ily mem­bers, in­clud­ing his fa­ther Charles – an ad­vo­cate in Aberdeen – can be found in St Peter’s Church Ceme­tery in Fyvie.

The paint­ings he owned will go on sale with a preauc­tion val­u­a­tion of up to £50,000, at the Wool­ley and Wal­lis Sale­rooms in Sal­is­bury on Tues­day.

They were ac­quired from the Chalmers fam­ily in 1950.

Freya Yuan-Richards, a spe­cial­ist in Chi­nese paint­ings, said: “The orig­i­nal al­bum had over 1,300 pages, but the where­abouts of most of it is un­known.

“There are ex­am­ples in the Vic­to­ria and Al­bert Mu­seum, the Bri­tish Li­brary, the Na­tional Mu­seum of Scot­land and other mu­se­ums. It is likely others ex­ist in pri­vate col­lec­tions, but pages rarely make it on to the open mar­ket.

“To have 10 pages from this al­bum come on to the mar­ket at one time presents a unique op­por­tu­nity for col­lec­tors to try to ac­quire some­thing so closely linked to the Qian­long Em­peror, who is so im­por­tant as far as Chi­nese art her­itage is con­cerned.

“The al­bum shows the em­peror’s metic­u­lous eye for rit­ual and cer­e­mony, with the cal­lig­ra­phy by each ob­ject ex­plain­ing not only how the item was to be used, but also de­tailed in­struc­tions as to how it could be re­pro­duced to the high­est stan­dard.

“We have al­ready had a good deal of in­ter­est in th­ese paint­ings and we an­tic­i­pate strong bid­ding when they come un­der the ham­mer.”

HIS­TORIC: The Qing dy­nasty paint­ings, which once be­longed to the Chalmers fam­ily, are to be sold

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