LONDON - Sotheby's London sale of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art on 6 November 2013 brings together a diverse offering of treasured pieces from several eminent private collections, including Cloisonné Enamels and Metalwork from an Important Private Collection, Fine Chinese Ceramics from the Alfred Beit Foundation* and Qing Imperial Porcelain and Jade from an Important Far Eastern Private Collection, as well as jades and furniture of remarkable quality. The auction follows Sotheby’s successful series of sales in Hong Kong and New York, where records were achieved in numerous categories.** Overall, the sale of over 430 lots is expected to bring £7.5 – 11 million.
Robert Bradlow, Director, Head of Sotheby’s London Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Department, said: “We are thrilled to be offering a stellar selection of material hot on the heels of Sotheby’s recent successes in Hong Kong and New York, where the pursuit for the finest examples of Chinese ceramics and works of art continues unabated. Our London sale features property from distinguished private collections, each notable for the quality of the objects. One of the headline lots in the sale, the ‘Dragon’ Moonflask, comes to auction from an English Private Collection and had remained in a family collection for decades, its importance and rarity unrecognised.”
Metalwork and Cloisonné Enamel from An Important Private Collection (Lots 118-153)
A RARE GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF SHYAMA TARA
MING DYNASTY, EARLY 15TH CENTURY, WITH A LATER QIANLONG MARK
This sculpture of Tara has an elegance and delicacy as befits the sensuous and youthful female form of the goddess. Tara is worshipped by Buddhists as a saviour and liberator from samsara, the earthly realm of birth and rebirth. The deity is beautifully cast and seated in the pose of royal ease, her hands held in gentle and expressive gestures of charity and reassurance, her head adorned with festooned beaded jewellery reminiscent of the early 15th century. Tara was a popular cult at the Yongle court and at least nine gilt-bronze Taras of the period remain, all markedly different from one another while remaining faithful to the common stylistic requirements of the Yongle ateliers.
A PAIR OF CHAMPLEVÉ ENAMEL ‘LOTUS’ CANDLESTICKS
QIANLONG MARKS AND PERIOD
Lavishly decorated in bright champlevé enamels which create a striking contrast against the rich gilt ground, this magnificent pair of candlesticks formed an integral part in the worshipping cult within the court. The technique, palette and ornamentation are distinctly Qing in style while the form is a clear reference to antiquity in accordance with the decorative trends of the 18th century. These candlesticks would have comprised part of a five-piece altar garniture used during religious or ritual ceremonies.
A LARGE PAIR OF CLOISONNÉ ENAMEL BEAKER VASES, FANG GU
QING DYNASTY, 17TH/18TH CENTURY
Qing Imperial Porcelain and Works of Art from a Far Eastern Private Collection (Lots 154-168)
A RARE AND LARGE IMPERIAL GREEN KHOTAN JADE MUSICAL CHIME
QIANLONG MARK AND PERIOD, DATED 1764
Known in China as qing, musical stones of this type were made in sets of sixteen, comprised of twelve tones and four half tones. During the Qing period, sonorous stones such as this jade chime were probably reserved for use in the Grand Sacrifices performed at the Altar to Heaven and the Altar of Land and Grain. The thickness of the musical stones varies according to their tone and the three-character inscription indicates that this piece is the second lowest tone of the sixteen. The traces of gilt suggest that the stone was originally gilt-painted with dragons amongst clouds. Musical stones of this type derive from archaic prototypes that were produced as early as the Shang dynasty (16th century – c. 1050 BC).
AN IMPERIAL GILT-BRONZE ARCHAISTIC TEMPLE BELL, BIANZHONG
KANGXI MARK AND PERIOD, DATED TO THE 54TH YEAR, CORRESPONDING TO 1715
Bianzhong were produced for the court during the Qing dynasty as an essential component of Confucian ritual ceremonies at the imperial altars, formal banquets and processions. The music produced by these instruments was believed to facilitate communication between humans and deities. Gilt-bronze bells of this type were assembled in sets of sixteen and range in twelve different tones; the bell in Sotheby’s sale is the lowest pitch (beiyize) from its set. Magnificently cast with mythical pulao dragons atop and bands of bosses and trigrams around the imperial reign mark, it acts as a statement of majestic grandeur in the Qing court. The bell was purchased in China in the late 19th century by Dr Walter Jennings Milles (1854-1914) who practised in Shanghai for 26 years, before retiring and returning to England in 1910. It has remained in the same family collection in Scotland for over 100 years, during which time it became a tradition to use the bell as a dinner gong.
A RARE BLUE AND WHITE ‘DRAGON’ MOONFLASK
QING DYNASTY, QIANLONG PERIOD
In the quest to justify their right to the throne of China as a foreign dynasty, the Manchu emperors of the Qing dynasty commissioned works of art to reflect their power and beneficence. In this moonflask, the dragon evokes imperial grandeur and is emblematic of the Emperor's rule. Although the dragon had a long tradition in China, probably no other ruler made such calculated propagandistic use of it as the Qianlong emperor. The image of the five-clawed dragon can be considered the ultimate expression of the Qianlong emperor's imperial splendour. Moonflasks of this type are very rare. The form is unusual for its high shoulders and the decoration presents side-facing, rather than front-facing, dragons. Though the composition of a dragon leaping from the tumultuous waves and surrounded by swirling clouds is a familiar motif, the Qing craftsman has adapted the design to suit the emperor's ornate taste by including an additional dragon and a complex array of clouds and bats.
A PAIR OF HUANGHUALI ROUND-CORNER TAPERED CABINETS, YUANJIAOGUI
Following recent strong prices, the sale also includes Chinese furniture of exceptional quality. Amongst the most valued hardwood in China, huanghuali is appreciated for its vibrant colour, impressive grain pattern and light sweet fragrance. By the Qing dynasty, huanghuali became especially treasured by the imperial court and was frequently used for the production of imperial furniture. It is acclaimed by collectors and connoisseurs as the 'pearl of the Orient'. Cabinets of this type, with the characteristic round-corner, are known as yuanjiaogui and valued for their simple yet elegant form and design. This pair of cabinets was formerly in the collection of Dr J.H. Zeeman, Charge d'Affaires of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Beijing, a post held between 1954 and 1957.
A RARE PAIR OF EMBELLISHED HUANGHUALI HORSE-SHOE BACK ARMCHAIRS
Embellished huanghuali furniture of the 17th and 18th centuries is extremely rare and may have been inspired by architectural panels. This type of embellishment is known as zhouzhi, after the Ming dynasty craftsman Zhou Zhu who was known for this technique. Only two other pairs of embellished horseshoe-back armchairs appear to have been published, both with inlaid images of antiques.