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Table Screen with A Phoenix and Flowers

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Period: Daoguang reign (1821-1850), Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
Medium: agate
Date: undated
Origin: Qing court collection
Dimensions: length: 9.5 cm, width: 8.3 cm, thickness: 1 cm

The flat rectangular table screen is made of agate. The artist made use of the white vein in the material to create a phoenix standing on a branch of flourishing plum blossoms. The mottled brown background creates a vivid contrast with the design. The back of the screen is incised with a poem "Enjoying Plum Blossoms [Tanmei shi]" by the Daoguang Emperor in official script (li shu). It may be translated,   
    Where to find a blossoming plum tree?   
    It is said that the village ahead has some;   
    One branch rests on green bamboo,   
    Several blossoms contend with the moss,   
    Slender shadows because of the wind appear thin,   
    Pure hearts wait for the snow to start;   
    Thousands of trees blossom in spring,   
    Bringing good news from the Gengling mountains.   
  Following the poem are the signature and seals of the presenter. Table screens of the Qing dynasty usually use white jade, green jade or dark green nephrite, so one made of agate is a rarity. The ingenious design juxtaposing white and brown creates an innovative and elegant image.

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