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Chinese Works of Art at Sotheby's
The school of the Italian Jesuit painter, Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), Chinese maiden in a European costume, circa 1760s, oil on paper.

NEW YORK.- Sotheby's spring 2005 sale of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art will be held on March 31st and April 1st and will feature several exceptional examples of ceramics and a section of approximately 200 snuff bottles from the Collection of Ms. Avrina Pugh, Racine, Wisconsin, which have been off the market for over sixty years. These will be offered alongside a fine classical range of archaic bronzes, early pottery from the Neolithic through Tang dynasties, ceramics from the Song to Qing dynasties, jade and rhinoceros horn carvings, paintings and furniture. The property will be on exhibition in Sotheby's fifth floor galleries from March 24th through the 30th and the sale is expected to bring $7/9 million.

Important Early Ceramics from a Private Collection - A magnificent and very rare carved 'Ding' basin - spanning 13 inches across and made of dense white clay thrown on a wheel at the Ding Kilns in Hebei- is among the largest pieces of Ding ware recorded and, with its bold, large-scale carving, is a true masterpiece of the Song dynasty (est. $400/600,000). Being offered from an Important Private Collection, it is the only 12th century basin remaining in private hands, acquired almost ten years ago at auction from Sotheby's Hong Kong. Smaller basins are in the British Museum, London, the Percival David Foundation, London, and in the former Imperial collection, now preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing. Also from the same Important Private Collection is another masterpiece of 'Ding' ware from the Northern Song dynasty, a Superb Large Carved Foliate Dish (est. $400/600,000). The only closely comparable companion piece is in the National Palace Museum, Taiwan. The subject-matter of a 'chi' dragon, being present on the Taiwan dish inscribed Shouchengdian, 'Hall for Achieving Long Life', indicates that these dishes were probably reserved for use in the Imperial Palace of the Song dynasty (960-1127). Peony scroll carving on both sides of the dish is extraordinarily rare. The dish was exhibited in the famed Berlin exhibition of 1929 from the collection of Edgar Worch, Berlin and in Copenhagen in 1950 from the collection of Johannes Hellner, Stockholm, before being sold twice at auction, most recently in 1996.

An unexpected discovery of a rare piece of porcelain in perfect condition that was bought in an estate sale as a modern bottle used for flowers is a Hongwu period (1368-1398) underglaze-red bottle vase. Of this bottle form, very few are known to have survived intact as they were often altered as lamp bases. An underglaze-red charger recently sold in San Francisco for $5.7 million. The vase is expected to bring $300/500,000.

Another remarkably rare ceramic masterpiece in flawless condition is an Imperial lemon-yellow glazed 'chrysanthemum' dish, Yongzheng mark and period (1723-1735). Commissioned in a famous series of twelve distinct experimental glazes, each petal lobe is perfectly shaped (est. $200/300,000).

The Pugh Collection - The exceptional collection of snuff bottles formed by Ms. Avrina Pugh (1892-1986) of Racine, Wisconsin over a period of fifty years, beginning in the 1930s, brings many rarities to market. Ms. Pugh was a trained chemist who assisted with the discovery of iodine in the thyroid, and with her sister Betha lived in a Frank Lloyd Wright house filled with Latin American art and Chinese snuff bottles purchased both in numerous trips to the Chicago galleries of Yamanaka & Co. and during many trips around the world. Highlighting the collection are five superb Imperial enameled metal snuff bottles from the Beijing Palace Workshops, marks and period of Qianlong (1736-1795), with estimates ranging from $30,000 to $150,000. Made in the Beijing Palace Workshops with the marks and period of Qianlong (1736-1795), the estimates range from $30,000 to $150,000 each. The collection has not been seen by the public in thirty years and is expected to bring $1/1.5 million.

Paintings - Two major paintings made for the mid-18th century Imperial Chinese court by the school of the Italian Jesuit painter, Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), and presented to the Qianlong emperor (1736-1795). These paintings were intended to entice the emperor with the fantasies of the Baroque courts through European realism and also to convert him to Christianity. Although the emperor wasn't persuaded by the artist's religious intentions, he was captivated by Castiglione's artistic endeavors and commissioned portraits of himself and his circle. The first work, oil on paper, depicts a Chinese maiden in a European costume, circa 1760s, Qianlong period (1736-1795) (est. $100/150,000). Castiglione's influence is also evident in a rare portrait series of ten Manchu bannermen, the honor-guard of the emperor. The fragments of this handscroll were probably executed by Jin Tingbiao in the 1760s and bear the calligraphy of the emperor himself. These fascinating studies were made in preparation for fifty large-scale hanging scrolls in the Zi Guang Ge - Hall of Purple Splendor - and were scattered or destroyed during the Boxer Rebellion of 1890-1900. These historical documents were discovered by the mother of the present consignors while travelling in Berlin after World War II, who could only afford to select ten of her favorite studies which were cut out of an album (est. $100/150,000).

Furniture and Works of Art - Highlighting the section of furniture is a rare marble-top Huanghuali square table, Kangxi period, from a private collection in Hawaii, with strikingly variegated grey and white marble above a beaded apron carved in relief with key-fret scrolls (est. $40/60,000), and a rare and large Huanghuali horseshoeback armchair (est. $70/90,000). Also included in the works of art section is a rare rhinoceros horn raft libation cup, pictured right, which belongs to a small group depicting the Han Dynasty statesman Zhang Qian, who according to legend, succeeded in discovering the source of the Yangzi River and in another legend discovered the source of the Milky Way (est. $60/80,000).

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