Étiquettes

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A 2nd-3rd century Gandharan gray schist figure of a bodhisattva. Estimate: $250,000-350,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2014. 

NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s announced the sales of Asian Art Week for Fall 2014. The series of six sales, running from 16-19 September, will present over one thousand lots of exceptional quality and rarity that span centuries of Asian Art. Among the highlights of the week is Christie’s first sale in New York completely devoted to the finest examples of cloisonné enamels from private American collections. The September Asian Art Week will also feature a great deal of works with exquisite provenance, perhaps most notably the sale of Works from the Collection of Shumita and Arani Bose, featuring 26 masterpieces of contemporary Southeast Asian Art. In addition to the sales, Christie’s will have on view four special exhibitions throughout the galleries, including a new category – Chinese Contemporary Design: A Dialogue Between Tradition and Modernity – to be sold in Shanghai and for Private Sale. 

FINE CHINESE PAINTINGS 16 September

Christie’s sale of Fine Chinese Paintings will take place on 16 September and feature 120 traditional and modern works of art. Leading the sale is Shitao’s Plants and Calligraphy (estimate: $250,000-350,000), a seventeenth-century album of eight leaves, comprising four paintings and four leaves of poems. This album is one of three known works that Shitao dedicated to his contemporary Zhou Jing, a lay Buddhist with whom he had cultivated a close friendship during the 1680s. The lotus reflects Buddhist notions of transcendence and, while lotuses remain pure despite growing in muddy surroundings, and bamboo shoots flourish during the harshest periods of winter, Shitao also endured, maintaining loyalty to the Ming imperial Zhu family, into which he was born, despite the political oppression he faced with the rise of the Qing dynasty. 

Shitao (1642-1708), Plants and Calligraphy. Album of eight leaves, ink on paper. Four paintings, each with one seal of the artist. Four leaves of poems inscribed by the artist, each signed and with one or two seals. Dedicated to Zhou Jing (18th-19th century). Colophon by Zhou Jing, with two seals. Each leaf: 9 3/8 x 7¼ in. (23.8 x 18.4 cm). Estimate: $250,000-350,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2014. 

Xu Gu’s Squirrel (estimate: $50,000-60,000), a framed 19th century fan leaf will also be offered in the sale. A common theme for Xu Gu but unusual for other artists, Xu Gu’s squirrel appears electrified, with fuzzy, static fur and bulging, hungry eyes. The energetic appearance of the rodent is in noted contrast to the soft and smooth pastel surfaces of the fruit that he is about to eat. 

Xu Gu (1824-1896), Squirrel. Fan leaf, mounted and framed, ink and color on paper. Inscribed and signed by the artist, with two seals. Dated winter, gengchen year (1880). Dedicated to Huachang; 10½ x 20½ in. (16.5 x 52 cm.). Estimate: $50,000-60,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2014.

INDIAN & SOUTHEAST ASIAN ART 16 September

Christie’s sale of Indian and Southeast Asian Art will take place on 16 September and offer 125 exquisite works of art from Gandhara, Nepal, Tibet and India.

Among the sale highlights is a 2nd/3rd century Gandharan gray schist figure of a bodhisattva (estimate: $250,000-350,000), one who has achieved enlightenment but has forgone nirvana (the escape from rebirth) to serve as guides for all sentient beings. The iconography, such as the topknot, rich vestments, jeweled foliate collar, and rope-work necklace, leads one to believe that this figure represents either Maitreya, the Buddha of the future, or the historical Prince Siddhartha. The naturalistic attention to drapery employed in this example is characteristic of the Gandharan period and drawn from the earlier Greco- Roman influence in the region. The figure’s left knee is slightly bent, as if he has just taken a step forward, conveying a subtle yet powerful sense of moving closer to the viewer. 

An important gray schist figure of a bodhisattva, Gandhara, 2nd-3rd century. Sensitively modeled with gently swaying hips, dressed in a sheer dhoti with elegantly cascading folds and a sanghati draped over the left shoulder, adorned with a torque and necklace with lion-head clasps, the face with bow-shaped mouth, aquiline nose, and almond-shaped eyes, the hair in wavy locks and secured over the ushnisha with a beaded headband; 36½ in. (92.7 cm.) high. Estimate: $250,000-350,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2014. 

This sale also includes a selection of paintings highlighted by a Tibeto-Chinese painting of a Vajravarahi thirty-seven-deity mandala (estimate: $80,000-120,000), circa 1740-1763. An inscription at the bottom of this exquisite painting indicates that it was commissioned by Yintao, the 12th of twenty sons of the Kangxi Emperor and designed by Changkya Rolpa’I Dorje, the personal Buddhist teacher of the Qianlong Emperor and head lama in Beijing during the 18th century. 

A painting of a Vajravarahi thirty-seven-deity mandala Tibeto-Chinese, Qianlong period, circa 1740-1763

A painting of a Vajravarahi thirty-seven-deity mandala, Tibeto-Chinese, Qianlong period, circa 1740-1763. With auspicious characters arranged around a lotus blossom within the walls of a palace, all above an enormous lotus with flaming border with flying garland-bearers and charnel ground scenes, all set within a mountainous and watery landscape; 28¾ x 21¾ in. (73 x 55.3 cm.). Estimate: $80,000-120,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2014.

A PIONEERING VISION: WORKS FROM THE COLLECTION OF SHUMITA AND ARANI BOSE 17 September

A Pioneering Vision: Works from the Collection of Shumita and Arani Bose will be offered on 17 September in New York. In the two decades since co-founding the New York based Bose Pacia, the first gallery in the West specializing exclusively in contemporary South Asian art, Shumita and Arani Bose have nurtured, supported and promoted India’s most important avant garde artists. Carefully curated by these internationally renowned tastemakers, the Collection of Shumita and Arani Bose is one of the most comprehensive and distinguished in the West. This iconic and eclectic selection will offer 26 illustrious masterpieces by modern masters such as Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Francis Newton Souza and Bhupen Khakhar, alongside international contemporary superstars. 

Among the highlights of the sale is Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s Untitled (estimate: $750,000-900,000), painted in 1971. Gaitonde is recognized as having been an innovator and stands apart from his Indian contemporaries for his espousal of a purely abstract aesthetic in art. The work to be offered in September showcases Gaitonde as a painter, philosopher and alchemist at the zenith of his career. His fully matured and resolved style creates a harmonious symphony of the abstract, minimalist and conceptual aesthetic. 

Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Untitled

Vasudeo S. Gaitonde (1924-2001), Untitled, signed and dated ‘V.S. Gaitonde 71’ and signed and dated in Hindi (on the reverse), oil on canvas ,45 x 29 7/8 in. (114.3 x 75.9 cm.). Painted in 1971. Estimate: $750,000-900,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2014.

This sale will also include Francis Newton Souza’s monumental masterpiece The Butcher, painted in 1962 whilst living in London, where his talent and reputation were firmly cemented. The Butcher represents the apex of the raw, expressionist style that characterized Souza’s works in this era, and is influenced by the works of El Greco and Goya as well as the Romanesque paintings and Catalonian frescos he earlier saw on a visit to Spain. Souza’s painting focuses on the agent of butchery, casting him as a symbol of the tragic destiny of man, forever damned to suffer in torment. This epic painting on black satin is one of the largest to come to auction – a seminal work that captures the shocking and powerful grotesque for which Souza is celebrated. 

SOUTH ASIAN MODERN + CONTEMPORARY ART 17 September

Following the auction of A Pioneering Vision is the South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art sale, which will feature 70 lots, offering iconic works by leading modernist masters Syed Haider Raza, Maqbool Fida Husain, Manjit Bawa, and Jagdish Swaminathan. The sale will be led by Manjit Bawa’s monumental masterpiece Untitled (Durga) (estimate: $380,000-450,000). Bawa distilled figuration to its most elemental components, giving primacy to line by evoking elements of Kalighat painting while simultaneously exploring the saturated and gem-toned hues of miniature painting. Bawa was influenced by ancient mythology and Hindu literature, and in the present work he depicts Durga, the female supreme deity, mounted on the back of her lion. Bawa’s use of space and color creates a mesmerizing composition that conjures a window into a world of imagination, myth, mysticism and magic. 

Also among the sale’s highlights is Maqbool Fida Husain’s Untitled (Elephants) (estimate: $100,000-150,000). Husain uses gestural brushstrokes and warm, almost fauvist, coloring to depict this tender family portrait. This painting presents three elephants as they revel in a pure and primal playfulness, surrounded by an atmospheric dense green jungle. 

RIVERS OF COLOR: CHINESE CLOISONNÉ ENAMELS FROM PRIVATE AMERICAN COLLECTIONS 18 September

On September 18, Christie’s will present Rivers of Color: Chinese Cloisonné Enamels from Private American Collections, a dedicated sale of over 50 works of exceptional cloisonné enamel works from China. 

Among the highlights of the sale is a superb and very rare Ming dynasty cloisonné enamel deep bowl, dating to the 15th-early 16th century (estimate: $300,000-500,000), beautifully decorated with winged mythical beasts on the exterior and interior. The sale also features a selection of outstanding works from the Collection of David B. Peck III, including a rare large cloisonné enamel ram and vase group, 18th century (estimate: $40,000-60,000) and a rare cloisonné enamel archaistic ‘wheeled’ phoenix-form vase, zun, Qianlong period (1736-1795) (estimate: $60,000-80,000). 

A superb and very rare Ming dynasty cloisonné enamel deep bowl, Ming dynasty, 15th-early 16th century, 5¾ in. (14.7 cm.) high, 6¼ in. (16 cm.) diam

Jingtai six-character mark

A superb and very rare Ming dynasty cloisonné enamel deep bowl, Ming dynasty, 15th-early 16th century, 5¾ in. (14.7 cm.) high, 6¼ in. (16 cm.) diam. Estimate: $300,000-500,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2014.

The deep bowl has a bulbous body that tapers and then flares towards the rim. Each side is decorated with a winged, long-tailed makara with open jaws from which issue a string of pearls and a long-stemmed lotus flower, all amidst clouds and precious emblems on a dark blue ground above a band of rolling, white-capped waves from which rise turquoise rocks beneath each of the gilded animal-mask handles. Below is a petal-lappet border, repeated on the spreading foot, and above is a diaper border. The interior is decorated in the center with a medallion of a winged dragon within a petal-lappet border, and on the walls with scrolling stems bearing lotus blossoms and small turquoise leaves reserved on a white ground below a border of demi-florets at the rim. A Jingtai six-character mark is cast in a line in a panel on the gilded base.

Provenance: Acquired in New York in the early twentieth century, and thence by descent to the current owner.

PROPERTY FROM A WEST COAST COLLECTION

A SUPERB AND VERY RARE CLOISONNÉ ENAMEL DEEP BOWL
By Claudia Brown
Professor of Art History, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts
Arizona State University

This exquisite bowl is one of a select group of fourteenth- to sixteenth-century cloisonné enamels prized by the Qing court in the eighteenth century. Master craftsmen working for Emperors Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong embellished precious Yuan and early- and mid-Ming cloisonné vessels with newly prepared metal fittings and bases. This practice identified such works as fine and noble works of art and presented them in an enhanced form. The new bases added to these pieces typically bear the Ming-dynasty reign mark of Jingtai (1450-1457). In this instance, the craftsmen, likely from the Palace Workshops, or Zaobanchu, also added two small handles – one at either side of the bowl – each handle in the form of a zoomorphic head suggesting a fantastic feline creature with upturned snout and curling mane.

The most celebrated period for Chinese cloisonné is the Jingtai reign, just as Xuande (1426-1435) is associated with bronzes and blue-and-white porcelain and Chenghua (1465-1487) is prized for its overglaze enameled porcelains, particularly its doucai enameled wares. In fact, a seventeenth-century text praises « the bronze wares of the Xuande era, porcelain wares of the Chenghua era, lacquer wares of the Yongle era, and Jingtai cloisonné » (Bèatrice Quette, p. 155).

Even so, although fine enamels most assuredly were produced during the fifteenth century, scholars remain divided on the question of whether any surviving work with the Jingtai mark actually dates from that reign period. Few works can be reliably attributed to the mid-fifteenth century, and the legendary superiority of the cloisonné of the Jingtai reign remains unconfirmed. Jingtai marks on works in the Palace Museum, Beijing, show great variation in style (Yang Boda, « Jingtai falang« ) and are presumed to date to the Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong reigns, which leaves the appearance of an original Jingtai mark an open, and probably insoluble, enigma.

The main motif on the exterior of this bowl is a makara striding above rolling, white-capped waves. Sometimes referred to in Chinese sources as a kui dragon, the makara is a dragon-like creature with a split and foliated tail and a floral scroll issuing from its mouth; it originated in India and reached China via Nepal and Tibet during the Yuan period. Its appearance on early- and mid-Ming cloisonné is well documented. It also appears on Chenghua-period porcelains with doucai decoration, that is, porcelains with decoration painted in underglaze cobalt blue and overglaze polychrome enamels, such as the well-published wine cup in the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection (The Asia Society, Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection (New York: The Asia Society), 1981, p.78, 1979.175). The colors on this cloisonné vessel range from purple – often termed « aubergine » in discussions of Ming-dynasty decorative arts – to the more commonly encountered colors of green, yellow, turquoise, dark blue, white, and red. These largely opaque enamels are joined by translucent ones in hues of light green, light yellow, and amethyst. The translucent hues were achieved by adding clear, colorless enamel to the opaque enamels of related color – that is, by adding clear enamel to opaque purple to achieve translucent amethyst, for example. The appearance of aubergine and amethyst marks another parallel to fifteenth- and early-sixteenth-century ceramics, as both doucai porcelains andfahua stonewares exhibit these colors.

The interior of this bowl boasts another auspicious creature, a winged dragon, or yinglong, also depicted above white-capped waves. The underside of this yinglong dragon shows the mid-Ming technique of mixing enamel colors within the cloisons, or cells. Red enamel frit is added to a matrix of white enamel, for example, to make a composite « Ming pink. » The technique is used on the exterior makara motif as well, notably on the inside of the creature’s open mouth. In the waves below the dragon, enamels of different shades of green as well as differing degrees of translucency are applied within each of the cells. The resulting effect suggests the abundance and turbulent character of the waves. The walls of the interior feature a scrolling floral pattern with multi-colored flowers and turquoise leaves set against a ground of white enamel.

The exterior of the vessel has a deep-blue ground, rather than the lighter, turquoise blue more typically seen in Chinesecloisonné enamels. While the blue of the best fifteenth-century pieces is deservedly prized, there is no concrete evidence to link it to the obscure Jingtai reign, or even to the years around 1450. However, the tradition of a « Jingtai blue » no doubt has an historical basis, even if that basis remains unclear to us today. Indeed, Jingtai lan (literally, « blue of the Jingtai era ») is common usage for cloisonné in Chinese today. In terminology, a shift from falang, the word previously used to designate cloisonné enamel, to Jingtai lan appears to have taken place in the early Qing period (Helmut Brinker and Albert Lutz, p. 94; Bèatrice Quette, p. 24).

The fine quality of this late-fifteenth to early-sixteenth century bowl is matched by the workmanship of its eighteenth-century embellishments. Those prized additions – a chiseled Jingtai mark with a bold calligraphic flourish to the characters, and the two small handles reminiscent of the mythological animals that enliven ancient bronzes – bespeak the sophistication of the officials and craftsmen of the Qing court. They were careful to preserve the integrity of the admired early enameled vessel while updating it with elegant embellishments in contemporaneous style.

Comparable works with makara motif:
Bowl, middle Ming dynasty, Palace Museum, Beijing (Li Jiufang, cat. 45)
Vessel, first half 16th century, National Palace Museum, Taipei (Chen, cat. 6)
Bowl, early Ming dynasty, George Walter Vincent Smith Collection, George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, Springfield, Massachusetts, 63.23.83 (Quette, p. 108-109 and cat. 28.)
Bowl, early 16th century, D. Lyon-Goldschmidt (Garner, pl. 31A)
Ewer, early 16th century, ex-Kitson Collection (Garner, pl. 33)
Cup, ca. 1520-1540, Musée Guimet, MA 6375 (ARTstor)
Bowl, second half 16th century, Uldry collection (Brinker, cat. 88)
Vase, second half 16th century, Uldry collection (Brinker, cat. 88)

Comparable works with added handles, bases or other features:
Several examples in the Palace Museum (Yang, cats. 291, 292, 304, for example)

Comparable works with added Jingtai mark:
Large vase, mid-Ming, Palace Museum, Beijing (Yang, cat. 304)

Comparable work with deep blue ground and added Jingtai mark:
Vase, Ming dynasty, early 16th century, Phoenix Art Museum, 1982.172a,b, museum purchase and gift of Robert H. Clague (Brown, cat. 2; Brown in Quette, 138-139, Quette, cat. 41)

Comparable works dated to the Jingtai reign by Yang Boda:
Bowl and gu vessel (Yang, cats. 301 and 302) 

Comparable works with mixed colors (more extensive than in the present work):
Panel, second half 16th century or earlier, and censer, first half 16th century, Phoenix Art Museum, 1982.184 and 1982.174a,b, museum purchase and gift of Robert H. Clague (Brown, cats. 4 and 14; Quette, 249, cats. 50 and 232, cat. 17)
The Jardinière Tissot, early 17th century (Jingtai mark), Musée des Arts Decoratifs (Quette, 308, cat. 160)

Comparable works with flowers and turquoise leaves against a white ground:
Plate, Yuan or early Ming, Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris (Quette, 233, cat. 19)

References: The Asia Society, Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection (New York: The Asia Society), 1981.
Brinker, Helmut, and Albert Lutz, Chinesisches Cloisonné: Die Sammlung Pierre Uldry. Exh. cat. Zurich: Museum Rietberg Zurich, 1985. Published in English as Chinese Cloisonné: The Pierre Uldry Collection, New York: Asia Society, 1989.
Brown, Claudia, Chinese Cloisonné: The Clague Collection. Exh. cat. Phoenix: Phoenix Art Museum, 1980.
Chen Hsia-sheng, Ming Qing falangqi zhanlan tulu (Enamel Ware in the Ming and Qing Dynasties). Taipei: National Palace Museum, 1999.
Garner, Sir Harry, Chinese and Japanese Cloisonné Enamels. London: Faber & Faber, 1962; reprinted 1970.
Li Jiufang, Jinshutai falangqi (Metal-bodied Enamel Ware), Vol. 43, Gugong bowuyuan cang wenwu zhenpin quanji(The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum). Hong Kong: The Commercial Press, 2002.
Quette, Bèatrice, ed. Cloisonné: Chinese Enamels from the Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties. Exh. cat. New York: Bard Graduate Center, 2011.
Yang Boda, ed. Zhongguo meishu quanji: Gongyi meishu bian 10: Jinyin boli falangqi (Complete Series on Chinese Art: Arts and Crafts 10: Metal, Glass and Enamel Wares). Beijing: Wenwu chunbanshe, 1987.
Yang Boda, « Jingtai falang de zhenxiang, » (An Exploration of the Authenticity of Cloisonné Enamels with Jingtai Marks), Gugong bowuyuan yuankan (Palace Museum Journal) 2 (1981): 3-16.

A rare large cloisonné enamel ram and vase group, 18th century

A rare large cloisonné enamel ram and vase group, 18th century, 22 in. (56 cm.) high. Estimate: $40,000-60,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2014.

The ram is shown standing with head turned sharply to the side, and its body is decorated with lotus scroll meander. The curved horns, ears, beard and hooved feet are gilded, as are the appliques of curls applied to the neck and the tail. A gilded petal-lappet band is at the base of the archaistic gu-form vase with gilt-dragon handles that rises from the center of the back.

PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF DAVID B. PECK III

The unusual combination of a standing ram with a vase rising from its back may be an archaistic interpretation of bronze ram-form zun of late Shang date, such as the examples in the British Museum and the Nezu Museum, Tokyo, illustrated by Robert W. Bagley in Shang Ritual Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, The Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, 1987, pp. 121-22, figs. 173 and 175, respectively. In the bronze prototypes, the vessel is formed by two addorsed rams standing four-square that share a common body raised on four legs, an oblong neck cast with taotiemasks rising from the back. The shape of the heads, and horns are quite similar to those of the present cloisonné ram, and on the present vessel a gu-form vase has replaced the oblong neck of the bronze vessels.

A rare cloisonné enamel archaistic ‘wheeled’ phoenix-form vase, zun, Qianlong period (1736-1795)

A rare cloisonné enamel archaistic ‘wheeled’ phoenix-form vase, zun, Qianlong period (1736-1795), 11½ in. (29.2 cm.) high. Estimate: $60,000-80,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2014.

The vessel is in the shape of a phoenix perched on an axle between two stationary spoked wheels and supported in back by a smaller wheel inserted into the tail. The body is decorated with archaistic scrolls and wide bands of key fret outlining the under-turned tail. The slightly convex wings have blue feathers, and a pair of green, archaistic bird scrolls in relief flank a taotie mask on the breast. A pseudo-notched flange that centers the head, neck and body matches the four flanges on the trumpet-shaped vase which rises from the center of the back.

Provenance: Christie’s Hong Kong, 1-2 October 1991, lot 1683.
Spink & Son Ltd., London, 1992.

PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF DAVID B. PECK III

This rare vessel appears to have been based on a very similar bronze vessel depicted in the bronze catalogue Xiqing gujian, compiled in 1749. (Fig. 1) It is in vol. 11, no. 29, of the 1908 edition, and illustrated by Bèatrice Quette (ed.) inCloisonné: Chinese Enamels from the Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties, Bard Graduate Center, New York, 2011, p. 89. As with the present vessel, the flanges do not appear to be truly notched, but made to appear so. The shape of the bird, decoration on the body, and shape of the wheel spokes are all similar. A late Ming dynasty version of this vessel in bronze, which also appears to be very similar, is in the National Palace Museum, and illustrated in Through the Prism of the Past, Taipei, 2003, p. 174, pl. III-42.

Wheeled bird-form vessels executed in cloisonné enamel appear to have appealed to the craftsmen of the Qianlong period, as evidenced by others of varying type that have been published. Two dated to the Qianlong period, are also illustrated by Quette in Cloisonné, p. 269, no. 88, in the Brooklyn Museum, and no. 89, in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which has an inscribed four-character Qianlong mark. Another vessel of this type is illustrated in Enamel Ware in the Ming and Ch’ing Dynasties, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1999, no. 70. See, also, the two vessels illustrated by H. Brinker and A. Lutz in Chinese Cloisonné: The Pierre Uldry Collection, The Asia Society Galleries, New York, 1989, nos. 257 and 258. The original inspiration for all of these vessels would have been bronze zun in the shape of a standing bird with downward-curved tail made during the Western Zhou period, none of which, however, had wheels.

FINE CHINESE CERAMICS AND WORKS OF ART 18-19 September

Christie’s sale of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art will be held over the course of two days, featuring over 600 lots that span over 3,000 years and numerous collecting categories, including jade and hardstone carvings, fine classical Chinese furniture, archaic bronzes, early pottery and later porcelains, gilt-bronze Buddhist figures, imperial glass, and snuff bottles. 

Highlighting the sale is a magnificent pair of huanghuali square-corner cabinets, fangjiaogui, from the early 18th century (estimate: $500,000-800,000). The elegant form of these cabinets, with its attractive straight lines and pleasing aesthetic, has made it one of the most successful forms in Chinese furniture construction. Other outstanding works include a rare ‘sacrificial red’ dish, Xuande six-character incised mark within a double circle and of the period (1426-1435) (estimate: $120,000- 180,000), the highlight of a selection of ceramics, jades, and other works of art collected in the US in the 1970s and 1980s by the late Dr. Peter Greiner, a noted Midwestern collector and scholar. 

A magnificent pair of huanghuali square-corner cabinets, fangjiaogui, early 18th century

A magnificent pair of huanghuali square-corner cabinets, fangjiaogui, early 18th century, 67¾ in. (172.5 cm.) high, 38½ in. (97.7 cm.) wide, 19 3/8 in. (49.2 cm.) deep. Estimate: $500,000-800,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2014.

Each has a protruding molded top and bottom frame between the well-figured floating panel doors within a rectangular frame and fitted flush around the removable center stile. The doors have rectangular metal lock plates and pulls and open to reveal a shelved interior and two drawers constructed from huanghuali with chrysanthemum-form metal mounts and pulls. The narrow sides feature single panels with attractive grain, and the top panel is constructed of a solid huanghuali panel. The legs are of rectangular section with beaded edges and are joined in the front by a shaped apron carved with makara at the corners and interlocking leafy scroll and plain aprons and spandrel on the narrow sides. The richly-figured huanghuali wood is of golden-amber tone.

PROPERTY FROM THE JK LEE FAMILY FOUNDATION

The form of the present cabinet, with its attractive straight lines and pleasing aesthetic, has made it one of the most successful forms in Chinese furniture construction. One unusual, though very successful, variant evident on the present cabinet is the slightly protruding frame at the top, on the front side only, as typically the frame is flush on all four sides. See a related huanghuali square-corner cabinet of similar size, dated 17th-18th century, also with a protruding frame at the top sold at Christie’s New York, 22-23 March 2012, lot 1726.
It is not often that pairs of cabinets survive and the construction of the pair almost entirely from difficult to acquire huanghuali wood, found on the top and back of the cabinets, and also the drawers, makes this pair particularly rare.

A rare ‘sacrificial red’ dish, Xuande six-character incised mark within a double circle and of the period (1426-1435)

A rare ‘sacrificial red’ dish, Xuande six-character incised mark within a double circle and of the period (1426-1435), 7¾ in. (19.7 cm.) diam. Estimate: $120,000- 180,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2014.

The dish has shallow rounded sides raised on a tapering foot that rise to a slightly everted rim, and is covered inside and out with a glaze of soft crushed-strawberry-red color below the white rim.

Provenance: W.W. Winkworth (1897-1991) Collection.
Sotheby’s London, 12 December 1972, lot 38.
Dr. Peter M. Greiner (1940-2013) Collection.

Literature: Adrian M. Joseph, Ming Porcelains: Their Origins and Development, London, 1971, p. 73, no. 99.
Dr. Peter M. Greiner, A Walk into China’s Past, Michigan, 1980, no. 61.

Exhibited: Battle Creek, Michigan, A Walk Into China’s Past, 1980-1981, no. 61.

One of the most widely admired glazes in the history of Chinese porcelain production is the rich copper-red glaze seen on this Xuande dish. Successfully fired copper-red-glazed porcelains from the early 15th century, like the current example, are especially favored by connoisseurs, due to the combination of color and texture of the glaze. Not only is this a particularly beautiful glaze, it is also rare, since successful firing of this copper-red glaze was extremely difficult.

Monochrome copper-red glazes on Jingdezhen porcelain seem to have first appeared in extremely small numbers during the Yuan dynasty, but a clear, brilliant red does not appear to have been achieved. Even in the Hongwu reign (1468-98) of the Ming dynasty, when renewed efforts were made by the potters to improve copper red, the glazes tended to be semi-opaque and to have a somewhat waxy sheen to their surface. They also failed to reach a good color, and instead varied from an orangey-red to a muddy brownish-pink.

In the early 15th century, however, renewed efforts were made at the Imperial kilns to produce a fine copper-red glaze, such as that seen on the current dish. They appear to have made significant changes to the base glaze, which improved the color of the red. There seem to have been three changes made to the base glazes previously used. The potters slightly increased the calcium content, so that the glaze was nearer to the normal lime-alkali glaze used for underglaze blue porcelains. This made the glaze a little more fluid at high temperatures, allowing more bubbles to escape and also allowing more of the batch material in the glaze to dissolve. Both techniques added to clarity of the glaze, although there were still enough bubbles left to create the wonderful curdled texture characteristic of these glazes, which can clearly be seen on the current dish.

The potters also found that if they reduced the amount of copper in the glaze it created a purer red color, since too much copper tends to make the glazes look rather muddy, and they changed from using oxidized copper metal to using oxidized bronze. The tiny traces of tin, lead and antimony present in the oxidized bronze seem to have encouraged the reduction of the copper (Cu+) ions to colloidal copper metal during the cooling process, which helped to enhance the red color. In addition, the Xuande potters at the imperial kilns discovered that the red glazes were most successful when fired to a slightly higher temperature – about 1300o – slightly over the normal 1250-1280. Thus the potters of the early 15th century managed, at last, to produce rich cherry-red glazes, that are often called xianhong or ‘fresh red’, on porcelains, such as the current example, which remain the most sought-after of all copper-red wares.

It is also noteworthy that following the Hongwu Emperor’s edict of 1369, requiring that porcelain vessels should be used on the Imperial Altars, red-glazed porcelains came to be used on the Chaoritan, the Altar of the Sun, and hence the glaze on some of these copper-red vessels is called jihong, sacrificial red. Of course, as well as its use in ritual, the color red is associated in China with happiness and celebration.

A small number of Xuande copper-red dishes can be found in the Chinese palace collections. However, most of these examples have a six-character mark in underglaze blue on the base. There is one example which, like the present dish, bears an incised six-character Xuande mark. It was included in an exhibition of Xuande porcelains at the National Palace Museum, Taipei, and is illustrated in Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Selected Hsuan-te Imperial Porcelains of the Ming Dynasty, Taipei, 1998, pp. 394-5, no. 170.

Two examples of Xuande-marked copper-red dishes in the Percival David Foundation with similar incised six-character marks inside a double circle are included in Illustrated Catalogue of Ming and Qing Monochrome Wares in the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, London, rev. ed. 1989, p. 33, no. 556, and p. 32, no. A519. The first is slightly larger and the second of similar size to the current dish. Another copper-red dish with incised Xuande mark, of smaller size (6.15/16 in.), was sold at Christie’s New York, 21 September 2004, lot 258.

Compare, also, the slightly larger (8 5/8 in.) Xuande-marked copper-red dish from the Meiyintang Collection, formerly in the R.H.R. Palmer Collection, sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 8 April 2013, lot 9. Another Xuande-marked copper-red-glazed shallow dish of slightly larger size (8 in.) was sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 1 December 2010, lot 3108.

Additional highlights from other prominent private collections include a sancai- glazed figure of a woman holding a goose, Tang dynasty (AD 618-907) (estimate: $30,000-50,000) and other works dating from the Shang to Qing dynasties from the estate of Mrs. Yale Kneeland (1869- 1955) and a superb selection of Qing mark-and-period glass from the collection of Hugh W. Greenberg. An interesting and diverse range of Song-Qing porcelains from the estate of New England collector Alfred E. Guntermann will also be on offer, including a rare large blue and white ‘fu lu shou’ jar, guan, Jiajing six-character mark in underglaze blue and of the period (1522-1566) (estimate: $30,000-50,000). 

A sancai- glazed figure of a woman holding a goose, Tang dynasty (AD 618-907)

A sancai- glazed figure of a woman holding a goose, Tang dynasty (AD 618-907), 12½ in. (31.8 cm.) high. Estimate: $30,000-50,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2014.

The woman is seated on a rock stool while holding a goose-form wine vessel in her arms. She wears a tunic worn over the right shoulder, while the left sleeve is tucked under the belt in back, and is splash-and-resist-glazed in green, amber and cream. The head and chest are unglazed. The round face is modeled with soft, delicate features and the hair is worn in a braid around the back of the head.

Provenance: Anna Ilsley Ball Kneeland (1865-1955), New York, acquired 1918-1931, and thence by descent within the family.

Exhibited: On loan: Yale University Art Gallery, 1955 to April 2014.

In figures of this type, the goose being held has been identified as both a goose being force fed and as a wine vessel. Jan Chapman in her paper, ‘A New Look at ‘Wine Carriers’ Among Tang Dynasty Figures’, T.O.C.S., vol. 52, 1987-88, pp. 11-20, illustrates two similar figures, p. 12, pls. 1 and 2, the first in the Rietberg Museum, the second in The Burrell Collection, Glasgow Museums and Art Gallery, and proposes for these figures as well as the others illustrated, both male and female, that they do not hold a real goose, or lion, but an earthenware vessel of goose or lion shape, in which a rhinoceros horn has been inserted as a stopper, which could also be used as a cup. The figures are usually identified as foreigners, of Central or Western Asian type. A figure, similar to the present figure, from Shanxi province, is illustrated in Wenwu, 1989:6, col. pl. and black and white pl. 4.1.

 

A rare large blue and white ‘fu lu shou’ jar, guan, Jiajing six-character mark in underglaze blue and of the period (1522-1566)

Jiajing six-character mark in underglaze blue and of the period (1522-1566)

A rare large blue and white ‘fu lu shou’ jar, guan, Jiajing six-character mark in underglaze blue and of the period (1522-1566), 19 in. (49.5 cm.) high. Estimate: $30,000-50,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2014.

The heavily-potted body is decorated with prunus, pine and bamboo comprising the ‘Three Friends of Winter,’ their branches twisted to form the characters fu, lu, and shou (‘good fortune, prosperity and longevity’), all between a band of interlocked ruyi heads alternating with shou characters on the shoulder and a further ruyi band below.

Provenance: Alfred E. Guntermann (1943-2013) Collection.

The sale also includes a rare dated white satin imperial guardsman’s ceremonial uniform and helmet, Qianlong period (1736- 1975) (estimate: $80,000-100,000); and a rare large painted enamel double-gourd vase of the Qianlong period (1736-1795) from the Collection of Mrs. James Bishop Peabody (estimate: $80,000-120,000). 

A rare dated white satin imperial guardsman’s ceremonial uniform and helmet, Qianlong period (1736- 1975)

A rare dated white satin Imperial guardsman’s ceremonial uniform and helmet, Qianlong period (1736- 1975). The tunic 29 1/8 in. (74 cm.) long; the apron 31 in. (79 cm.) long; helmet without flaps 24 in. (61 cm.) high. Estimate: $80,000-100,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2014.

The uniform is made of creamy-white silk satin bordered with midnight-blue silk and decorated with gilt-copper studs in imitation of armor, comprising a jacket with detachable sleeves, epaulettes, front panel, and apron. The tunic section of the jacket is lined with pale blue silk bearing an imperial inscription dating the uniform to the thirty-first year of Qianlong’s reign (1766). The helmet is of black lacquered cowhide with stud-decorated satin flaps, metal fittings and a decorative tassel of red-dyed yak hair on a spike below a double-gourd finial. Also included are original blue cotton storage pads.

Provenance: The Imperial Wardrobe: Fine Chinese Costume and Textiles; Christie’s New York, 19 March 2008, lot 40.

PROPERTY OF AN AMERICAN COLLECTOR

Exhibited: On loan: Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, March 2010 – March 2013.

The inscription on the tunic reads Qianlong sanshiyi nian, Suzhou di san ci ban, indicating that this imperial guard’s uniform was commissioned by the Qianlong emperor from the imperial silkworks at Hangzhou in 1766. Several thousand new ceremonial uniforms were commissioned for a grand review of the imperial army by Emperor Qianlong in 1766, and the uniforms were stored in a tower above the West Flowery Gate of the Forbidden City. This ceremony, called the Book of Shields, was held once every three years, and took place on a large parade ground south of the Forbidden City. Each regiment of the Manchu Banner Army was arranged in ranks at the parade ground, wearing uniforms in the colors of their Banner. The colors of this uniform, white with dark blue borders, indicate that the wearer was a foot soldier in the Inner Banner of the imperial guard that protected the imperial palace. Mounted imperial guards of the Outer Banners wore uniforms in the reverse color scheme, and protected the imperial city’s walls.

Although the purpose of this uniform was purely ceremonial, its construction is based on armour used for protection in battle. The sleeves are separate from the tunic body and attached by means of leather straps and buckles, thus allowing the wearer a greater range of arm movement. The exposed areas around the sleeves were then covered with shoulder guards. The legs were covered with aprons, again for protection, but the seat was left free to allow the wearer to mount a horse. The front square panel here is made of silk, but this would have been made of metal in actual combat armor.

 

A rare large painted enamel double-gourd vase, Qianlong period (1736-1795)

A rare large painted enamel double-gourd vase, Qianlong period (1736-1795), 23 in. (58.5 cm.) high, wood stand. Estimate: $80,000-120,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2014.

The vase is vertically lobed and finely painted on a finely stippled yellow ground with a fruiting and flowering leafy vine interspersed with butterflies and praying mantises that trails from the mouth rim, meanders around the body displaying variously colored double gourds, and surrounds two large leaf-shaped panels on the lower body. Each panel depicts a pair of Chinese bulbuls looking at each other in the branches of a crabapple tree, while two butterflies flutter nearby, the blue sky forming the background. A band of spiralled lavender ribbon and green cord encircles the foot, and the interior is covered in turquoise enamel, the base in white.

Provenance: Heber Reginald Bishop (1840-1902).
James Cunningham Bishop (1870-1932).
Mary Cunningham Bishop Peabody (1893-1980).
James Bishop Peabody (1922-1977), and thence by descent to the present owner.

The combination of gourds and butterflies constitutes a rebus for ‘numerous descendants’.