A large covered finely cast bronze censer with flying dragon handles, Xuande Mark. Photo Galerie Lamy
Price on request
Provenance: private german collection
A large covered finely cast bronze censer with flying dragon handles, Xuande Mark. Photo Galerie Lamy
Price on request
Provenance: private german collection
An Exceptional and Important Carved Cinnabar Lacquer Bowl Stand, Ming Dynasty, Hongwu Period, Yongle and Xuande Marks. Photo Sotheby’s
the finely carved vessel of robust construction, of globular form with deep rounded sides collared with a seven-lobed dish, supported on a flared foot, deeply carved through layers of cinnabar lacquer to a buff-coloured ground with six blossoming flowers and corresponding leaves, including gardenia, peony, pomegranate, chrysanthemum, camellia and hibiscus, beneath a plain band on the incurved rim, all repeated on the top and underside of the dish and around the foot, the details of the stamen intricately carved and the leaves engraved with veins, the interior of the bowl and the foot lacquered in plain dark brown, the foot inscribed vertically with an incised and gilded six-character Xuande mark, superimposed on an erased perpendicular Yongle mark. 21.4 cm., 8 3/8 in. Lot 3210. Estimation 10,000,000 — 15,000,000 HKD
PROVENANCE: Sotheby’s London, 13th December 1983, lot 56.
Keitaku Takagi (K. T. Lee).
Exposition: 2000 Years of Chinese Lacquer, Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong and the Art Gallery, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1993, cat. no. 46.
Layered Beauty: The Baoyizhai Collection of Chinese Lacquer, Art Museum, Institute of Chinese Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2010, cat. no. 36.
LITTERATURE: Lee King Tsi and Hu Shih-Chang, ‘Carved Lacquer of the Hongwu Period’, Oriental Art, vol. 19, no. 4, 2001, pp. 62-63.
Vessel for Three Emperors
This exquisitely designed and masterfully executed lacquer vessel exemplifies all the admired qualities of early Ming (1368-1644) imperial works of art. It is exceptional, however, in being one of the very rare courtly objects that is associated not only with one emperor, but seems to have been appreciated by no less than three rulers. As new imperial artefacts would be produced in virtually every Ming reign, the new emperors typically relegated wares of their predecessors to storage. Carved lacquer, however, far more precious and laborious to create than porcelain, for example, could pass from emperor to emperor. This tea-bowl stand was commissioned under the Hongwu Emperor (r. 1368-98), appropriated by the Yongle Emperor (r. 1403-24), who’s reign name was thinly engraved, and eventually taken over by the Xuande Emperor (r. 1426-35), whose magnificent carved and gilded reign mark was superimposed on top.
The Yongle and Xuande Emperors are well known as active patrons of the arts and their contribution to the artistic heritage of the Ming is fully appreciated. This is much less the case with the Hongwu Emperor who, as dynastic founder and conqueror who defeated the Mongols, is often considered a rough military man with no eye for beauty. This view seems supported by the fact that Yongle and Xuande reign marks appear on some of the finest works of art of the Ming dynasty, whereas no objects with reign marks exist of the Hongwu period. The present piece proves that we need to change our views about Hongwu connoisseurship.
Lacquer bowl stands were manufactured at least since the Song dynasty (960-1279) and in the Ming were incorporated into the repertoire of shapes produced by the imperial workshops. Made to support bowls of hot tea, they provided stable support for bowls with narrow bases, protected wooden and lacquer trays and tables from the hot vessel, added grandeur to any ceramic tea bowl, and turned the presentation of tea into a glamorous occasion. Carved lacquer was not new in the Ming dynasty either, the first pieces appear to have been made in the Song, and in the Yuan period (1279-1368) this branch of artistry experienced a first flowering. Like with porcelain, the Yuan style of lacquer carving is bold and vigorous, if still somewhat rough and angular. In the Ming dynasty, this form of decoration was transformed into a highly sophisticated art, as the carving style developed towards smoother and rounder reliefs that were not only pared with a knife but carefully rubbed down and polished.
In terms of design, no trouble was spared with this stand and no attempt made to simplify the work. The six blooms distributed around the sides are all different and the leaves varied to represent seasonal plants – a feature only fully appreciated when the stand is turned round in the hand. A congenial twist to ovoid boring formality is the distribution of these six blooms and their leaves over a seven-lobed dish – a layout challenge brilliantly mastered.
Whereas a Yongle carved lacquer style seemed firmly identified through pieces with reign marks, a Hongwu dating had until fairly recently been tentatively suggested for only a couple of pieces, which stylistically seemed to related to the style known from Hongwu porcelains.1 Dr. Hu Shih-chang himself has undertaken ground-breaking research on the identity of Hongwu lacquer ware, starting with the re-evaluation of an important Ming document recording gifts from the court of the Yongle Emperor to the Ashikaga Shogun of Japan.2 Between 1403 and 1407 the Chinese court sent 203 pieces of carved red lacquer to the Japanese ruler, with the most important gift of fifty-eight pieces occurring in the first year of the Yongle reign.
Carving lacquer wares is a laborious, time-consuming process that can stretch over years. It requires the gradual build-up of the lacquer coating by adding and preparing thin layers of lacquer, each of which needs to dry before it can be polished and the next one applied, and finally the carving of the design and the smoothing out of all irregularities. That this process could have been completed in the first year of the reign within a matter of months is considered impossible. It equally seems out of the question that such work could have been done in the unruly times of the short Jianwen period (1399-1402), particularly as the Emperor is known to have ordered all works that were not vital to be stopped. The types of lacquer included in the first list of gifts to Japan in 1403, which are well enough described to be identified, thus can only be of Hongwu date. Among them are ‘mallow-shaped bowl stands … carved … with flowers of the four seasons’, of which two examples were sent to the Shogun.
Since then, Lee and Hu continued to work on this subject and proposed nearly twenty carved lacquer pieces in all as candidates of Hongwu imperial manufacture.3 They have identified some distinguishing features, for example, that the carving of seasonal flowers is characteristic of the Hongwu reign, while Yongle flower-decorated pieces are carved with only a single flower.4 Nevertheless, it is not easy to separate a Hongwu from a Yongle style of carved lacquer ware, and at present we just have to recognize that the ‘characteristic’ Yongle style in fact had its origins in the Hongwu reign.
Lee and Hu have also studied the various lacquer pieces inscribed, like the present stand, with a finely carved and gilded Xuande reign mark over a partly effaced, thinly scratched Yongle mark. They believe that on lacquer Yongle marks were not added at the workshops but later in the reign, after the pieces were moved from Nanjing to the new capital, Beijing. This would explain why pieces from the Hongwu reign could also bear a Yongle reign mark, and why the calligraphy is less accomplished than one would expect from an imperial workshop. The exact reason why some Yongle-marked items are also inscribed with a Xuande reign mark is still unresolved. Lee and Hu have identified over thirty such pieces, several of which they have ascribed to the Hongwu period. It is possible that new lacquer pieces could simply not be provided quickly enough, when the new emperor ascended the throne, so that existing ones were re-attributed. Whereas the feeble Yongle mark seen on the present stand is characteristic of lacquer ware and is not inscribed in this way on other works of art, the magnificent Xuande mark follows the official style of writing also seen on other imperial artefacts and was probably devised by a court calligrapher.5
The number of pieces comparable to our stand is extremely small. Only two closely related seven-lobed bowl stands carved with seasonal flowers are preserved, one with Yongle reign mark in the Palace Museum, Beijing, published in Zhongguo qiqi quanji [Complete series on Chinese lacquer], Fuzhou, 1993-8, vol. 5, pl. 26 (fig. 1); the other without reign mark in the Seikadō Bunko Art Museum, Tokyo, included in the exhibition Carved Lacquer Tokugawa Art Museum, Nagoya, and Nezu Institute of Fine Arts, Tokyo, 1984, cat. no. 83 (fig. 2). Neither of the two stands bears the additional Xuande inscription.
Carved cinnabar lacquer mallow-shaped ‘floral’ bowlstand, Mark and period of Yongle, Palace Museum, Beijing. After: Zhongguo qiqi quanji [Complete series on Chinese lacquer], Fuzhou, 1993-8, vol. 5, pl. 26.
Carved cinnabar lacquer mallow-shaped ‘floral’ bowlstand, Ming dynasty, Yongle period, Seikado Bunko Art Museum, Tokyo © Seikado Bunko Art Museum Image Archives / DNPartcom
Four other related pieces are known, all apparently of the less eccentric and less complicated six-lobed form, which could indicate a slightly later, i.e. Yongle rather than Hongwu, date: a Yongle-marked piece probably from a private Japanese collection published in Tōyō no shikkōgei/Oriental Lacquer Arts, Tokyo National Museum, 1977, cat. no. 508; another stand with Yongle mark included in the exhibition Masterpieces of Chinese Lacquer from the Mike Healy Collection, Honolulu Academy of Arts, 2002, cat. no. 27; an unmarked stand in the Tokyo National Museum, illustrated in Hirota Collection. Gift of Mr. Hirota Matsushige, Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo, 1973, cat. no. 297; and one from the collection of Sir Harry and Lady Garner in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, published in Sir Harry Garner, Chinese Lacquer, London, 1979, pl. 33. Another Yongle-marked stand carved with seasonal flowers, but probably five-lobed, is illustrated in Lee Yu-kuan, Oriental Lacquer Art, Tokyo, 1972, pl. 107.
1 E.g. Regina Krahl and Brian Morgan, From Innovation to Conformity. Chinese Lacquer from the 13th to 16th Centuries, Bluett & Sons, London, 1989, cat. no. 1.
2 Lee King-tsi and Hu Shih-chang, ‘Carved Lacquer of the Hongwu Period’, Oriental Art, vol. 47, no. 1, 2001, pp. 10-20, reprinted in Layered Beauty. The Baoyizhai Collection of Chinese Lacquer, Art Museum, Institute of Chinese Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2010, pp. 171-82.
3 Lee King-tsi and Hu Shih-chang, ‘Further Observations on Carved Lacquer of the Hongwu Period’, Oriental Art, vol. 55, no. 3, 2005-6, pp. 41-7; reprinted in Layered Beauty, op.cit., pp. 183-90.
4 Layered Beauty, op.cit., p. 185.
5 Liu Xinyuan, ‘Imperial Porcelain of the Yongle and Xuande Periods Excavated from the Site of the Ming Imperial Factory at Jingdezhen’, Imperial Porcelain of the Yongle and Xuande Periods Excavated from the Site of the Ming Imperial Factory at Jingdezhen, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1989, pp. 74-5.
Sotheby’s. The Baoyizhai Collection of Chinese Lacquer, Part 2. Hong Kong | 08 oct. 2014, 11:00 AM
‘Dragon’ Jar, ‘Yangcai’, “Fish” Stemcup, “Peach” Bowl, Blade, Blue-and-White, Bowl Stand, celadon-glazed, Cinnabar Lacquer, Copper-Red, doucai, Dragon-Handled Vase, Gold and Silver-Inlaid Bronze, Gold-Splashed Bronze, Hongwu Period, Imperially Inscribed, Incense burner, Liding Ming Dynasty, Liding Song Dynasty, Mark and Period of Chenghua, Mark And Period Of Kangxi, Mark And Period Of Xuande, meiping, Ming Dynasty, Palace Bowl, Seal Mark And Period Of Qianlong, The Chunzaizhai Collection, The Fonthill ‘Dragon’ Jar, Tripod Incense Burner, White Jade, Xuande Mark, Yellow-Ground, Yongle Mark, Yuan dynasty, Yuan-Early Ming dynasty, Yuti Mark And Period Of Qianlong, Zun
The Fonthill ‘Dragon’ Jar. A Magnificent Carved Celadon-Glazed ‘Dragon’ Jar, Seal Mark And Period Of Qianlong, 34.4 cm. Expected to fetch in excess of HK$80 million / US$10.3 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.
HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Autumn Sales 2014 will take place on 8 October at Hall 3, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The sales will offer selected properties from various private collections, led by the Fonthill ‘Dragon’ Jar from the Qianlong period (Expected to fetch in excess of HK$80 million / US$10.3 million). Other highlights include a Xuande ‘fish’ stemcup from the Chunzaizhai Collection, Chinese art from the Hosokawa clan (separate press release available on request), the Baoyizhai Collection of Chinese lacquer, later Chinese bronzes from the collection of Ulrich Hausmann and porcelain from the collection of legendary Japanese dealer Sakamoto Gorō, as well as a yellow-ground yangcai vase from the Qianlong period from the Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art various-owner sale. Altogether, the seven sales will offer around 420 lots with a total estimate of approximately HK$530 million / US$68 million*.
Nicolas Chow, Sotheby’s Asia Deputy Chairman and International Head of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, said, “This season, it is our privilege to present a wonderful selection of some of the world’s most celebrated collections – Hosokawa, Hausmann, Baoyizhai – spanning a diversity of fields such as Imperial porcelain, later bronzes and lacquer. Besides, we will also offer a number of masterworks of Chinese Imperial porcelain, including the magnificently carved celadon jar decorated with dragons formerly in the Fonthill collection.”
The Fonthill ‘Dragon’ Jar. A Magnificent Carved Celadon-Glazed ‘Dragon’ Jar Seal Mark And Period Of Qianlong 34.4 cm Expected to fetch in excess of HK$80 million / US$10.3 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.
Throughout its 4,000-year history, the production of ceramics with celadon glazes has seen constant innovation. With the present jar, the classic jar form was rendered in a larger format unseen in previous examples, whereas the eternal subject of dragons among waves and clouds are portrayed in an exceptional style. With its superbly harmonious combination of form, carving style, design and glaze colour the present jar is a characteristic product of the period, when Tang Ying (1682-1756) was supervisor of the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen and the expectations on a piece of porcelain were set to the highest level ever.
The Chunzaizhai Collection – A Xuande ‘Fish’ Stemcup. An Important And Fine Copper-Red “Fish” Stemcup, Mark And Period Of Xuande, 8.8 cm. Est. HK$40 – 60 million / US$5.1 – 7.7 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.
The superb Xuande stemcup from the Chunzaizhai Collection is the only example of this particular type and size ever to come to the market. The radical simplicity of this three-fish and related three-fruit designs is without par in the history of Chinese porcelain decoration and testifies to both the innovative approach to painting at the Imperial kilns in Jingdezhen and the technical progress in the firing of the copper-red, a notoriously fickle pigment. The admirable, jewel-like colour and texture of these silhouettes was achieved only in the Xuande reign and was not matched since. Numbers of very well executed examples with red glaze decoration such as the present piece remained very small. This piece has an illustrious history, having come to the market for the first time at Sotheby’s in 1956 from the collection of Allen J. Mercher, and since spent two decades in the Chang Foundation in Taipei.
Chinese Art Through the Eye of Sakamoto Gorō – Porcelain Following the previous success of offerings from the Sakamoto Gorō collection, Sotheby’s Hong Kong is delighted to present a selected group of porcelains from the famed collection of the legendary antique dealer. Sakamoto’s career as an antiques dealer, collector and connoisseur has spanned almost 70 years.
A Brilliantly Painted and Extremely Rare Blue and White Narrative Fragment of a Meiping, Yuan Dynasty. Diameter 24.3 cm. HK$2 – 3 million / US$260,000 – 380,000. Photo: Sotheby’s.
The present piece is a fragment of a meiping delicately painted in vivid shades of cobalt-blue with a continuous narrative scene alluding to the Yuan dynasty zaju (‘variety plays’), Baihuating (‘Pavilion of a Hundred Flowers’). The Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) is the only period when witty illustrations of popular scenes from contemporary theatre found their way onto porcelains. The superbly painted, complex stories represented on less than two dozen vessels that are preserved are among the most magnificent examples of Chinese porcelain painting ever achieved. This genre of porcelains made to evoke romantic or patriotic sentiments like contemporary drama developed in the relative freedom in porcelain production under the Mongol regime and was quickly abandoned again due to the subsequent submission of the Jingdezhen kilns under imperial control in the early Ming dynasty (1368-1644).
The Baoyizhai Collection of Chinese Lacquer, Part 2
As ritual bronzes fell out of vogue in the late Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-256 BC), lacquerwares began to take their place as one the most coveted luxury items one could own. Since that time, lacquer has continued to hold its place among highly esteemed collected objects like ceramics and jades. Hailed as one of the world’s top Chinese lacquer collectors, Dr. Hu Shih-chang (1924-2006) assembled a comprehensive collection which includes pieces from the Warring States period (475-221 BC) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and has been widely published and exhibited.
An Exceptional and Important Carved Cinnabar Lacquer Bowl Stand, Ming Dynasty, Hongwu Period, Yongle And Xuande Marks, 21.4 cm. Est. HK$10 – 15 million / US$1.3 – 1.9 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.
Made to support bowls of hot tea, bowl stands were incorporated into the repertoire of the imperial workshops in the Ming dynasty. Ming (1368- 1644) emperors typically commissioned their own porcelains and relegated wares from previous reigns to storage. However, as carved lacquer was far more precious and laborious to recreate, this teabowl stand passed from ruler to ruler: produced for the Hongwu Emperor (r.1368-98), it was appropriated by the Yongle Emperor (r. 1403-24), whose reign mark was thinly engraved, before the Xuande Emperor (r. 1426-35) had his magnificent gilded mark carved on top.
Later Chinese Bronzes from the Collection of Ulrich Hausmann
Passionately collected over 45 years by the German architect Ulrich Hausmann, the Wei Liao Qing Yuan is the definitive collection of later Chinese bronzes. Encompassing all the major categories, the sale includes incense burners, archaistic vessels, water droppers, hand warmers and religious figures, reflecting the refined taste of the official scholar elite from the Song to Qing dynasties.
A Gold-Splashed Bronze Tripod Incense Burner, Liding Ming Dynasty, 17.5 cm. Est. HK$500,000 – 600,000 / US$64,000 – 77,000. Photo: Sotheby’s.
A Large Bronze Dragon-Handled Vase, Zun, Yuan-Early Ming Dynasty, 28 cm. Est. HK$40,000 – 60,000 / US$5,000 – 8,000. Photo: Sotheby’s.
A Partially Guilt-Bronze ‘Duck’ Water Dropper Late Ming Dynasty 6 cm Est. HK$40,000 – 60,000 / US$5,000 – 8,000. Photo: Sotheby’s.
A Gold and Silver-Inlaid Bronze Incense Burner, Liding Song Dynasty, 19 cm Est. HK$300,000 – 500,000 / US$38,000 – 64,000. Photo: Sotheby’s.
Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art
A Magnificent Yellow-Ground ‘Yangcai’ Vase, Seal Mark and Period of Qianlong, 29.3 cm. Est. HK$30 – 40 million / US$3.8 – 5.1 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.
The current yangcai decorated yellow-ground bottle vase is representative of the advanced technical innovation as well as the successful synthesis of classical Chinese taste and Western decorative technique and palette in porcelain manufacture during the reign of the Qianlong emperor (r. 1735-96), who is known for his love for yangcai pieces. It also marks the innovative combination of ‘flowers on brocade’ sgraffiato with yangcai colours that result in a most pleasing arrangement. The present yangcai vase is truly exquisite, in a fine state of preservation, and the quality of its enamelling compares favourably with the finest examples from the Imperial Collection still preserved in Taipei and Beijing. That it has been possible to find its original entry in the Qing imperial court archives makes it a truly magnificent legacy of the Qianlong reign.
A Superb Blue and White Palace Bowl, Mark and Period of Chenghua, 14.7 cm. Est. HK$40 – 60 million / US$5.1 – 7.7 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.
Chenghua palace bowls are regarded as the most refined blue and white porcelains ever made and rank among the rarest wares ever produced at the Imperial kilns. Porcelain of the period remained greatly treasured by later Emperors, particularly Emperor Wanli and Emperor Yongzheng, who both had copies commissioned from the Imperial kilns. Both the interior and exterior of the bowl are decorated with gently undulating meanders of musk mallow, a flower design that appears for the first time in early 15th century blue and white porcelain. The present bowl is one of only two bowls of this design still remaining in private hands, while eleven examples are in museum collection, six of them in Asia and five in Europe.
A Fine And Rare Pair Of Doucai “Peach” Bowls, Marks And Period Of Kangxi, 14.6 cm. Est. HK$8 – 10 million / US$1 – 1.3 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.
These bowls are notable for the elegant and unusual design which has been restricted to a narrow band. The refined composition is accentuated by the variation of colours and delicacy of the enamelling which illustrate carefully observed details. With its highly auspicious decoration, this pair of bowls was possibly part of the large production for the Kangxi Emperor’s sixtieth birthday celebrations in 1713 for which peaches symbolic of longevity featured as the main motif.
An Important Imperially Inscribed White Jade Blade, Yuti Mark And Period Of Qianlong, 18.1 cm. Est. HK$8 – 10 million / US$1 – 1.3 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.
The present blade pendant is an excellent reflection of the passion of Qianlong Emperor for creative archaism in jades. Its form and decorative motifs are clearly based on the face-like motifs of Neolithic jades, but at the same time differ from the latter in execution. Pure and warm in material, subtle and profound in form, antique and refined in decoration, with an inscription of praise by the emperor himself, the present jade blade pendant is a perfect fusion of various cultural elements.