Twelve rare Chinese paintings created for Qianlong, considered to be the last great emperor of China, which were later owned by the Chalmers family of Monkshill, Fyvie, go up for sale this month with a pre-auction value of up to £50,000.
The paintings are all album leaves from The Illustrated Regulations for Ceremonial Paraphernalia of the Present Dynasty, crafted by an anonymous court painter between 1750 and 1759 for Qianlong’s court. Qianlong, who ruled from 1735 to 1796 during the Qing dynasty, died in the Forbidden City at the age of 87, at the time one of the longest-living rulers in the world.
Captain William Gordon Chalmers was born in Monkshill in 1835 and became a lieutenant in the 51st Bengal Native Infantry in January 1857. He acquired the paintings in 1860 when he was serving in the Second Opium War at the Taku Forts near Tianjin and in Beijing.
He died in 1868 at Kussowlie, Himachal Pradesh, India. A cenotaph bearing his name and other members of the Chalmers family, including his father Charles, an advocate in Aberdeen can be found in St Peter’s Church Cemetery in Fyvie.
Notification of his death was posted in the Montrose Standard on October 16, 1868.
Thought to have been housed at one time in Beijing’s Old Summer Palace, the paintings are beautifully Illustrated on silk with ink, colour and gilt, each one bearing an inscription from the regulations. They include a design for a state sacrificial vessel, a formal outfit for a court official and 10 images of parasols which would have been carried in formal processions by different ranks of concubines.
The collection, which was acquired by the father of the current owner directly from Captain Chalmers’ family around 1950, is one of the highlights of the Fine Chinese Paintings & Works of Art which go on sale at the prestigious Woolley & Wallis Salerooms in Salisbury on Tuesday, November 12.
Freya Yuan-Richards, specialist in Chinese Paintings, said
The original album had over 1,300 pages in it, 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; and it is likely that others exist in private collections, but pages rarely make it onto the open market.
If you have a spare £50,00 available then registration for online or telephone bidding closes at 12 noon on Monday, November 11 visit the Woolley & Wallis website to register and for more information.