HONG KONG - The Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art auction, offering 452 lots, is the largest sale in the Bonhams Hong Kong 2013 Spring Auctions series. A carefully curated collection of Chinese works of art sourced from around the world, the sale includes all the major categories that reflect the long history and rich diversity of Chinese art. In addition to a strong group of Ming and Qing Imperial porcelain, white jade carvings, scholar’s objects, there are several collections consigned by international clients.
Highlights of the sale include:
An exceptional large archaic bronze ritual wine vessel, zun. Shang dynasty
This is arguably the finest quality archaic bronze zun vessel from the Shang period ever offered for sale in a Hong Kong auction. It was purchased from the world leading bronze specialist, Gisèle Croës in Brussels in 2001. Originally cast as a spectacular ritual wine vessel for a high ranking member of the Shang dynasty aristocracy, it is outstanding for its size (36.5cm diameter), the quality of its decoration, and the rich azurite-blue patina that is so coveted by collectors of ancient bronzes.
A magnificent and brilliantly enamelled wucai 'fish' jar. Jiajing six-character mark and of the period, 40.8cm diam. (2).
Jiajing 'fish' jars of this large size, brilliantly enamelled in wucai ('five coloured') enamels, are arguably the most prized of all Chinese porcelains, and hold centrepiece in some of the greatest museum and private collections in the world. In the Jiajing period, the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen achieved a technical breakthrough in producing porcelains of such large size, and it is noteworthy that, unlike other Ming porcelains, these jars were not produced in later reigns. The complexity of firing jars of this large size, combined with the technical difficulty of enamelling such vibrant scenes on the exterior, would have made the production of these jars a costly enterprise. The Jiajing Emperor was highly attracted to Daoism, and is known to have supported Daoist causes and demonstrated an interest in alchemy and other Daoist doctrines. The freedom of the fish in the water is symbolic of the happy, carefree life of a Daoist practitioner. As such, the motif of fish swimming in water was a popular motif in Daoist paintings.
This is one of the finest quality Jiajing fish jars in private hands, and is particularly striking for the brilliance of the enamels and vibrancy of the painting. Returning to the Hong Kong market after a ten-year gap, it is sure to attract significant interest.
Fine Ivory Carvings from the Ashfield Collection, United Kingdom (310-313)
This is an outstanding group of Qing dynasty ivory carvings purchased from leading dealers, including Spink & Son, Gerard Hawthorn of the Oriental Art Gallery and S Marchant & Son. In terms of quality and rarity, several of the highlights are compared favourably with ivory carvings from the Qing court collection.
• An ivory 'eighteen luohan' table screen Qianlong, attributed to Yang Weizhan HK$150,000-200,000
This is closely related example to an ivory screen from the Qing Court collection, preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, signed by Yang Weizhan, a famous carver who worked at the Imperial court.
• An ivory 'landscape and poem' brushpot. Mid Qing dynasty, signed Gu Zhi. HK$250,000-310,000
This is closely related to another ivory ‘landscape’ brushpot from the Qing Court collection, preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing.
The auction concludes with Jade Belt Hooks from the Jason Chen Collection, which comprises 231 belt hooks of various shapes and sizes offered in 71 lots with no reserve price on any of the lots. The owner acquired all the hooks over the last 15 years, primarily at auctions around the world.
Jade belt hooks date back to the Liangzhu culture (3300 to 2250 BCE), which placed great value in the green stone, and many were found by archeologists in burial sites. The tradition of using belt hooks, worn by dignitaries, was further developed during the Western Han dynasty. Though they became less fashionable during the Eastern Han dynasties, losing their practical function, they rose back in popularity throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties, becoming purely decorative ornaments. They continued though to be made in the traditional shape, which had become fashionable during the Han dynasty, but were also made in more fragile materials like porcelain and glass.
The collection offered for auction includes hooks dating back to the Yuan dynasty and continues to the republic period. One highlight of the sale is a rare white jade “butterfly” belt hook dated to the Qianlong period, which was once in the Alan and Simone Hartman collection and was exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 2004.
Julian King, Head of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, comments: “We are pleased to be offering such a large and comprehensive range of works of art, which truly reflect the rich diversity of China’s long artistic history, from Shang dynasty bronzes through to Qing dynasty jades and ivories. With over 450 lots, there really is something for everyone, with estimates ranging from the Jiajing fish jar, that we expect to sell for up to HK$16,000,000, through to small jades and scholar’s objects, that are estimated at just HK$8,000”.