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A pair of rare Green-Ground Famille-Rose Bottle Vases, Qianlong Seal Marks and Period, tripled the pre-sale low estimate to bring £782,500 / $1,248,948 (est. £200,000-300,000). Photo: Sotheby’s.

LONDON.- Sotheby’s Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art sale brought a total of £8,912,000 / $14,224,443. The auction took place during ‘Asian Art In London’, the annual ten-day celebration of the finest Asian art.

Robert Bradlow, Head of Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art, Sotheby’s London, commented: “There was a tremendous buzz in the saleroom today – seats were filled with collectors who had made the trip to London to discover all that ‘Asian Art In London’ has to offer and partake in our sales. A busy viewing period translated into enthusiastic bidding, much of it coming from new faces. The lion’s share of the sale was bought by collectors in the room, who had travelled from as far afield as Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.”

Strong demand for Imperial Porcelain and Song Dynasty ware:

A pair of rare Green-Ground Famille-Rose Bottle Vases, Qianlong Seal Marks and Period, tripled the pre-sale low estimate to bring £782,500 / $1,248,948 (est. £200,000-300,000). These vases exemplify the Qianlong Emperor’s pursuit of innovative designs

(cf. my post of october 24th.)


A ‘Longquan’ Celadon Cong Vase, Song Dynasty, achieved £242,500 / $387,054, a price almost 10 times above the pre-sale low estimate (£25,000-30,000). Photo: Sotheby’s.

(Cf. my post of october 24th.)

Continued popularity of gilt-bronze pieces:

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An Imperial Gilt-Bronze Figure of Amitayus, Qing Dynasty, Kangxi Period, sold for £542,500 / 865,884 against an estimate of £200,000-300,000. Photo: Sotheby’s.

seated in dhyanasana on a high double-lotus pedestal base, with hands folded in dhyanamudra, wearing a shawl and dhoti, the borders incised at the hems with lotus, its loose folds falling over his crossed-legs in undulous folds, with a billowing celestial scarf around his shoulders and arms, richly adorned with elaborate jewellery inlaid with turquoise, lapis lazuli and coral, the face with benevolent expression surmounted by an elaborate five-point diadem surrounding a high chignon, engraved to the underside hem with the characters reading qishisi (seventy-four); 42.5cm., 16 ¾in.

PROVENANCE: Acquired by the father of the present owner in China in the 1960s.

Notes: This figure of the Buddha Amitayus, the Buddha of Infinite Life, is remarkable for its size and impressive weight. Cast from a mould comprising several sections, its surface is entirely covered in a rich fire-gilding. Furthermore, the figure’s face, torso, arms and legs are enhanced with red and gold lacquer gilding softly worn in places, while inlays of semi-precious stones add splashes of colour. Such portrayals are characteristic of imagery from Tibet. The Buddha Amitayus, associated with the rites that ensure long life, is especially worshipped by Tibetans, who believe that life can be extended through long lineages, faith and compassion. It is also believed that one can achieve self-enlightenment and cater to the welfare of other with the help of Amitayus.

Commissioned by the Kangxi Emperor (1662-1722), this figure was possibly created as a gift for his grandmother who was a devout Buddhist. Figures of this type are known to have been made in 1686 in the Imperial foundry, cast on the orders of the Kangxi emperor for his grandmother’s birthday in 1686; see one illustrated in Cultural Relics of Tibetan Buddhism Collected in the Qing Palace, Hong Kong, 1992, pls 1-2; and another published in Ulrich von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, Hong Kong, 1981, p. 152, pls 152A and 152B, where it is noted that these figures were originally part of one and the same group, which may have comprised as many as 108 examples.

Several related figures of the Buddha Amitayus have been sold at auction; two were sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 5thOctober 2011, lot 1983, and, 9th October 2007, lot 1547; three were sold in these rooms, the first, 10th November 2010, lot 233, the second, 9th November 2011, lot 187, and the third, 16th May 2012, lot 218; and a further example was sold in our Paris rooms, 9th June 2010, lot 161.

Gilt-bronze figures of Buddha Amitayus continued to be made in a similar style under the Qianlong Emperor; see one sold in our New York rooms, 22nd September 2005, lot 50.


A Gilt-Bronze Figure of Manshuri, Yongle Mark and Period, sold for £266,500 / $425,361. Photo: Sotheby’s.

Stylistically this figure displays the influence of the art of Tibet, and was probably made as a gift from the Ming emperor who sought to maintain good relations with the Tibetan religious hierarchy

(cf. my post of October 27th)

Enduring allure of top quality jade:


A Fine Pale Celadon Jade ‘Quail and Millet’ Ruyi Sceptre, Qing Dynasty, 18th/19th Century, sold for £278,500 / $444,514, almost six times over the pre-sale low estimate (£40,000-60,000).

The ruyi sceptre became a talisman that was presented to bestow good fortune and was the perfect imperial gift

(cf. my post of October 30th.)

Fierce bidding on rare objects:

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A rare and important Canton painted enamel Armorial Tea Chest, Qing Dynasty, circa 1745, sold for £422,500 / $674,352, more than 20 times the pre-sale low estimate (£20,000-30,000).

of rectangular form, finely decorated in the famille-rose palette, the hinged cover with a shaped cartouche enclosing the Royal Arms of Sweden flanked by supporters and surmounted by a crown, framed by fruit-shaped panels enclosing landscapes, all reserved on a delicately entwining floral scroll ground, the sides variously decorated with shaped cartouches enclosing birds and flowers, reserved on meandering leafy scrolls bearing composite floral blooms and fruits, all divided by floral bands and set with two gilt-bronze loop handles, the interior divided into twenty-one lined compartments each accomodating a square pewter tea canister and cover. Quantity: 43 – 25.3 by 47.7 by 24.5cm., 10 by 18¾ by 9 5/8 in.

PROVENANCE: Sotheby’s London, 7th March 1978, lot 23.

EXHIBITEDA Tale of Three Cities, Canton, Shanghai & Hong Kong, Sotheby’s London, 1997, cat. no. 199.

Notes: The present chest is notable for its remarkably fine enamelling which indicates it is likely to have been commissioned specifically for Swedish royalty. The Royal Arms are those of Frederick, King of Sweden (r. 1720-1751). It retains all the twenty one original tea canisters, which are plain except for the floral decoration on the covers, and each fitting into a pewter-lined partition. The brass carrying handles are possibly European; however the lock plate is likely to be Chinese as evidenced in the careful outline on the surrounding enamel decoration.

Last offered at auction over 30 years ago

Appeal of artefacts created 3,000 years apart which illustrate timelessness of form:


An Archaic Bronze Ritual gu Wine Vessel dating from the late Shang dynasty, 13th-11th century BC, of a type that only the wealthiest of patrons could afford, brought £242,500 / $387,054 (estimate £100,000-200,000).

(cf. my post of October 30th.)


An 18th century monochrome porcelain fine and rare Ru-type Beaker Vase, Qianlong Seal Mark and Period, sold for £362,500 / $578,586 (estimate £100,000-200,000).

(cf. my post of october 24th.)

Bronze shapes and design elements entered the general repertoire of Qianlong porcelain and provided a stimulus for vessels otherwise unrelated to the ancient metal versions.

By stripping back all the decorative elements, the vase highlights the elegance of the archaic form while also signifying the emperor’s all-encompassing role as preserver of Chinese cultural traditions.