NEW YORK.- Christie’s, the world’s leading art business, is opening the series of Asian Art Sales at Rockefeller Center with Art for the Way of Tea, a unique sale completed devoted to tea-ceremony related items. The collection, which was brought together over several decades by a private Asian collector, spans a time zone of four hundred years (16th through 19th centuries), consists of 40 lots and is expected to realize in excess of three million dollars.
Art for the Way of Tea includes the full range of objects needed for the preparation of tea in a traditional tea room: painting or calligraphy to hang in the alcove, containers for powdered tea, flower vases, fresh-water jars, food vessels and sake bottles for the tea meal and, of course, ceramic tea bowls. In a classic tea arrangement, known as toriawase, the host would combine Japanese, Korean and Chinese objects suited to the time and place, and this tradition is reflected in the collection offered.
The top lot of the sale is a rectangular stoneware bowl with bridge handle, Momoyama period (17th century), Mino ware, Narumi Oribe type (estimate: $350,000-400,000). This object is a superb one of-a-kind serving dish created through a time-consuming and exacting process which consisted of molding, hand-molding, decorating and glazing. Narumi Oribe ware was made by combining red and white clay in separate areas. When dry, the red clay was painted with floral motifs in white slip and the white clay was covered with a cool, copper-green gaze.
A stoneware water container, Momoyama period (early 17th century), Iga ware (estimate: $200,000-250,000) is another highlight. The Iga kilns near Kyoto are famous for their tea vessels made during the Momoyama and early Edo periods. The jar presented has the bold and colorful style associated with the tastes of Kyoto tea masters Furuta Oribe (1544-1615) and Kobori Enshu (1579-1647). The rounded form of the container was deliberately flattened on two sides, a spatula was used to impress whimsical patterns, and a sharp tool to incise lines that curve around the body. The intentional, contrived manipulation of the glaze and clay is representative of a period when surface effects were no longer strictly natural.
Other noteworthy items include a Chinese porcelain ‘shoe-shaped’ blue and white tea bowl, Ming dynasty (17th century) (estimate: $100,000-150,000), specially commissioned by Japanese tea aficionados from the Zangjhou kilns on the southern coast of China and a bronze turnip-shaped flower vase, Ming dynasty (17th century) (estimate: $100,000-150,000), made as an arrow vase for a Chinese drinking game but used during the Japanese tea ceremony as a flower vase.