A fine Chinese kingfisher tiara style headdress ornament
CONDITION: good vintage condition with missing elements and expected loss
SIZE: 9 ins w x 1 ins h (22 x 2.5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1900s – 1920s
MATERIALS: brass, kingfisher feather, glass stones
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 of graduated size 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. There are missing cells which would once have contained faux pearls but these can easily be replaced.
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.
The motifs that were selected to embellish Chinese personal ornaments, costume and the fabrics from which they were made reveal a particular symbolic structure. The motifs that appear on textiles and costumes were identical to those found on ceramics and lacquers. Few were purely decorative; nearly all carried symbolic meaning. Chinese symbolic motifs were invariably representational, depicting things in a convincingly naturalistic way. Few symbols in Chinese art were abstract, although many of the ideas they represented were less than concrete. Symbolic motifs fall into five categories. The largest number was taken from the natural world. Flowers, animals, birds and insects were universally recognizable and were easily related to the environmental concerns of Chinese society.
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Chinese kingfisher feather tiara hair ornament headdress (AAF)
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