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Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art


September 16 and 17, 2010

Sales 2509 and 2339

Christie's New York Fall Asian Art Week Totals $70.75 Million, 2nd Highest Total For Christie's New York Asian Art Week. The Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Sale Totaled $34,115,000.
The Chinese Works of Art Sales, Including Archaic Bronzes from The Anthony Hardy Collection Totaled $55.5 Million, the Highest Total for a Series of Chinese Art Sales in New York

Jade toothed pendant fragment

Lot 956, “A Rare Greyish-Green and Opaque Buff Jade ‘toothed’ Pendant Fragment,” Neolithic Period, Hongshan Culture, circa 3500-3000 B.C.; 3 inches, held by Michael Bass, Christie’s Co-Head of Sale, Chinese Art

By Michele Leight

Christie’s New York’s sale of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art on September 16th and 17th, 2010 is highlighted by Lot 1155, “A Magnificent and Finely Carved White Jade Brush Pot, Bitong,” with an estimate of $700,000 to $900,000, (It sold for $1,762,500 million)and a magical, diminutive tomb pendant, Lot 956, which has an estimate $30,000 to $50,000, shown above, in the hand of Michael Bass, Christie’s Co-Head of Sale, Chinese Art, New York.  Sadly, Lot 956 passed.

Five jade bird-form pendants

Lot 966, “Five Small Jade Bird-Form Pendants,” Late Shang/Early Western Zhou Dynasty, circa 1200-1100 B.C.

 At a press conference, Michael Bass said: “Jade is also a sign of prestige,” and explained that Lot 956, the tiny fragment, measuring 3 inches, was once part of a larger pendant, found in a tomb. When I asked why part of the ornament was buff instead of jade, Mr. Bass said that the buff part of the ornament was the result of discoloration from the action of body fluids on the jade after burial. This fine ornament is from the Hongshan culture (circa 4000-2500), which flourished in southeastern Inner Mongolia and western Liaoning province. It seems to depict a creature with sizeable tusks, however Mr. Bass said it is not known what kind of creature it was, so it remains abstract, a mysterious mythological beast - or perhaps the pre-historic ancestor of the venerable Yak. We shall never know, but that only makes it more fascinating. Lot 966 is from The Arthur M. Sackler Collections.  It sold for $25,000.

Michael Bass and Christopher Engle, Co-Heads of Sale, Chinese Works of Art, New York, said: "Todays sale demonstrated strong enthusiasm across all categories supported mainly by private collectors worldwide. In a salesroom packed for two full days, we witnessed numerous record rices including those achieved for th very rare carved rhinoceros horn "log-raft" cyp ($3,106,500 million), a magnificent white jade brush pot ($1,762,500 million), and a handsome set of Zitan armchairs ($506,500). The momentum continued unabated throughout the afternoon session with outstanding results achieved for the exceptionally rare early Ming monochorme ceramics from the Corbin Collection, including the imperial white-glazed deep bowl ($1,178,500), the pale celadon-glazed compressed globular jar ($1,082,500), and the imperial yellow-glazed dish ($902,500). We were extremely pleased with the exceptional results, which eclipsed the previous record for a series of Chinese art sales in New York by $15 million."

 White jade brush pot

 Michael Bass, Christie’s Co-Head of Sale, Chinese Art, with Lot 1155, “A Magnificent and Finely Carved White Jade Cylindrical Brush Pot, Bitong, Quianglong Period, (1736-1795), 6 inches (front). See below for detail 

Michael Bass then spoke about Lot 1357, “An Extremely Rare Pale Celadon-Glazed Compressed Globular Jar,” from the Yongle Period, (1403-1425), with an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000,(it sold for $1,082,500), and another incredible jade, mentioned earlier, Lot 1155, “A Magnificent and Finely Carved White Jade Brush Pot,” shown above, with an estimate of $700,000 to $900,000/It sold for $1,762,500), and Lot 956, “A Rare Greyish-Green and Opaque Buff Jade ‘Toothed’ Pendant Fragment,” from the Neolithic Period, circa 3500-3000 B.C., (estimate $30,000 to $50,000, which passed), illustrated at the top of the story, is from The Arthur M. Sackler Collections.

Brush pot

Detail of Lot 1155, Brush pot from the Qianglong Period, 6 inches high

Lot 1155, “A Magnificent and Finely Carved White Jade Cylindrical Brush Pot, Bitong,” from the Quaianglong Period (1736-1795), is deeply carved in relief with three separate scenes. One scene depicts a mountain landscape  with sculpted clouds, rock faces, immortals, peach blossoms and a pavilion nestled amidst plantain trees. The carving is spectacular, the quality of the jade is superb, and it is in exceptional condition.  It is 6 inches high and was formerly in the collection of the Ralph M. Chait Galleries in New York.

The significance of the subject matter in another scene is described in Christie’s catalogue for this sale:

“On the front of the brush pot, a scholar and his attendant carry sprigs of lingzhi and peaches, both representing long life and immortality. This wish is furthered by the presence of pine trees and a crane in flight, both also symbolic of longevity.”

One of two fragments in Lot 987 from the Song/Early Ming Dynasty, 29 inches long

Lot 987, One (illustrated) of “Two Rare Sandstone Wall Fragments of Apsaras,” Song-Early Ming Dynasty, 10th-14th Century, 29 and 27 inches. Estimate $40,000 to $60,000

Lot 987 consists of two rare sandstone wall fragments of Apsaras from the Song-Early Ming Dynasty, 10th - 14th Century A.D.  One is 29 inches long and the other 27.  The lot has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.  The works came the Arthur M. Sackler Collections and Frank Caro in New York.  It passed.

Embellished spinach jade five-piece garniture

Lot 1168, “An Embellished Spinach Jade Five-Piece Garniture,” the tallest 13 inches

There are several reasonably priced jades of great antiquity on offer at this sale, including Lot 966, “Five Small Jade Bird-Form Pendants,” illustrated above (estimate $4000 to $6000), and Lot 952, “A Rare Altered Opaque Buff Jade Hoof-Shaped Tubular Ornament,” (estimate $4,000 to $6,000), from the Neolithic Period, Hongshan Culture - the same vintage as the diminutive tomb pendant - circa 3500 B.C. It is remarkable they have survived this long, and in such good condition. Buried with the deceased “They are now thought to be some kind of hair ornament, as they have been found under or next to the head of the occupants of Hongshan tombs” (Christie’s catalogue for this sale). It is so finely designed it looks like the best contemporary sculpture. Chinese archaeologists excavating Hongshan sites labeled this distinctively shaped hairpiece “horse hoof,” and that is exactly what it looks like.  

Lot 1168, (estimate $100,000 to $150,000) “An Embellished Spinach Jade Five-Piece Garniture,” is a stunning ensemble of decorative objects inlaid with jade on a spinach jade base, the tallest 13 inches.  The catalogue attributes no date to this lot.  It sold for $110,500.

White marble figure of water buffalo

Lot 1004, “A Very Rare Early White Marble Figure of a Recumbent Water Buffalo,” Shang Dynasty, 12th-11th Century B.C., 10 inches

Extremely winsome and very ancient, Lot 1004, “A Very Rare Early White Marble Figure of a Recumbent Water Buffalo,” (estimate $80,000 to $120,000), Shang Dynasty, circa 12th – 11th Century B.C., looks incredibly contemporary, described in Christie’s catalogue as a “powerful, minimally carved block, it is characteristic of stone animal carvings of the Shang dynasty.”   It sold for $98,500.

Rhinoceros horn cup, Kangxi Period

Lot 1299, “A Superb Rhinoceros Horn Cup,” Kangxi Period (1662-1722), 6 1/8 inches

Lot 1299, is exactly as it is described in the catalogue, “A Superb Rhinoceros Horn Cup,” an incredible object from the Kangxi Period, (1662-1722), that, according to Christie’s catalogue is “conceived as a large inverted banana leaf with meticulously rendered veining, nestled within smaller banana leaves entangled with fruiting mulberry, with a praying mantis shown on one side clinging to an insect-eaten section of a folded over banana leaf that forms the handle of the cup under which a large katidid seeks shelter, its large plump hind-quarters shown peeking out on the reverse...” It is so incredible it overrides any reservations I have about utilizing rhino horns for any purpose besides that which the animal itself would use it for. This cup was crafted hundreds of years ago, when rhinos were plentiful. Lot 1299 has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000.  It bears the signature of You Kan, one of the most  famous  carvers of  such horns.  It sold for $782,500.

 "Log-raft" rhinoceros horn cup

The top selling lot of the sale, Lot 1300, "A Magnificent and extremely rare" rhinoceros horn "log-raft" cup, Kangxi Period, 12 1/4 inches long, 1662-1722

Lot 1300 is a "magnificent and extemely rare" "log-raft" cup made of rhinocerous horn.  It is 12 1/4 inches long and from the Kangxi Period (1662-1722).  It has an estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,800,000.  It is one of only three known inscribed with the name Yuyuan and is also only exceeded in length by one in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin and another that was sold at Sotheby's New York September 21, 2006.  It sold for $3,106,500, and was the top selling lot of this sale.

 Imperial Yellow-Ground silk brocade panel

Lot 1073, “A Rare Large Imperial Yellow-Ground Silk Brocade Panel,” Kangxi Period (1662-1722)

Also from the Kangxi Period is Lot 1073, “A Rare Large Yellow Ground Silk Brocade Panel,” which features two magnificent embroidered dragons and auspicious symbols on a cloud-patterned ground.   It  measures  88 by 72 1/2  inches.  It has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.  It sold for $110,500. 

Large flambe glazed bottle vase

Lot 1439, “A Large Flambe-Glazed Bottle Vase,” Quianglong Impressed Six-Character Seal Mark and Of the Period (1736-1795), 17 7/8 inches high

Lot 1439, (estimate $250,000 to $350,000), the gorgeous vase illustrated above, a personal favorite because it seems both ancient and contemporary, is described to perfection in Christie’s catalogue:

“With ovoid body rising from the slightly flared foot to a tall cylindrical neck, covered all over with a brilliant streaked flambe glaze varying from mauve to lavender and thinning to a pale mushroom at the rim, the base covered wit a mottled brown and pale celadon glaze.”  "This distinctive glaze seeks to recreate the famous, classical Jun wares of the Song period," the entry added.  It sold $362,500.

 Pair of rate Zitan and Huamu armchairs and Zitan bed

Front: Lot 1213, “A Pair of Rare Large Zitan and Huamu Armchairs,” 19th Century,  40 inches high by 24 inches wide by 20 inches deep; Back: Lot 1202, “A Zitan Veneer, Hardwood and Jichimu Three-Railing Bed, Luohanchuang,” Quing Dynasty (1644-1911), 41 1/8 inches high by 75 3/8 inches wide by 50 inches deep

Several centuries separate the Chinese furniture illustrated here. Lot 1213, “A Pair of Rare Large Zitan and Huamu Armchairs,” (estimate $80,000 to $120,000) were elaborately carved with archaistic scrolls in the 19th century, while sumptuous Lot 1202, “Zitan Veneer, Hardwood and Jichimu Three-Railing Bed, Luohanchuang,” was created in the Qing Dynasty, an exceptional reign, 1644-1911. There is an atmospheric photograph of this bed in situ in the family’s residence in Beijing in the 1920s. It offers plenty to look at on the way to dreamland. It has an estimate of $120,000 to $150,000.  Lot 1213 sold for $92,500.  Lot 1202  sold for $122,500.

 "Imitation coral" lacquer stand

Front: Lot 1258, “A Rare and Unusual ‘Imitation Coral’ Lacquer Stand,” 18th-19th Century, 6 3/8 inches; Rear: Lot 1244, “A Carved Ivory Baluster Vase,” 19th Century, 15 inches

 Some of the most fascinating works of art “imitate” the real thing, like Lot 1258, “A Rare and Unusual ‘Imitation Coral Lacquer Stand,” (estimate $10,000 to $15,000), as organic, free-form, and fantastical as it gets, especially the gnarled base, which is crafted from humble wood. Lot 1244, “A Carved Ivory Baluster Vase,” (estimate $8,000 to $12,000), is also a fantasy world carved in ivory with awesome virtuosity on an unimaginably delicate scale. Both of these wonderful objects are from the 19th Century, and have reasonable estimates considering their uniqueness.  Lot 1258 passed.  Lot 1244 sold for $62,500.

 Chrysanthemum stone scholar's rock

Lot 1223, “A Rare ‘Chrysanthemum Stone’ Scholars Rock,” 12 3/8 inches

The beautiful scholar's rock illustrated above, Lot 1223, was included in a book entitled “Art of the Natural World: Resonances of Wild Nature in Chinese Sculptural Art,” Museum of Fine Arts, Boston” by Richard Rosenblum. It is 12 3/8 inches high and has a modest estimate of $12,000 to $18,000.  It is one of several scholars' rocks in the auction that come from the collection of Richard Rosenblum.  It sold for $15,000.

Another exquisite, remarkable and spectacular scholar's rock from the same collection is Lot 1222.  The catalogue describes it as "an unusual large black lingbi rock in the form of a standing phoenix.  It is18 1/4 inches high.  It has a modest estimate of $60,000 to $80,000.  It passed.

Famille Rose Turquoise ground jar

Lot 1492, “A Large Famille Rose Turquoise-Ground Jar, Early 20th Century

Henri Matisse would have loved the turquoise vase, depicting an ornamental garden, the perfect “prop” for one of his still life paintings: Lot 1492, “A Large Famille Rose Turquoise-Ground Jar, Hu,” has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It sold for $25,000.


"Lotus" by Zhang Daqian


Lot 1070, “Lotus,” by Zhang Daqian, 1969, scroll mounted and framed, ink and color on paper,26 3/8 by 53 inches

Lot 1070 is a modern painting by Zhang Daqian, entitled “Lotus” that is inscribed with a poem - a fine ancient Chinese tradition - about boats among the lotus. It was painted in Brazil in 1969 and has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000.   It sold for $182,500.

As the lot numbers indicate, this sale is awash with hundreds of delectable works of art, and it is virtually impossible to begin to describe a fraction of them in a short review. The overriding and overwhelming impression of the artistry in these galleries was mind-boggling when one stops to think that so many of the artifacts were created hundreds - and thousands - of years ago, when none of the tools we take for granted today existed. In every century, Chinese artisans, sculptors and artists excelled in different ways. The range of materials, design concepts and technical virtuosity on display here is a testament to the creative impulse and spirit through the ages.

Tina Zonars, International Director of Chinese Works of  Art said after the auction: "Today's auction was a phenomenal end to Asian Art Week. The strength of the Chinese art market combined with an extraordinary group of works of supreme quality and works of art that came from prestigious private collections including the Dr. and Mrs. William L. Corbin Collection, the Palmer Collection, The Richard Rosenblum Collection and many others. The Sackler name once again proved irresistible to bidders, resulting in a sale total of $686,000, far exceeding the pre-sale estimate. Combined, the two sales were 94% sold by value, which reflects the robust and escalating market for the traditional collecting categories for Chinese Art."

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