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A rare large three-color lacquer quadrilobed vase. Late 18th/early 19th century. 23 1/2in (59.7cm) high. Estimate: $60,000-90,000. Image: Courtesy of Bonhams.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Fine jades, bronzes and works of art highlight Bonhams’ Fine Chinese Works of Art auction on December 16, as part of a two-day sale of Asian art in San Francisco. Bonhams’ biannual auctions of Chinese art have become a magnet drawing international collectors of Chinese art to travel to the West Coast to acquire fresh choice objects from American private collections and estates that Bonhams has historically offered with great success over the last 30 years. The 416 lots of Chinese works of art offered on the first day of this sale should attract collectors interested in all fields to participate in this exciting auction.

A fine white jade covered censer from a Northern California estate (est. $20,000-30,000), purchased from William Clayton of London, by repute, will be one of the many highlights of the more than 150 lots of jades to be offered in this auction. This estate and the collection of Emmanuel Gran will constitute the majority of the lots offered, including white jade toggles and cabinet pieces dating to the 18th and 19th centuries. Choice items from the collection of Harold Stack will also be offered, including a fine and rare yellow hanging vase from the late Qing dynasty (est. $30,000-50,000).


A finely carved white jade covered bowl, 18th century. Estimate: $20,000 – 30,000 (€16,000 – 24,000). Image: Courtesy of Bonhams.

The gently curved sides resting upon five supports carefully rendered in the form of leafy peony flowers, below gently recessed reserves, each enclosing a stalk of leafy lotus finely carved in low relief, the domed cover similarly decorated, with a reduced oval finial to the top of a circular platform; the even white stone with faint russet and cloud-like inclusions. 5 3/8in (13.7cm) diameter;3 1/8in (8cm) high

Provenance: purchased from William Clayton, London, by repute


A fine and rare yellow jade hanging vase. Late Qing dynasty. Estimate: $30,000 – 50,000 (€24,000 – 41,000). Image: Courtesy of Bonhams.

Of archaic hu form, the tapered ovoid body carved in high relief on both sides with a single ram’s head set between raised narrow bands under two loop rings enclosing a twisted rope handle, the cover also banded and set off by a segmented bud finial, all supported by a flared oval foot embellished with further paired raised bands, the stone a rich yellow color shading to a light russet tone, the underside of the cover bearing an inscription possibly reading yong bao yong, the underside of the foot bearing a four character Qianlong mark6 in (15.3cm) high

Provenance: The Jade Collector, Los Angeles, 1994
The Harold E. Stack Collection of Chinese Jades

Religious bronzes from the Ming and Qing dynasties and other fine metalwork are a featured attraction of the auction. A fine cast Buddhist bronze deity, 17th century, from the estate of Ralph and Joan Kramer of Sedona, Ariz., (est. $30,000-50,000) and a gilt bronze seated figure of a Buddha, Yongle six character mark (est. $60,000-80,000) from a Southwest collector, are among the many Buddhist bronzes to be sold. Fine enamels formerly in the collection of Sir Harry Garner, noted English author of many books on Chinese art and metalwork and a great early 20th century collector, will be featured highlights of this sale, along with Shang and Zhou bronzes from a Northern California collection.


A fine cast bronze seated Buddhist deity, 17th century. Estimate: $30,000 – 50,000 (€24,000 – 41,000). Image: Courtesy of Bonhams.

Possibly Manjusri, seated dhyanasana on an elaborately draped double lotus pedestal base, one hand holding a lotus stem, the other holding a jewel, with two lotus stalks flanking the powerful shoulders, one supporting the remnants of a book, the other the base of a sword, both enclosing the voluptuous face with downcast eyes framed by an elegant jeweled and floral draped crown, the slim body adorned with pendant jewels falling from the waist and to the front chest. 28in (71.2cm) high

Provenance: by repute, purchased in Mukden in 1923, by descent to the current owners
Property from the Estate of Ralph and Joan Kramer, Sedona, Arizona


A gilt bronze seated figure of Buddha, Yongle six-character mark. Estimate: $30,000 – 50,000 (€24,000 – 41,000). Image: Courtesy of Bonhams.

Wearing a voluminous well-defined sanghati, with the antaravasaka undergarment rippling at the chest, his hair in tight curls covering the conical ushnisha above, and long pierced earlobes, with hands in bhumishparsha mudra and seated in vajraparyankasana on a lotus pedestal inscribed with a Yongle reign mark on its upper surface and sealed with a plate beneath incised with a visvavajra and traces of red lacquer. 7 7/8in (20cm) high

Notes: The statue is defined by an idiosyncratic sculptural manner within the Yongle stylistic parameters, and superb color and condition. Yet a number of variances are found that fall outside these parameters.

Firstly, the treatment of the outer lotus petal does not follow the convention of Yongle or other known Ming period casting. The long narrow petals have a median ridge and the tip of curves out slightly to a smooth point. The convention is rounded with an ornate scrolled element to suggest the layers of fine curling petals at the tip. The wider inner petal and smaller spacing petals are consistent as is the beading on the upper and lower edges. While subtle variation is found throughout the body of known Yongle period bronzes, the stylistic convention is strictly adhered to.

Only one other examples of faceted pointed petals is currently known from the period that sold Sotheby’s, New York, 26 March 1996, lot 6. However the form of the petal is more commonly found in sculpture from the 17th-18th century. Two Tara figures in the Summer Palace at Rehol have similar treatment of the petals, but only have a single line of beading along the upper edge of the base, (seeBuddhist Art from Rehol, pp. 85 and 91, nos. 22 and 25). A Padmasambhava figure in the Museum Rietberg dated to the 17th century is cast with petals with pointed curving tips, but they are plump and lack the median ridge.

Further variances are found the high forehead, slender torso, and thick rippling under garment at the chest, and slightly smaller size. The execution of the Yongle reign mark on the base does not provide any variance or indication that it was added later, further complicating the attribution.

While the overall hue of the gilding, areas of wear and treatment of the incised visvajra are consistent with 15th century casting, there is a preponderance of anomalies that make it difficult to be certain of the age.

For other Buddha figures recently offered and published include: Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, October 7, 2010, lot 2142; Christie’s, New York, March 30, 2006, lot 180; Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, April 4, 2012, lot 3225; Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, April 11, 2008, lot 3049; Christie’s, London, 11 July 2006, lot 96; Christie’s, London, November 13, 2001, lot 116.

Also compare with two enthroned Buddha figures, one in the British Museum, W. Zwalf, ed, Buddhism: Art and Faith, London, 1985, cat. 305, and the other from the Speelman Collection, Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 7th October 2006, lot 808. Also see Ulrich von Schroeder’s survey of Tibetan monastery collections, Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet, Hong Kong, 2001, vol. II, pl. 358A; another, with the reign mark erased, is now in a private collection, Ulrich von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, Hong Kong 1981, 146D.

The Yongle emperor (1403-24) had a very close affinity to Tibetan Buddhism and revered the high lamas of all the major sects. Tibetan Buddhism had become influential under the Yuan dynasty, which utilised it to cement its sphere of influence over Tibet. Under the Yongle emperor, imperial patronage was extended. In the first year of his reign, he invited the Fifth Karmapa to Beijing to perform funeral rites for his parents. Throughout his reign, numerous Buddhist images cast in Beijing were sent as gifts to high-ranking Tibetan lamas and dignitaries. The remoteness of the Tibetan plateau, combined with the reverence in which these Buddhist images were held and preserved in the numerous monasteries, provided the perfect environment for their survival prior to the Communist invasion of Tibet.

Provenance: H. Medill Sarkisian, Denver
acquired from the above 7 July, 1980
According to notes by Mr. Sarkisian, the work was acquired by him in India in the early 1960’s

A rare large three-color lacquer quadrilobed vase from the late 18th/early 19th century (est. $60,000-90,000) is part of a rare group of Chinese lacquer to be sold in this session. Carved with four panels featuring foreigners carrying tribute of auspicious objects, a theme both used to legitimise the authority of the emperor and to enforce Chinese suzerainty over its neighbours for millennia, it carries a conservative pre-sale estimate of $60,000-90,000. A rare carved lacquer box with the « three Grey Beards » seated around a gaming board, reversed by camellias in bloom, late Ming dynasty (est. $40,000-60,000) from a Japanese collection is another highlight of this group.


A rare large three-color lacquer quadrilobed vase. Late 18th-early 19th century. Estimate: $60,000-90,000 (€49,000 – 73,000). Image: Courtesy of Bonhams.

The flattened body of oval section carved in attractive crisp relief on the wider faces and narrower ends with four upright panels, each depicting foreigners carrying tribute of auspicious objects, the top layer of lacquer red, with the orange-brown and black layers appearing in the deeper carving, the flaring neck with upright petal lappets, the spreading foot with a lotus band complimented by a lotus band at the shoulder, with a continuous leiwen pattern at the mouth rim and foot rim, the shoulders set with a pair of gilt-bronze animal mask handles suspending loose rings. 23 1/2in (59.7cm) high

Notes: Neighboring nations presenting gifts to the Chinese emperor as an expression of gratitude for his benevolent rule was an important aspect of China’s foreign policy for successive dynasties. Strange animals, exotica and precious objects would be presented on diplomatic missions in an attempt to curry favor with the dominant nation. Whereas the act of tribute would further legitimize the authority of the emperor, it also enforced Chinese suzerainty over East Asia for millennia.

As a motif in Chinese art history, Western foreigners bearing tribute to the Chinese court is a longstanding theme that may be traced to the Tang dynasty with Yan Liben’s scroll of a procession of foreigners bringing exotic objects. Likewise the Song Dynasty’s catalog of paintings in the imperial collection Xuan He Hua Pu also includes a category on ‘Barbarian Tribes’ (Fanzu) which included paintings of foreign tribute missions.

In the early and middle Qing dynasty, the theme blossomed. The subject of a number of court paintings, such as three anonymous hanging scrolls Envoys from Vassal States and Foreign Countries Presenting Tribute to the Emperor, in the Palace Museum, Beijing (illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures – 14 – Paintings by Court Artists of the Qing Court, Commercial Press, Hong Kong, 1996, pp. 236-41, nos. 62-64) illustrating a myriad of foreigners in distinctively non-Chinese dress gathered at the gates of the Forbidden City laden with gifts.

When this theme was employed in the decorative arts–carved jade brush pots and screens, porcelain vases, as well as cinnabar lacquer boxes and the present three color lacquer vase–the foreigners are often depicted in mountainous landscapes and precipitous paths, implicitly stating the journey to offer a gift to the Chinese emperor is long and arduous. Their flowing capes, curly beards and horned hats do not refer to a specific place, but rather a distant beyond. It is likely that objects decorated with this theme were themselves intended as gifts to the emperor. However, it is more likely they were presented by regional state officials or important merchants rather than foreigners.

For a similar, though smaller (31.9 cm. high) example also of begonia form (海棠花式) lacquer vase, also unmarked seeMasterpieces of Chinese Carved Lacquer Ware in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1971, no. 32. A similar shaped vase with figures in a landscape, (31.5cm high) was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 24 November 2013, lot 340 for HK$325,000.


A rare carved cinnabar lacquer box with opposing figural and floral decoration, Late Ming dynasty. Estimate: $40,000 – 60,000 (€32,000 – 49,000). Image: Courtesy of Bonhams.

Of cylindrical form with short walls and flat top to each section, the top of cover carved in high relief with ‘Three Gray Beards’ seated around a gaming board in an edited landscape that continues onto the upright walls against a ground of flower-filled diamond diapers that repeat on the exterior walls of the base surrounding camellia branches in bloom, the interior surfaces finished in black lacquer. 2 3/4in (7cm) diameter; 1 1/4in (3.3cm) high

Notes: The formation of the camellia blossoms on the base of this box is very similar to the illustration of the same plant in Li Shizhen’s Bencao Gangmu (Pandects of Natural History), published in 1596. See Regina Krahl, ‘Plant Motifs of Chinese Porcelain: Examples from the Topkapi Saray Identified through the Bencao Gangmu, Part I,’ originally published in Orientations, May 1987, vol. 18, no. 5, p. 59, and re-issued in Chinese Ceramics: Selected articles from Orientations 1982-2003, 2004, p. 145.

For a box of larger size (16.2cm diameter) with a similar diaper ground to opposing plant and figural subjects but carved with identical floral patterns to the upright walls, seeGugong bowuyuan cang wenwu zhenpin quanji, vol.45 (Yuan Ming qiqi), 2006, cat. no. 195, p. 247, as late Ming dynasty.

A 12 symbol imperial Chinese dragon robe from the late Qing dynasty (est. $30,000-50,000) is a featured attraction of the fine textiles to be offered in this sale. An elegant huanghuali altar table, 18th century, from the O’Brien collection of Asian art (est. $80,000-120,000), and an 18th century huanghuali cabinet (est. $30,000-50,000) are part of a select group of Chinese furniture to be offered, along with an unusual pair of zitan and burl wood stands from the Republic Period (est. $10,000-15,000)


An embroidered yellow silk dragon robe with twelve imperial symbols. Late Qing dynasty. Estimate: $30,000 – 50,000 (€24,000 – 41,000). Image: Courtesy of Bonhams.

Embroidered in brightly-hued silk and gilt-wrapped threads with nine dragons chasing flaming pearls amid clouds further combined with baskets containing peaches, bats and Daoist emblems along with the twelve symbols: the constellation, sun, moon and mountain around the collar from front to back; the fu symbol and axe, aquatic grass and temple cups down the front; a dragon and pheasant, flames and rice grains embroidered on the back, all above a wide lishui border intricately detailed with additional auspicious objects; embroidered black collar band and horseshoe cuffs en suite52 1/2 x 69in (133.4 x 175.3cm)


A huanghuali altar table, 18th century. Estimate: $80,000 – 120,000 (€65,000 – 97,000). Image: Courtesy of Bonhams.

The floating panel top set into a mitered, mortise and tenon frame over a plain beaded apron with U-shaped spandrels joined to tubular supports and paired cross braces. 32 1/4 x 76 5/8 x 20 1/4in (82 x 194.5 x 51.5cm)

Provenance: the O’Brien collection of Asian art


A huanghuali cabinet, 18th century. Estimate: $30,000 – 50,000 (€24,000 – 41,000). Image: Courtesy of Bonhams.

The two-board top set into a mitered, mortise and tenon frame housing a pair of well-figured single board framed doors flanking a removable stile over a plain apron opening to reveal interior shelves, the central shelf housing a pair of drawers (later added), all fitted with yellow brass mounts. 61 5/8 x 34 ½ x 17 1/4in (156.7 x 87.7 x 43.8cm)

A fine sancai glazed pottery bowl from the Tang dynasty, formerly in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. F. Brodie Lodge (est. $10,000-15,000), and a group of longquan celadon from the collection of Frank and Georgia James and from a Japanese private collection, are part of a choice group of Chinese ceramics to be offered. Transitional blue and white porcelains, such as a rare blue and white jar, Jiajing mark and period (est. $15,000-25,000) and a doucai glazed prunus and magpie dish, Kangxi mark and period (est. $30,000-50,000), are part of the Qing dynasty porcelains on the block, along with a pair of famille rose and iron red enamelled jardinières of the late Qing/Republic period (est. $20,000-30,000) from a Bay Area family collection.


A sancai glazed small pottery bowl, Tang dynasty. Estimate: $10,000 – 15,000 (€8,100 – 12,000). Image: Courtesy of Bonhams.

Of circular form, its wide curving well painted with spots of colorless glaze that separate ribbons of cobalt blue and amber glaze, all repeating in more diffuse form on the exterior walls and base molded with flower heads and leaves, the floor of the well also marked with the remains of three tiny clay spurs. 4in (10cm) diameter

Provenance: Bluett & Sons, London, 1972, by repute
Mr. and Mrs. F. Brodie Lodge (attached label reading Brodie & Enid Lodge M.123)

Exhibited and Published: Oriental Ceramics Society, London, Loan Exhibition of Arts of the T’ang Dynasty 25 February – 30 March 1955, cat. no. 116, listed but not illustrated; attached label from the 1955 exhibition


A rare blue and white jar, guan, Jiajing six-character mark and of the period. Estimate: $15,000 – 20,000 (€12,000 – 16,000). Image: Courtesy of Bonhams.

Thickly potted and painted in shades of cobalt blue with a band of pearl-centered lappets around the curving shoulder, branches of camellia, peony, lotus and chrysanthemum encircling the compressed globular body above a stiff leaf band rising from the foot, the six-character mark written in regular script within a double ring beneath a celadon-tinged glaze applied everywhere except the foot pad and the altered rim of the neck now covered with a metallic copper colored pigment. 8 1/2in (21.6cm) high; 11 1/4in (28.5cm) diameter

Provenance: Rare Art, Inc. 1981

A similar blue and white jar with the original neck preserved, also Jiajing mark and of the period, sold in Sotheby’s, Hong Kong sale HK0203, 25 April 2004, lot 298 (9 1/2in/24.2cm high).


A doucai-decorated prunus and magpie dish, Kangxi six-character mark and of the period. Estimate: $30,000 – 50,000 (€24,000 – 41,000). Image: Courtesy of Bonhams.

Depicting two magpies alighting on a flowering prunus branch rising amid bamboo, a garden rock and fence in a roundel to the center of the well while bamboo, prunus and camellia branches appear on the exterior walls, all outlined in underglaze blue and colored with overglaze enamels, the mark on the recessed base drawn in underglaze blue regular script within a double ring. 6 1/8in (15.6cm) diameter

Notes: Terese Tse Bartholomew has identified the combination of magpies, prunus branch and bamboo as a rebus for ‘double happiness for the bride and groom’ (zhumei shuangxi): seeHidden Meanings in Chinese Art, 2006, p.52, 2.17.11.

A similar dish, 15.7cm diameter, is published in Gugong bowuyuan cang wenwu zhenpin quanji, vol. 38, ‘Wucai, Doucai,’ 2008, p. 22, cat. no. 193. See also the pair of dishes sold in Sotheby’s, Hong Kong sale HK0269, 11 April 2008, lot 2906, 15.8cm diameter.


A pair of famille rose and iron red enameled jardinières. Late Qing-Republic period. Estimate: $20,000 – 30,000 (€16,000 – 24,000). Image: Courtesy of Bonhams.

Each of compressed globular form, the interior walls painted in iron red while gilt and brightly hued enamels appear on exterior walls in four circular dragon and phoenix reserves surrounded by gourd vines on a lemon yellow ground, the unglazed foot pads and recessed bases burnt a pale brown. 20 3/4in (52cm) diameter; 12 1/2in (32cm) high

The sale features 60 Chinese classical and modern paintings, including property from the collection of Huang Haonian (1899-1953) and from a San Francisco collection, with works by Zhang Daqian, Deng Fen, Li Kuchan, Pu Ru and Huang Junbi. Two paintings by the famous Philippine artist Fernando Amorsolo (1892-1972) (est. $20,000-30,000 each) from a Canadian private collection conclude the sale.