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A yellow silk Imperial Court nine-dragons robe. Early 19th century. Photo Bonhams

Yellow silk yardage, comprising the front, back and over-flat, for an Imperial dragon robe, jifu, with Five Imperial Symbols, the thin, bright yellow, tabby-woven silk with double-sided embroidery and worked with nine couched gold thread five-clawed dragons chasing flaming pearls against a background of clouds, bats, scattered Buddhist Emblems and 'shou' characters, all above a deep water and wave border, together with the sacred mountain and Precious Objects, the shoulders with the Imperial Symbols of the sun disc with three-legged bird; the moon disc with hare pounding the elixir of immortality under the cassia tree; the front chest with the axe and 'fu' characters; and the upper back with the constellation symbol, split into two groups of four and three stars, representing the stars of Ursa Major or the Big Dipper. 155cm x 147cm (61in x 58in). Estimate: £30,000 - 50,000, HKD 380,000 - 630,000, $ 49,000 - 82,000

Provenance: Major-General Sir George Pomeroy Colley (1835-1881), a British Army officer who was sent to China in 1860 to assist with the Anglo-French expedition.

Imperial robes, such as the present example, were not intended to have a lining, but were for the warmer months of the year. A number of other similar costumes are known, all dating to the early 19th century and depicting the Five Imperial Symbols in this manner. The ground colour is either light green, or yellow, which may indicate that the yardage was intended for an Imperial consort of the highest degree. See a yellow-ground example in the Edrina Collection of Ming and Qing Imperial Costumes, illustrated in Heavenly Spendour, Hong Kong, 2009, pp.156-7; and a green-ground example illustrated by G.Dickinson and L.Wrigglesworth, Imperial Wardrobe, London, 1990, p.85 and 95.

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A yellow silk kesi dragon robe. Early 19th century. Photo Bonhams

The costume woven with eight dragon roundels, each containing a gold thread five-clawed dragon chasing a flaming pearl and surrounded by bats and clouds and above waves, water and the sacred mountain, the shoulder, front and back with four full-faced dragon roundels, and the front and back skirt each with two side-facing dragon roundels, all on a bright yellow ground, with original edgings, dragon band to the sleeves and horsehoof-shaped cuffs-cover with a similar design on a black ground, lined in blue silk and with gilt metal buttons. 123cm x 184cm (48½in x 74in); Estimate: £6,000 - 10,000, HKD 76,000 - 130,000, $ 9,800 - 16,000

Provenance: Major-General Sir George Pomeroy Colley (1835-1881), a British Army officer who was sent to China in 1860 to assist with the Anglo-French expedition.

This style of costume appears in one of the folios from the 1759 Huangchao liqi tushi (The Regulations for the Ceremonial Paraphernalia of the Qing Dynasty), now in the British Library, London. A similar costume, dated to the 18th century in the University of Alberta Museums is illustrated by J.E.Vollmer and J.Simcox, Emblems of Empire. Selections from the Mactaggart Art Collection, Alberta, 2009, pp.36-7.

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A blue silk gauze summer semi-formal court robe. Circa 1900. Photo Bonhams

Decorated with nine five-clawed couched gold dragons with padded eyes, in pursuit of flaming pearls against a background embroidered in counted stitch with Daoist emblems, cranes, bats and clouds, above a water and wave hem supporting Buddhist Emblems, with matching edging and cuffs. 134.5cm x 218cm (53¼in x 85¾in)  Estimate: £6,000 - 10,000, HKD 76,000 - 130,000, $ 9,800 - 16,000

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A cerise silk semi-formal court robe.  Circa 1900-1911. Photo Bonhams

Worked with nine five-clawed dragons in couched gold thread chasing pearls against a background of polychrome silk embroidered with scattered Daoist emblems and blue clouds above a wide water and wave border, with precious objects and small dragons, the lining of cream-coloured cotton and the side opening without fastenings, the cuffs and edging matching.134.8cm x 234.5cm (53in x 92¾in). Estimate: £4,000 - 5,000, HKD 51,000 - 63,000, $ 6,500 - 8,200

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A Chinese wool seat cover. Jiaqing-Daoguang. Photo Bonhams

Woven in pale and dark blue, and shades of cream and yellow with four Buddhist lions surrounding a central beribboned brocade ball, all framed by ruyi-crested waves crashing against protruding rockwork.75.6cm x 72.4cm (29¼in x 28½in). Estimate: £3,500 - 4,500, HKD 44,000 - 57,000, $ 5,700 - 7,300

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A blue silk semi-formal Court robe. Circa 1900. Photo Bonhams
 
Decorated with nine four-clawed dragons in couched gold thread chasing flaming pearls amongst Buddhist Emblems, each with a lotus flower and scattered clouds, the centre front with musical stone, paired fish and halberds under the central dragon, all above a wide hem with straight wave and small waves supporting a vase, musical stone and halberds. 132.5cm x 204cm (52¼in x 80¼in). Estimate: £3,000 - 5,000, HKD 38,000 - 63,000, $ 4,900 - 8,200
 
Provenance: purchased by the parents of the present owners while serving in Beijing circa 1960. The father was responsible for the office and domestic accommodation used by the British Government representatives, working for the Ministry of Works in Beijing. When the family first arrived, the British Ligation was held in the same former Imperial Palace that it had occupied during the Boxer Rebellion, where the official address was HBM Ministry of Works, No.1 Shinh Kuo Lu, Peking. During the family's stay there, the Chinese Government instructed all foreigners to move into a central area of Beijing, rather than be scattered around the city.
 
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A woman's informal maroon wool robe. 19th century. Photo Bonhams
 
The sleeve bands and edgings embroidered with peonies and lotus roundels with Buddhist Emblems in couched gold thread, bordered in ribbon woven with mandarin ducks, lined in pale blue silk. 140cm (55 1/8in) long. Estimate: £1,500 - 2,000, HKD 19,000 - 25,000, $ 2,400 - 3,300
 
Provenance: together with an old hand-written label reading 'Chinese Dress from Summer Palace brought by Sir George Colley. Lent by Mrs Colley'. The label most likely refers to Major-General Sir George Pomeroy Colley (1835-1881), a British Army officer who was sent to China in 1860 to assist with the Anglo-French expedition.
 
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A blue-ground jacket.  Circa 1900-1920.  Photo Bonhams
 
Comprising a sky-blue front-opening three-quarter length jacket decorated with eight roundels with ruyi-head borders, the front and back central medallions with Peking knots appliquéd gold dragons, bats and flaming pearls, the shoulder and skirt roundels with appliqued landscape scenes, peaches and Buddhist emblems, the sleeve bands embroidered purple silk with couched gold thread, with quatrefoil medallions containing flowers and birds, the lining of dark blue floral damask. 102cm x 151.3cm (40in x 59½in). Estimate: £1,200 - 1,800, HKD 15,000 - 23,000, $ 2,000 - 2,900
 
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A red silk table front and a cerise silk paired-apron skirt. Late 19th century. Photo Bonhams
 
The table front decorated in couched gold thread with a four-clawed dragon amidst clouds and the Eight Buddhist Emblems, bajixiang, above a wave border of precious objects, the top border in three panels containing fish, the endless knot and canopy over lotus, with a fretwork border with flowers and trailing stems; the skirt composed of paired aprons, the cerise silk embroidered to the front and back with emblems of long life in Peking knots; a deer, crane, peaches and linghzhi fungus bordered with bats and small flowers, the waist with a wide pale blue cotton band, lined with pale blue floral damask. The table front 86.5cm (34in) long; the skirt 100.5cm (39½in) long (2). Estimate: £1,200 - 1,800, HKD 15,000 - 23,000, $ 2,000 - 2,900
 
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A red and black silk wedding costume. Straits Chinese, 20th century. Photo Bonhams
The red silk skirt decorated with crouched gold and silver threads with lively dragons in pursuit of flaming pearls and phoenix amongst small scattered clouds, the hem with further dragons amongst waves; the matching black silk jacket decorated with five-clawed dragons in pursuit of flaming pearls above phoenix and scattered clouds. The skirt 96cm (38¼in) long; the jacket 67cm (26½in) long (2). Estimate: £1,000 - 1,500, HKD 13,000 - 19,000, $ 1,600 - 2,400
 
Bonhams. Fine Chinese Art, 12 May 2011, New Bond Street www.bonhams.com