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"Openwork" Pricket Candlestick

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China Anonymous, Chinese
"Openwork" Pricket Candlestick, c. 1780
Enamel on Copper
12 1/2 in. x 6 in. x 6 in. (31.75 cm x 15.24 cm x 15.24 cm)


Object Type: Cloisonné
Technique: Cloisonné
Creation Place: Asia, China
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Dorothy Adler Routh
Accession Number: 73.2.1c


Commentary
During the Ch'ing Dynasty is was found desirable to make altar sets like this out of decorative, lightweight and less expensive cloisonné, and to save bronze for other purposes.

The motifs that decorate this altar set are the most traditional and respected of all designs used in cloisonné, and particularly for cloisonné objects made for the Imperial court: stylized lotus flowers, branch and leaf scrolls, and palmate leaf borders. In this set the execution is unusually fine and perfect.

The term "openwork" describes the method of manufacture. The method is like that of repoussé, (see commentary for 73.3.5) but there is no hand-hammered bas-relief work; the base metal surface is flat and even. The dimensionality comes from the raised pattern of the cloison wires and the enamel within selected cloison areas. This provides for much more of the surface metal to show through than in a cloisonné piece.

Marks
No marks.

Medium
Multicolored enamels on a copper openwork base.

Object Description
One of a set of two "openwork" pricket candlesticks, which belong to a five-piece altar set. The object is decorated with floral sprays and geometric patterns executed with multicolored enamels on a green field. The Chinese ceremonial candle, supported by a candlestick such as this one, has a large wick made of a hollow reed which has been wrapped with cotton string. The candlestick holds this candle very securely by means of its ice-pick-like "pricket", onto which the wick is forced. The hollow stem is strong, and just the right size to fit perfectly over the pricket stem.

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