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The Robert Ellsworth Collection to be offered at Christie's New York Asian Art Week
An Unusual Bronze Circular Mirror With Deities, Beasts And Inscription Sui dynasty (581-618). Estimate: $40,000-60,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2012.
NEW YORK, NY.- On March 22, Christie’s will present the sale of Luminous Perfection: Fine Chinese Mirrors from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection. Prominent dealer, collector, and author Robert H. Ellsworth is a legendary figure in the field of Asian art. He began to collect Chinese bronze mirrors more than sixty years ago when there were relatively few references available to him. Regardless, Ellsworth was able to amass a superb collection of rare and important mirrors that span more than 2,000 years from the Warring States period (475-221 BC) through the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Comprising 70 lots, the sale is expected to realize in excess of $1.2 million and will be led by a magnificent and exceptionally rare silvery bronze octalobed mirror with cranes from the Tang dynasty (618-907) (estimate: $100,000-150,000).

Fashioned from a high tin-content bronze to produce a bright, silvery patina, these mirrors often bear exquisitely cast designs while the reverse side is polished to a reflective surface. Unlike their European counterparts, the Chinese mirror features a central perforated knob through which a cord would be strung for handling purposes. The designs range from abstract, geometric patterns to elaborate figural scenes, and often incorporate poetic inscriptions that refer to the moon, alluding to the mirrors’ luminous nature.

Highlights from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection

A Rare Bronze Circular ‘Shan’ Mirror Late Warring States period, 4th-3rd century BC
Estimate: $10,000 – 15,000

This style of mirror, with its use of shan or T-shapes superimposed on a richly patterned ground, is typical of those from the Chu region of Hunan and Hubei provinces during the Warring States period. Here the shan characters are combined with two deer and a dog wearing a collar, the latter perhaps alluding to hunting.

A Large Silvery Bronze Circular ‘TVL’ Mirror With Inscription Late Western Han/Xin dynasty, 1st century BC
Estimate: $60,000-80,000

The decoration on this elaborate ‘TLV’ mirror, which is unusually large for its type, is derived from the layout of Qin and Han dynasty liubo game boards.

An Unusual Bronze Circular Mirror With Deities, Beasts And Inscription Sui dynasty (581-618)
Estimate: $40,000-60,000

This unusual mirror is intricately cast with various bands incorporating the animals of the zodiac, and Four directions, processions of mythical beasts and a lengthy poetic inscription.

A Rare Bronze Square Mirror With Apsaras Tang dynasty (618-907)
Estimate: $25,000-35,000

The decoration on this mirror is extremely rare. Apsaras (tianren) are celestial beings or angels associated with Buddhism and are usually depicted in flight wearing garments and scarves that trail elegantly

A Rare Large Bronze Octalobed Mirror Tang dynasty (618-907)
Estimate: $60,000-80,000

The inclusion of the pair of horses in the decoration on this mirror is very rare, and they likely make reference to a married couple, while the fruiting grapevine stems carried in the beaks of the two birds symbolize a wish for abundance, both of many sons and wealth. The ribbon-tailed bird is a symbol of longevity.

A Silvery Bronze Circular Mirror With Twin Carp Jin dynasty (1115-1234)
Estimate: $10,000-15,000
This mirror is heavily cast in high relief with two naturalistically rendered carp swimming atop a ground of waves, their large twisting bodies filling almost the entire space.

Auction: Luminous Perfection: Fine Chinese Mirrors from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection March 22 at 2 pm

Viewing: Christie’s Rockefeller Galleries March 16-22 behind them.

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