Height: 29 inches, 74 cm
Width: 21. inches, 54 cm

Panel applied with kingfisher feathers in zitan frame

China, 18th century

A composite picture of rectangular shape, applied with turquoise and lapis-coloured kingfisher feathers showing an arrangement of archaistic vessels, some containing abundantly flowering plants and some filled with fruit, all on a black velvet ground.  Butterflies and other insects hover over, or are perched on the vessels. The picture is contained within a zitan box-frame, which is carved with floral sprays, and glazed.

Strikingly coloured feathers of the common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) were very popular in 18th century China, where they were mainly used to embellish hair ornaments and other items of jewellery. The technique is called Tian-tsui, literally meaning “dotting with kingfishers”.  It is unusual to find kingfisher feathers used in such abundance in a picture.  It is also rare to find objects as elements of decoration; landscape scenes are more common. A kingfisher feather-inlaid landscape panel is illustrated by Beverly Jackson.[1]

  1. B. Jackson, Kingfisher Blue: Treasures of an Ancient Chinese Art, Toronto, 2001, p.189