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Chinese & Japanese auctions & exhibition of touring highlights at Christie's London in May
A selection of snuff bottles in glass, porcelain, jade and other hardstones predominantly dating to the 19th century. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2015.

LONDON.- Following the record breaking results of Asian Art Week at Christie’s New York in March (15-21), which saw 10 sales including The Collection of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth achieve the highest total for Asian Art Week in New York ($161,142,063/ £99,908,079/€148,250,697), Christie’s announced details of the Chinese and Japanese auctions and exhibition of touring highlights in London in May. At Christie’s headquarters, 8 King Street, there are two auctions on 11 May: a single owner sale of Chinese ceramics and works of art Appreciating Elegance: Art from the Sui Yuan Zhai Collection and a single owner Japanese collection European Courts Encounter Japan. The two-day South Kensington sale of Chinese Ceramics, Works of Art and Textiles will take place on 12 and 15 May. Touring international highlights of Asian Art from the upcoming auctions in Hong Kong (3 June) and Paris (9 June) will be on public view in London from 7 to 10 May.

Appreciating Elegance: Art from the Sui Yuan Zhai Collection. Christie’s King Street, 11 May at 2pm
A beautiful selection of 39 pieces of Chinese porcelain, jades and glass from the private Sui Yuan Zhai collection will be offered at Christie’s on 11 May. The collection showcases a dynamic range of items dating from the Ming period (1368-1644) through to the 20th century. These include classical blue and white vessels, exquisite famille rose and monochrome porcelain, as well as superb jade carvings including intricate examples for the scholar’s table. The collection is expected to realise in excess of £2 million.

European Courts Encounter Japan, Christie’s King Street 11 May at 3pm
A single owner sale, European Courts Encounter Japan presents 16 lots from the collection of Sakamoto Goro (b.1923); estimates range from £5,000 up to £800,000. An inspiring figure, Sakamoto determinedly forged his way in the art world, establishing himself as a dealer in Tokyo in the Post War years having sought the advice and guidance of many revered dealers, including close friends such as Ishiguro Kojiro who owned ‘the Mikazuki Gallery’, an antiques shop which specialised in Western objects. Highly regarded throughout the Asian art trade, and by collectors and museum curators worldwide, Sakamoto attended international auctions until recently and is known for competing fiercely for works that he set his sight on. Sakamoto closed Fugendo in 1989 and now lives in retirement, enjoying his collection.

Chinese Ceramics, Works of Art and Textiles , Christie’s South Kensington, 12 & 15 May at 10am
Christie’s South Kensington’s two-day sale of Chinese Ceramics, Works of Art and Textiles on 12 and 15 May comprises 584 lots (day 1: lots 100-440; day 2: lots 500-742). Featuring a number of significant private collections, this carefully-curated auction offers works of art across a wide range of media including porcelain, jade carvings, glass, bronzes, Buddhist art, cloisonné enamel, furniture, paintings, textiles and scholar’s objects that span over two thousand years of Chinese art from the Neolithic period to the early 20th century. Estimates range from £1,000 to £60,000.

Appreciating Elegance: Art from the Sui Yuan Zhai Collection. Christie’s King Street, 11 May at 2pm
The Sui Yuan Zhai Collection has been amassed with great care over the past decade by a couple based in Hong Kong, who have exhibited an enthusiastic and evolving interest in the Chinese decorative arts, with a special interest in Imperial works of art from the Ming and Qing dynasties, chosen for their fine quality, rarity, beauty and historical significance. Both came from prominent families who had a keen interest in Chinese art, and thus an appreciation of colour, form and historical importance was instilled at an early age. The collection has been formed with advice and guidance from curators, specialists and respected dealers in the field, the majority of the pieces being purchased from international auction houses and reputable dealers.

The majority of the ceramics in the Sui Yuan Zhai Collection date to the Qing dynasty, whilst there are also significant pieces dating to the preceding Ming dynasty and the succeeding Republican period. Leading the collection is a large Qianlong period (1736-1795) gang bowl which is painted with particular delicacy using the famille rose enamel palette (estimate: £200,000-300,000). The Qianlong Emperor’s appreciation of overglaze-enamelled porcelain, such as the present vessel, is well-recorded. No other bowl of this exact type is published. This exceptionally rare and magnificent bowl highlights the ceramic decorator’s skill in devising large, wonderfully exotic, blooms which are scattered over the sides of the vessel and are punctuated by smaller four-petalled blossoms in iron red and blue. The style of painting used for the larger flowers makes particularly good use of the opaque white enamel which was developed as part of the famille rose or fencai palette. This opaque white allowed the ceramic decorator to create delicate pastel shades by mixing the white with other colours, such as the colloidal gold pink, which gives famille rose its name. Two other important enamel colours, which were significant additions to the famille rose palette also contribute greatly to the beauty of the painting on this vessel: the pure opaque yellow and clear purple.

A pair of famille rose floral double moon flask vases from the Republic period (1912-1949) (estimate: £25,000 – £35,000) boast not only a rare shape and the very rare mark of Jing yuan tang, but also fascinating provenance, having been previously owned by the Empress Dowager of Japan, who had the posthumous title HIM Empress Teimei (1884-1951). Following her death the vases were gifted by her son, Emperor Showa (r. 1926-89), to Chief Administrator Morimoto on 1 October 1951. There appears to be only one other published example of a porcelain double moon flask form, in the collection of the National Palace Museum Taipei. Further notable famille rose highlights include an impressive finely painted turquoise-ground ‘lotus’ ovoid jar and cover, Daoguang sixcharacter seal mark in iron-red and of the period (1821-1850), elaborately enamelled to the exterior with colourful lotus flowers supporting the sanduo, the Three Abundances surrounded by leafy scrolls, gilt doublexi characters for ‘double-happiness’, bats and peaches (estimate:£40,000 - 60,000).

A very rare underglaze-blue and overglaze iron-red-decorated ‘phoenix’ moon flask, baoyueping, Qianlong period (1736-1795) is an excellent example of impressive technical expertise, exhibiting skilful potting and elaborate decoration (estimate £120,000 - 200,000). The contrast between the areas decorated in soft underglaze cobalt blue and those painted in delicate, but vibrant, overglaze iron red enamel is extremely effective. The shading and fine details on the iron red flowers and birds’ feathers display the great skill of the painter. This flask was formerly in the collection of Major the Hon. Robert Carnegie (1869-1947), passing by descent and later acquired by the present owner at Christie’s Paris in 2006. A large and impressive doucai dragon and phoenix bottle vase is a rare example of the bold decoration in this style used in the Qing period (estimate £120,000 - 180,000). This remarkable vase shares decorative features with a large doucai lidded meiping from the Qing Court collection preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing.

Exquisite monochromes are led by the cover lot, a very rare and magnificent flambé-glazed bottle vase from the Yongzheng reign (1723-1735), which owes its development to imperial enthusiasm for new ceramic glaze colours, combined with the skills of an exceptional kiln director (estimate £150,000 - 250,000). The form is very unusual and may be based on an earlier prototype such as a holy water bottle. Porcelain vessels of this shape are known from the Yongle period onwards. The rich glaze on this vase emulates the celebrated Jun ware glaze from the Song period. A vase decorated with a similarly rich flambé glaze, with the same type of Yongzheng mark, is in the collection of the Palace Museum in Beijing. Further important monochromes include a rare ruby-enamelled quadrilobed bowl, from the same period (estimate: £80,000-120,000). This bowl was previously in the Collection of J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), New York.

The jades in the collection include fine examples in different styles and colours, from white to celadon, spinach green and yellow. One of the rarest and most sought-after jade colours is that of an elegant twin-handled Qianlong period vase which is of a soft yellow tone (estimate: £150,000 – £250,000). This particular yellow is often referred to by Chinese connoisseurs as qiukui, the colour of mallow flowers in the autumn. The main body of the vase has been left undecorated to allow better appreciation of the stone, while the handles are carved in the archaistic form popular at the time. A superb finely carved and inscribed Imperial pale celadon jade rectangular table screen Qianlong period (1736-1795) displays a particularly beautiful carving of Laozi riding a water buffalo through mountainous terrain and being greeted from the far side of a bridge by an official (estimate: £120,000 -180,000).

Treasures for ‘the Scholars table’ include a small rare famille rose-enamelled glass miniature vase, Qianlong four-character seal mark and of the period (1736-1795) (estimate £20,000 - 30,000). It is possible to compare miniature enamelled glass vases such as the present lot to similarly decorated snuff bottles produced in the same period. The vase is enamelled to the exterior with an official holding a sceptre and accompanied by an attendant, beside three scholars standing below a large pine tree. Shoulao is depicted flying on a crane above a pavilion. A rare celadon and russet jade carving of Zhou Yanzi,Ming dynasty (17th century), bears a morally didactic message, eulogising the importance of filial piety by depicting a character from a Chinese folk tale (estimate: £15,000 – £25,000). According to this story, a boy named Zhou Yanzi wears a deer skin in order to join a deer herd and obtain milk from a deer to cure his father’s illness. The russet area of the stone is cleverly utilised to highlight the deer skin, with the celadon section depicting the figure. Further works from this collection are offered in the two day South Kensington sale on 12 and 15 May.

European Courts Encounter Japan, Christie’s King Street 11 May at 3pm
Revered dealer Sakamoto Goro travelled the world in search of treasures - from Cairo to Brooklyn. Sakamoto opened his first shop in Tokyo in 1947, retiring in 1978. From his Fugendo Gallery he sold Japanese, Korean and Chinese art to museums, dealers and collectors around the world.

The star of the 16 lots from the Sakamoto Goro collection is an important Edo period (17th century) Nanban six-fold screen executed in ink, colour and gold leaf on paper, depicting the arrival of a Portuguese ship for trade (estimate: £500,000-800,000). This screen was the catalogue cover image for the Victoria and Albert Museum’s exhibition ‘Encounters: The Meeting of Asia and Europe 1500-1800’, September to December 2004. This screen is an exceptional example which stands out for the liveliness and originality of the scene and its execution. It is in fine condition and features the gold leaf and jewel-like colours of costly ground malachite and azurite that signal the work of a master. This screen is also unusual because of its depiction of a fortified daimyo mansion and for its rather compact size. In recent research by Mitsuru Sakamoto, it has been suggested that this screen was made as a single screen, not as a pair.

The Nanban (Southern ‘Barbarians’) was the term adopted from China by the Japanese in the 16th century to describe foreigners who arrived in Japan from the South. The screen depicts a three-masted ship unloading cargo in a port that likely represents Nagasaki, on the west coast of Kyushu, the southernmost of the four main islands of Japan. The scene presents a narrative of the dynamic conflation of East and West around 1600. Portuguese traders reached Japan in 1543, and by 1570 they had selected the Bay of Nagasaki as the ideal natural harbour for the centre of their commerce, which was conducted with little or no restriction. The artist’s focus is in the trade in luxury goods and exotica between Japanese and Portuguese. Foreign commerce, notably the silk trade, was supported by the Japanese military leaders and the Portuguese made big profits exchanging Chinese silk for Japanese silver. The earliest screen of this type is thought to date from the 1590s and is attributed to Kano Mitsunobu (1561/5–1608), who was called from Kyoto to decorate Hideyoshi’s Nagoya Castle in northern Kyushu. The fashion for Nanban screens continued into the second quarter of the 17th century.

Other highlights include a pair of late 17th century Kakiemon models of Chinese boys seated on go boards with ornate early 18th century French gilt-bronze mounts (estimate: £200,000-300,000), and an important Christian late 16th century lacquer shrine commissioned by the Portuguese Jesuits, containing a Flemish painting of the Virgin Mary, similar to the example in the Kyushu National Museum (estimate: £180,000-250,000).

Chinese Ceramics, Works of Art and Textiles Christie’s South Kensington, 12 & 15 May at 10am
Christie’s South Kensington’s two-day sale of Chinese Ceramics, Works of Art and Textiles offers works of art across a wide range of media including porcelain, jade carvings, glass, bronzes, Buddhist art, cloisonné enamel, furniture, paintings, textiles and scholar’s objects that span over two thousand years of Chinese art from the Neolithic period to the early 20th century.

The porcelain is led by a pair of copper red-decorated ‘dragon’ bowls, Kangxi six-character marks in underglaze blue within a double circle and of the period (1662-1722) (estimate: £30,000 – £50,000). It is unusual to find a pair of bowls with this decoration in copper red and an almost identical single bowl is in the Percival David Collection at the British Museum; another bowl of this type is in the collection of the Shanghai Museum and is illustrated in Kangxi Porcelain wares from the Shanghai Museum Collection, Hong Kong. The cover lot is a pair of Republic period famille rose jardinières from The Collection of Barone Angelo Pezzino di Geronimo, which was assembled circa 1950 (estimate: £12,000-18,000). Each vessel is a ceramic tour-de-force finely painted with alternating moulded panels depicting a snow scene, spring landscape and calligraphy, all reserved on a powder-blue ground, between two bands with moulded decoration in robin’s egg glaze and gilt.

The Collection of Cedric and Anne-Charlotte Maby presents an early example, circa 1930, of Zhang Daqian’s (1899-1983) landscapes, for which the legendary Chinese painter - who is considered one of the country’s greatest modern masters - became so well known (estimate: £40,000-60,000). Cedric Maby first went to China when he joined the Diplomatic Service in 1939. While he was there, he studied Mandarin and developed a keen interest in Chinese culture, returning to the United Kingdom in 1957 with his wife and three children. They acquired a small collection of paintings and ceramics during this time, taking great pleasure in later years in sharing the beauty of these objects and the stories that accompanied them with friends and family. Cedric Maby published memoirs of his travels and Chinese poetry translated into Welsh.

Following the very well received offering of lots from The Geronimo Berenguer de los Reyes, Jr. Collection in Hong Kong and Paris in November and December 2014 respectively, this auction presents a notable 90-lot assemblage of snuff bottles, glass and works of art from the passionate collector who bought throughout the 1980s, 90s and until recently from reputable dealers and auction houses. His GBR Museum in Manila, Philippines, was featured in Arts of Asia Magazine in 1998. A particular focus of the collection is 18th and 19th century carved and overlaid glass: vases, cups and bowls feature in a myriad of vibrant colours including yellow, red, blue, green, white, pink and turquoise and exemplify the glass makers’ art. Among the earliest glass highlights is an 18th century four-colour overlay glass tripod censer and cover, carved through the red, pale green and blue overlay with four sinuous chilong among scattered clouds and bats on an opaque greyish-white ground, the cover similarly decorated (estimate: £6,000 – £10,000). Featuring in the collection’s works of art section is a delicately modelled late 19th century yellow glazed ewer, finely carved as a bamboo section with a chilong (dragon) crouching on the spout and lingzhi finial to the cover (estimate: £5,000 – £8,000). The snuff bottles - which are offered in a mixture of 38 single and group lots and executed in glass, porcelain, jade and other hardstones, predominantly dating to the 19th century - showcase the skills of Chinese craftsmen in miniature art form. Estimates for the glass and the snuff bottles in this collection largely range from £1,000 to £10,000.

The most valuable snuff bottle in the sale is a carved cameo agate snuff bottle, Suzhou (1780-1850), which is from The Ferrari Collection, a private Belgian collection (estimate: £15,000-25,000). Christie’s also will offer The Stan Barden Collection of Snuff Bottles, which was assembled by Barden (1924-1988) and his wife Marianne from 1960 to 1981. The collection comprises eight lots (527-534 inclusive) including a carved cinnabar lacquer snuff bottle, Qianlong two-character mark in gilt and of the period (1736-1795) (estimate: £2,000 – £3,000). Barden began collecting in 1960 after he took up a post in Hong Kong as a civil engineer for the Public Works Department. His next door neighbour was Michael Kaynes-Klitz, an avid snuff bottle collector who became a life-long friend. Kaynes-Klitz founded the International Snuff Bottle Society in Hong Kong in 1968. The South China Morning Post described Kaynes-Klitz as "the spiritual leader of snuff bottle collecting". At its height, the society boasted 20,000 members worldwide. Stan was founder member number 1 and Marianne number 2. Stan bought almost exclusively from the Hong Kong-based dealer Y.F.Yang who traded in Chungking Arcade and later in Ocean Terminal before moving to Honolulu in the 1980s. He admired all types of snuff bottle but had the greatest affinity to agate. Several agate bottles are offered here including lots 531 and 534 which is a particular highlight. In 1981, in recognition of work done by the Transport Survey Organisation for Hong Kong’s mass transit system, the MTR, Stan Barden was awarded the Imperial Service Order, I.S.O. by the Queen.

For thousands of years, jade has been prized in China as an auspicious material with magical properties, more highly valued than gold and silver. The auction offers several private collections of jade including a diverse 30-lot assemblage from an East Asian collection that includes exquisite carved white jade pendants from the 19th century and carvings from the Neolithic period. The sale also features a selection of jades from the Property of the Blair Charitable Trust, previously from Blair Castle, Blair Atholl, Scotland, highlighted by a pale celadon vase and cover which is carved in shallow relief with a stylised design that draws on archaic bronzes for its artistic inspiration (estimate: £10,000 - £15,000).

Christie’s will offer a selection of thangkas and Buddhist gilt bronzes from The Collection of Cheng Huan Q.C., S.C. (lots 115-133 inclusive), which have been kept at Stockton House in Wiltshire for many years. Cheng Huan began his collection over forty years ago, buying from reputable London and Hong Kong dealers and international auction houses including Christie's. Initially, he focused on jade carvings but from around 1990 turned his collecting sights to Buddhist art. Highlights include a large gilt-bronze figure of Vairocana, circa 17th century, acquired in 1987 from renowned London dealer Spink & Son Ltd (estimate: £8,000 – £12,000). Vairocana is one of the most important Buddhas of early Tantric Buddhism, alongside Akshobhya and Amitabha. In some teachings, he is regarded as a spiritual form of Shakyamuni Buddha. He is also the central figure of the Five Tathagatas, or ‘Wisdom Buddhas’ of Mahayana Buddhism. The Thangkas are led by an 18th/19th century example depicting Shadbhuja Mahakal (estimate: £5,000-8,000).

Among the earliest works in the sale is a striking pair of archaic bronze animal-head chariot fittings from the Warring States period (475-221BC) from a private collection (estimate: £7,000£10,000). These very unusual boldly cast works have a commanding presence. Offered with excellent provenance, they are among 24 lots of jade, ceramics and bronzes from the Property of the late Michael Sherrard C.B.E, Q.C. (1928-2012).

Touring highlights from the Hong Kong May sales include a remarkable group of five bamboo carvings from The Feng Wen Tang Collection which also comprises Chinese paintings by Modern masters and exquisite huanghuali Furniture. A collection named in memory of the collector’s father, the works were assembled over more than 30 years by a well-known Hong Kong collector. Among the highlights on view in London are a bamboo root brush holder carved with a drunken scholar, late Ming-early Qing period, (17th century) [明末/ 清初 竹根雕聽松圖山子] (estimate: HK$150,000-240,000/ £13,000-20,000), a carved bamboo sampan, Qing dynasty (18th -19th century), [清中期 竹雕舢舨] (estimate: HK$400,000-600,000/ £34,000-51,000) and a carved and reticulated bamboo parfumier, Qing dynasty, 18th century [清十八世紀 竹雕人物故事圖香筒] (estimate: HK$150,000-260,000). Beyond White Clouds – Chinese Scholar's Rocks 出雲疊嶂–文人案頭賞石 is a private collection comprising 11 Scholar’s Rocks and two paintings all of which will be on view, ahead of being offered for sale in Hong Kong later in the year. The group is led by Cloud form Lingbi (estimate: HK$2-3 million/ £170,000-260,000) and also includes a lingbi scholar’s rock resting on two points (estimate: HK$600,000-900,000/£51,000-77,000) and a painting by Lan Ying (estimate: HK$260,000-400,000/ £22,000-34,000).

The sale in Paris on 9 June will offer impressive works of art across a diverse range of media, many from notable private European collections. Among the 19 works on tour ahead of the sale, five highlights include: a large and magnificent cloisonné enamel ‘elephant’ tripod censer and cover, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795), the magnificent quality of the enamelling and casting suggesting that they were commissioned and produced under the supervision of the Palace Workshops (Zaoban chu) (estimate: €150,000200,000); Reading in the Mountains, a scroll painting by Fu Baoshi (1904-1965) (estimate: €400,000-600,000); a finely painted Ming-style blue and white Sanduo vase, Meiping, Qing Dynasty, Qianlong six-character seal mark in underglaze blue and of the period (1736-1795) (estimate: €120,000-180,000); a rare and finely carved white jade bowl and cover, lian, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795) (estimate: €120,000-180,000); and a finely carved and imperially inscribed archaistic white jade vase, fanggu, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (17361795) (estimate: €120,000-180,000).

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