A crimson cut-velvet elephant-pattern table frontal

清十九世紀   深紅色漳絨織大象八吉祥紋桌圍

The centre of the panel is decorated with a large standing caparisoned elephant, its head turned to its right, showing the long, pointed tusks and the curled trunk. A tasselled saddlecloth is thrown over its back, decorated with a keyfret-bordered scene of clouds over waves, on top of which sits a saddle-like support bearing a large vase filled with three halberds and a taiji tu (or “Yin-yang”) symbol. The elephant’s hide is deeply furrowed with wrinkles. The background is decorated with the ba jixiang amid scrolling lotus, all within a broad keyfret border. The upper flap is decorated in the same style with peonies within a mixed floral meander  framed by a simple floral border. The decoration is all executed in a rich crimson colour on a slightly lighter background. A blue silk backing has been attached to the back and is also visible at the upper end of the back flap.

Priestley & Ferraro, 'Symbol and Support.  The Elephant's Role in Chinese Art', November 2018, no. 16

For another table frontal showing an elephant, though in different colours, see Sotheby’s New York, September 18th, 2007, where it is noted that most frontals were made in sets of three, for two smaller tables and one larger one.

The frontal is filled with auspicious symbols, but the two main rebuses relate to the vase on the elephant’s back, tai ping you xiang (太平有象) “when there is peace there are signs” and the three halberds, san ji (三戟) in the vase, ping sheng san ji (平昇三級) “smoothly promoted by three ranks”.

Dimensions: Height: 90 cm, 35½ inches; Width: 94 cm, 37 inches

Date: Qing dynasty (1644-1911), 19th century

Stock No. 1829

Price: On Request