A well preserved vintage Chinese kingfisher headband with floral design
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected loss
SIZE: 1¼ ins h at centre front x 14 ins around the curve (3 x 33 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1910s
MATERIALS: metal, kingfisher feathers
Here is a very beautiful and elaborate tiara style hair ornament dating from the Qing period c 1890s – 1910.
The foundation of the ornament is gilded brass upon which is assembled a cloisonné like design which resembles overlapping leaves or petals. Placed in the centre front is the lotus motif. This is flanked by other floral motifs done in openwork.
The tiara is in good condition for its age and the extreme delicacy of the materials. There is some loss, as expected in ornaments of this kind. The cells in the design are inlaid with kingfisher feathers which have retained their brilliant translucent blue.
This item is part of the lifetime collection of Dr. Dorothea Hentschel of Berlin. Dr Hentschel assembled an extensive collection of varied historic artefacts which were recently sold at a Berlin auction house. These included many decorative and vanity combs gathered from her travels. Many of the items were added during the 1920s and 1930s. However the collection was still being expanded into the early 2000s. Most of the combs bear labels showing their origin, and date when they were added to the collection, often with additional notes by the collector.
During the Qing dynasty in China high ranking ladies favoured elaborate hair ornaments which were decorated with kingfisher feathers. These ornaments were usually made of gilded brass, the most commonly used patterns being flower sprays and various animals such as butterflies, bats and sea birds, together with the phoenix, symbol of status and wealth; the ornaments were made with small cells, similar to those found in Western enamel jewellery. However instead of enamel the spaces were filled with tiny cut out pieces of the beautiful iridescent blue kingfisher feathers.
The feathers were painstakingly cut to exact size to fit separate metal sections, and carefully attached with thin adhesive so they retained brilliant colour and iridescence. This jewel like mosaic was often combined with semi precious materials such as pearls, jade, coral and turquoise. In the lesser pieces glass jewels and faux pearl beads were used.
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Chinese kingfisher feather tiara or bandeau headpiece
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