On 7 November 2017 Christies
Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art auction will present a carefully-curated sale showcasing works of art spanning three millennia of Chinese art. Highlights include important archaic bronzes from the distinguished German collector Michael Michaels (1907-1986), exquisite imperial ceramics, fine jade carvings, huanghuali furniture, paintings from renowned modern Chinese artists, textiles and Buddhist art. The auction will take place during Asian Art Week in London and will be on view and open to the public from 3 to 6 November.
The sale will be led by an extremely rare pair of huanghuali horseshoe-back armchairs, Quanyi, dating to the Ming dynasty (estimate: £800,0001,200,000). Displaying the grace and finesse of Ming artistry, this pair are among eight known and published chairs of this design. Of this eight, a set of four, formerly from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection, were sold at Christies New York in 2015 for a record-breaking $9,685,000 / £6,488,950 / 9,103,900. These chairs were constructed by a master craftsman, distinguished by the elegant curve of the crest rail, the sweeping carved hook handles and the beautifully figured huanghuali panels. With distinguished provenance, the pair were previously with noted dealer Grace Wu Bruce. The Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art auction will present further exceptional examples of Ming dynasty furniture including a rare huanghuali recessed-leg painting table (estimate: £200,000-300,000). Large tables are often labelled painting tables, but to be considered a true painting table, such as the present table, the surface must be broad enough to accommodate a large painting and tools associated with painting or calligraphy.
The sale will also feature important archaic bronzes from the Michael Michaels collection and is highlighted by a late Shang dynasty (1600-1100 BC) bronze ritual wine vessel and cover (estimate: £80,000-120,000). The vessel is cast to each side with a large taotie mask and the shoulder and foot are decorated with bands of stylised kui dragons. An additional highlight of the collection is a Tang Dynasty (618-907) parcel gilt-copper lobed pouring bowl (estimate: £60,000-80,000). This form, known as Yi, has its origins in bronze vessels of the Zhou dynasty, believed to have been used for pouring water to wash the hands before performing rituals. Michael Michaels, became a self-taught expert after he encountered archaic Chinese bronzes in the late 1960s. He fell in love with their shapes, patina and historical background and immersed himself in learning about archaic Chinese bronzes, spending hours in the British Museum gaining an understanding of the nature of the pieces, the symbolism, the method of their manufacture and their uses.
Further highlights of the sale include a superb selection of jades, including a white jade archaistic phoenix vase and cover from the Qianlong Period (1736-1795) (estimate: £80,000-120,000). The vessel is carved and pierced as a phoenix with its wings closed and long feathers curling outwards. A Ming dynasty gilt-bronze figure of the goddess of compassion, Guanyin (estimate: £80,000-120,000), is an exceptional example of Buddhist art. Guanyin is cast seated in padmasana, decorated with ornate jewellery including a crown depicting a seated figure of Amitabha Buddha. Peaches (estimate: £80,000-120,000) a beautiful hanging scroll by one of the most well-known modern Chinese painters Qi Baishi (1863-1957) will also be offered. Through his use of bright colours and vigorous strokes his expressive work serves as an emblem of longevity depicting the peaches, which are considered sacred in China as its wood was used as a charm against evil in ancient times