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Christie's Hong Kong announces sales of important Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art
An important early Ming blue and white bianhu moonflask from the Yongle period. Estimate: HK$28,000,000-35,000,000/ US$3,700,000-4,500,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2011.

HONG KONG.- Christie’s Hong Kong 2011 Fall Sales will present Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art on Wednesday, 30 November at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre. The sale, estimated in excess of HK$600 million /US$80 million, brings together over 400 works of exceptional quality and with excellent provenance, as well as special collection 15 exceptional jade, ivory and rhinoceros horn carvings from an renowned European connoisseur put together over the past 50 years.

Exquisite Chinese Ceramics
Among the leading lots in the season, and highlighting the sale‟s superb selection of Ming and Qing ceramics, is an important early Ming blue and white bianhu moonflask from the Yongle period (1403-1424) that showcases an elegant blending of Chinese and Central Asia style (Lot 2977, estimate: HK$28,000,000-35,000,000/ US$3,700,000-4,500,000). While its sophisticated decoration was the invention of Chinese potters, the distinctive shape of this early 15th century blue and white porcelain moonflask with its flaring foot was ultimately directly influenced by Islamic glass or metalwork.

A rare underglazed copper-red “mallet” vase with the Kangxi six-character mark and of the period (1662-1722) (Lot 2936, estimate: HK$15,000,000-20,000,000/US$2,000,000-2,600,000) is also of particular note this season. The elegant form of this vase, with its long, slender, slightly waisted neck rising from pronounced shoulders is one that is particularly associated with the Kangxi reign. In Chinese the name often given to this form is yaoling zun or “hand bell vase”, a reference to the bronze bells used in formal secular and religious music. A new addition to the Qing dynasty porcelain repertoire during Kangxi reign, this shape was rarely seen thereafter. Setting the present work apart is its striking copper red as well as its distinguished J. M. Hu Family Collection provenance. Also of note is a large blue and white Ming-style hu vase from the Qianlong period (1736-1795) from the Robert Chang Collection (Lot 2945, estimate: HK$12,000,000-15,000,000/US$1,600,000-1,900,000). Well-painted in bold cobalt blue tones, it depicts the eight Buddhist emblems above two registers of lotus blossoms.

The sale will offer a fine selection of Song ceramics, including a finely moulded dingyao „peacock‟ dish from the Song/Jin dynasty (960-1234) (Lot 3001, estimate: HK$3,000,000-4,000,000/US$390,000-520,000). Once part of the famed Carl Kempe Collection, this piece is especially remarkable for its crisp design of two large superbly-rendered peacocks with long sweeping tails.

Offered within the sale is a superb selection of Longquan celadon wares dating from the Song to the Ming dynasties. Produced in Zhejiang province, the highly-regarded Song pieces are characterized by their simple undecorated forms and lustrous soft bluish grey glaze. By the Yuan dynasty and into the Ming dynasty, the decorative techniques became more elaborate in style, due to the technological advances. A change in the formula for mixing the glaze and different firing techniques produced much brighter and deeper green glazes. By this time, there was a flourishing export trade to Europe, East Africa and East Asia. While some of the most significant collections are still found outside China, today this is a category that is seeing increased interest from collectors throughout Greater China.

Leading the selection is a rare 14th century octagonal Longquan celadon meiping from the Yuan dynasty (Lot 3010, estimate: HK$4,000,000-7,000,000/US$520,000-900,000). Depicting the eight Daoist Immortals in molded relief, this piece is a rare example of a Longquan celadon facetted vase and is one of only two vases of its size, shape and design to have been published. Also of note is an exceptionally large early-Ming Longquan celadon barbed-rim charger that is among the largest ceramic dishes to have been produced in China during the Yongle period (1403-1425) (Lot 3009, estimate: HK$2,800,000-3,500,000/ US$370,000-450,000) and a magnificent early Ming carved Longquan celadon “loquats” dish that is rare among other Hongwu dynasty (1368-1398) examples for depicting any type of fruit, as opposed to flowers in its main decorative area (Lot 3012, estimate: HK$800,000-1,200,000/ US$110,000-150,000).

Magnificent Chinese Jades
This season collectors will be presented with an outstanding selection of important imperial white jade carvings. Coming to the market at a time when the demand and appreciation for fine jade carvings is at its zenith, sale highlights include exceptionally rare jades from the 18th century that are particularly notable not just for the fine workmanship and pure white material, but also for their illustrious provenance hailing from some of the most important collections of jade carvings formed in the 20th century.

Leading the season’s jade selection is a magnificent white jade dragon vase and cover from the Qianlong period (1736-1795) (Lot 2971, estimate: HK$28,000,000-35,000,000/US$3,700,000-4,500,000). Formerly in the famed collection of Sir John Buchanan-Jardine (1900-1969), a Baronet with a distinguished military career who later became the head of Jardine-Matheson, this exquisite work was among a number of jades included in the seminal 1935 Royal Academy exhibition of Chinese Art at London‟s Burlington House. The Royal Academy exhibition was the first, and remains one of the most important exhibitions of Chinese art ever held in Europe. Offered among the important works from the Vint Family Collection at Christie’s Hong Kong in 2008, this stunning vase and cover is crafted from beautifully and highly-polished even-toned white jade and is exquisitely carved using a variety of carving techniques. An extraordinary work of art by every definition, it depicts a full-faced dragon coiled around a flaming pearl and encircled by eight Buddhist emblems - wheel of law, paired fish, conch shell, victory banner, parasol, treasure vase, and lotus.

Other important jade lots include a finely carved white jade cylindrical brushpot from the Qianlong period (1736-1795) (Lot 2970, estimate: HK$6,000,000-10,000,000/ US$780,000-1,300,000) featuring a variety of auspicious symbols that is exceptional for its generous proportions, superb carving, and use of top quality stone; a white jade marriage bowl from Qianlong period (1736-1795) (Lot 2969, estimate: HK$4,000,000-6,000,000/US$520,000-770,000) with unusual handles depicting winged dragons, representative of Imperial power; and a rare Imperial white jade phoenix wine pot from the Qinalong period (1736-1795) (Lot 3028, estimate: HK$3,500,000-4,000,000/US$460,000-580,000.

Rounding out the selection of top jade highlights is an imperial inscribed spinach-green jade table screen from the Qianlong period (1736-1795) formerly part of the famed Bulgari collection and inscribed with an extract of an imperial poem by Emperor Qianlong (Lot 2973, estimate: HK3,00,000-5,000,000/US$390,000-650,000). Displaying an interesting contrast of color and technique, this work was executed in the Imperial workshops in Beijing and is one of only a few known examples of spinach–green jade screens carved with imperials inscriptions.

Important Chinese Works of Art including Textiles and Furniture
Part Two of this season’s sale, also held on 30 November, will focus on Chinese Works of Art across a number of collecting categories includes scholars’ objects, lacquer, bronze, ivory, furniture, as well Chinese textiles, including Imperial robes and rank badges.

An important selection of Chinese textiles will be offered from the collection of a European gentleman. Beginning in the Han dynasty, court rank became the key determinant of social status, economic stability, and prestige. The practice of using special textiles and garments to mark rank with the imperial government bureaucracy was already established by the Tang dynasty (618-907), and by the 14th century pictorial badges came to be prominently displayed on court robes. In 1391 the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) court codified the nine grade ranking system, and under the Ming and subsequently Qing dynasty, badges with different categories of beasts were assigned to distinguish the aristocracy from the gentry, as well as to differentiate status with the military and civil bureaus.

Leading the selection of textiles is a rare early 19th century Imperial embroidered yellow satin twelve-symbol robe for an Empress from the Qing dynasty (Lot 3143, estimate: HK$1,000,000-1,500,000/US$130,000-190,000) and a rare fur-lined 19th century Imperial gold-embroidered blue winter „dragon‟ robe from the Qing dynasty (Lot 3144, estimate: HK$500,000-700,000 / US$65,000-90,000) that would have been worn during ceremonies for marking the winter solstice, a significant event on the ritual calendar.

Leading the rare rank badge offered from this same European private collection is a very rare Ming embroidered festival badge for the Emperor‟s birthday from the Wanli period (1573-1619) (Lot 3145, estimate: HK$250,000-400,000 / US$33,000-52,000). Embroidered on the badge are the wan emblem, the shou character and the lingzhi fungus that together form the rebus “May you live for ten thousand years.” The use of this phrase was strictly reserved for the emperor, and the imageries were often found on his birthday gifts. Another top rank badge offered is a set of eight imperial embroidered dragon roundels (Lot 3153, estimate: HK$200,000-300,000 /US$26,000-39,000), which include four from an empress’ surcoat.

A pair of Imperial gilt-decorated lacquer armchairs from the Qianlong period (1736-1795) (Lot 3080, estimate: HK$2,000,000-3,000,000/US$260,000-390,000) is one of the season’s furniture highlights. Very distinctive and exceptional, these chairs belong to a rare group of Imperial Palace furnishing densely carved to resemble naturalistic vegetation with auspicious connotations. Also of note is an elegant huanghuali and wumu square incense stand from the Kangxi period (1662-1722) (Lot 3078, estimate: HK$7,000,000-8,000,000/US$910,000-1,000,000), a piece that is unusual in its form and use of ebony panels, and is indeed the only known stand of its type to be published.

Other highlights include an imperial portrait of Prince Guo (Lot 3294, estimate: HK$1,800,000-2,500,000/US$240,000-320,000). Born Hongzhan, he was the sixth and youngest son of the Emperor Yongzheng (1723-35) and was only two years old when his father passed away. Hongzhan biography, as with those of the other imperial princes, is vague and is confined to written references of his official appointments. Although it is known that he was charged with greed and imprudent conduct which demoted him to a prince of the third rank, shortly before his death in 1765 he undoubtedly found favour again as his half-brother the Emperor Qianlong conferred to him the prestigious title Prince Guo. In this extremely rare portrait, the realistic depiction and fine brushwork of both the fur hat and padded, fur-lined silk jacket - luxurious winter clothing reserved for the emperor and high ranking princes – plus the naturalism and use of chiaroscuro in the painting of the face indicate a detailed knowledge of western painting techniques introduced to the Chinese court by European Jesuit missionary artists. The techniques used in this painting are particularly close to those of the most famous of these artists, Guiseppe Castilgione (1688-1766) and it is probable that the portrait was painted by a court painter who studied with him.

A single-owner sale from a renowned European connoisseur that comprised of 15 exceptional jade, ivory and rhinoceros horn carvings will be offered on 30 November. The outstanding collection was put together over the past 50 years with a focus on the very finest examples of superbly carved scholarly objects. The pieces demonstrate the collector’s appreciation of the decorative themes that have traditionally appealed to Chinese literati, particularly those of the 18th century. This is the second of a series of sales from the collection, following on from the hugely successful auction of superb jade carvings in New York on the 15th September. A third auction is scheduled to be held in London in Spring 2012.

Leading the collection is an extremely rare rhinoceros horn „log raft‟ cup (Lot 2913, estimate: HK$10,000,000-15,000,000/US$1,300,000-1,900,000) depicting a superbly carved scholar seated in the stern. The subject of this magnificent carving was inspired by a legend involving the Han dynasty envoy and indefatigable traveller Zhang Qian who through his missions and travels is often credited as initiating the establishment of the famous Silk Road.

Following the success of Christie’s sale of a selection of works from an important European private collection in the Spring 2011 in Hong Kong, another group of elegant Chinese ceramics from this collection will be offered this season. One of the striking aspects of this collection is the fine aesthetic judgment shown by the collector. Amassing this group of ceramics over a period of some thirty years, he has consistently chosen pieces that display a harmonious combination of elegant form, beautiful colours, and skillful decoration. The main concentration of the collection is on imperial porcelains of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

Half of the lots in this collection date to the Yongzheng period (1723-1735), and leading the selection is a rare „narcissus‟ dish that stands an excellent example of doucai from this period (Lot 2933, estimate: HK$3,000,000-4,000,000/US$390,000-520,000). The porcelains of this period are famous for their refinement of their white porcelain, their fine potting, and their delicacy and elegance of decoration. This dish is exceptionally fine, even amongst other vessels, with its decoration not only beautiful, but also chose to convey an auspicious meaning suitable for a birthday. And based on evidence in a series of album paintings in the Palace Museum in Beijing, it is highly probable that the design was inspired from a garden view outside the emperor‟s studio.

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