Pair of Architectural Carvings
Anhui, circa 1850
This extraordinary pair of carvings were produced to act as corbels (supporting brackets between pillars and beams) in a traditional Chinese home. They are from Anhui province, to the west of Shanghai - an area that is famed for the highly detailed architectural panels and carvings that were used to adorn the homes of rich Chinese merchants. With overt displays of wealth frowned upon for those outside of court, the merchants would concentrate on the inside of their homes, creating extremely ornate timber-framed structures with beams, pillars, panels and windows all highly decorated with open or relief carvings in stone and wood.
Carvings like these would have been produced by highly skilled artisans who would learn their trade from a very early age. Designs would incorporate symbolic animals and flowers or figures from legend that were pertinant to the home owner, and each carving would take weeks or months to produce, often at huge expense.
This particular pair was shipped out of China over 20 years ago, and it would certainly not be possible to export something like this nowadays. The detail on them is exquisite - right down to the expression on the face of each figure, the patterns on their robes and the individual look of each tree leaf above. Each corbel is carved on both sides, designed to be admired from either side of the pillar they were positioned on. One side shows a figure seated on a horse or mule - possibly depicting the merchant himself - engaging with two other characters. On the back is a servant, one carrying the merchant's books and wares and the other providing shade with a parasol. The carvings are extremely rare and one of the finest examples of this type of carving that we have seen. Very much a collector's item but also beautiful decorative objects, the corbels have been mounted on matching wooden bases so that they can be displayed as ornaments.
Sold as a pair, the price shown is for the two carvings.
Find out more about the history behind these and other Hui carvings on our blog on Hui architecture.
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