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Christie's New York Asia Week

Rockefeller Center

September 13-16, 2011

Entrance to Christie's Asia Week Fall 2011

Installation of Chinese Works of Art in Christie's New York Rockefeller Center Galleries

Christie's installation of Indian and Southeast Asian art

Installation of Indian and Southeast Asian Art displayed in Christie's galleries

All photographs copyright Michele Leight 2011

By Michele Leight

Amidst the amazing energy and vitality of New York City, Asia Week is here again, and Christie's is showcasing many wonderful works of art in its Rockefeller Center galleries that will be offered in a series of sales from September 13th-16th. This overview includes highlights of each sale, encompassing ancient, modern and contemporary works of art from India, Southeast Asia, Japan, Korea and China, that are also reviewed individually on this site. Highlights of the sales are presented below in chronological order.

Standouts include an iconic modernist painting "Yatra" by MF Husain from the Kheene Family Collection, a winsome, lifelike Indian Chola bronze from the 12th century, two delectable yellow jade seals, a superbly carved bamboo brush pot and a 1000 year old scroll from "A Connoisseur's Vision: Property from the Xu Hanquing Collection." There is also an 18th century carved jade screen of mindblowing technical virtuosity featuring a ghostlike foreign ship sailing amidst crashing waves from "Superb Jade Carvings from an Important European Collection," and 550 works of art in the Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Parts I and II includes a richly patinaed 9th century B.C. bronze that has withstood almost two thousand years of wear and tear. Old and new co-exist in a dazzling display of artistry, reflecting Asia's magnificent cultural history.

Christie's Fall Asian Art Week 2011 achieved a combined total of $75.8 million over four dales of sales from September 13 to September 16.  The annual total for the Spring and Fall Asian Art weeks was $193 million.  Jonathan Stone, chairman and international head, Asian Art, said that "this represents nearly a 50 percent growth year on year and is a testament to the strength of the market and the quality of the sales that Christie's presented."

South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art

Sale No. 2460

September 12, 2011, 10 am

Hugo Weihe ad "Yatra" by Maqbool Fida Husain

Hugo Weihe, Christie's Senior Director and International Specialist Head, Indian and Southeast Asian Art, with Lot 13, "Yatra," by Maqbool Fida Husain, (1915-2011), painted in 1955, oil on canvas, 33 1/2 by 42 7/8 inches, from The Kheehn Family Collection

The beautiful painting shown above with Hugo Weihe, Christie's International Specialist Head, is ""Yatra," by M.F Husain, from the Keehn Family Collection. In 1953 Thomas and Martha Keehn and their two children moved to India to embark on a mission funded by Nelson Rockefeller to identify and support significant cultural and grassroots activities in India, which lasted 8 years. In a recently independent India they made many friends, especially artists, including Husain. This rare work was influenced by Indian toys, and painted in 1955. Lot 13 has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $932,500

"Sprinkling Horses" by Husain

Maqbool Fida Husain passed away in June 2011. In tribute to the artist, Christie's displayed important masterpieces together in the South Asian Modern and Contemporary art gallery prior to the sale. Left: Lot 19, "Sprinkling Horses," by Maqbool Fida Husain, signed 'Husain' and further signed in Hindi and Urdu (lower center); oil on canvas, 43 1/4 by 92 1/2 inches.

Christie's catalogue entry for this sale provides the following commentary:

"By 1954, the Keehns dove into the Indian art scene with the proposed exhibition of Indian textiles and jewelry to be held at MoMA in New York the next year. The exhibition was a great success and thus began their quest for modern Indian art and its people. The couple traveled to different cities, meeting artists and making friends. It was the people that they immediately connected with and the art came along with that. Monroe Wheeler, the Director of Exhibitions at MoMA, was to visit India to see contemporary Indian art. Having explored the Indian art scene for Wheeler, the Keehns had already created a stage and were ready to do an exhibition of Indian art and thus came about one of the most important exhibitions of its time, '8 Painters,' held in New Delhi in 1956. In preparing for this exhibition and in its aftermath, the Keehns, Husain, Ram Kumar, Richard Bartholomew and others spent long hours and bonded."

Hugo Weihe said that "The Rockefeller connection cannot be stressed enough. So many Indian artists were able to come to here on Rockefeller grants."

Deepanjana Klein and untitled work by Mehta

Deepanjana Klein, Head of Sale, with Lot 17, "Untitled (Man vs Horse)," by Tyeb Mehta, (1925-2009), painted in 1957, oil on canvas 57 7/8 by 37 3/4 inches

Among them were Maqbool Fida Husain, Ram Kumar, Tyeb Mehta:

"Husain and the Keehns spent many long hours together during Husain's visit to New York over the years and the two friends met for the last time in 2009. They reminisced and took stock of their lives and Husain drew a portrait of his friend for one last time" (Christie's catalogue for this sale)

After a long and illustrious career, sadly, Husain passed away in June, 2011. Many more paintings by the artist are featured in a dedicated review of this sale on this site. A tribute in Christie's galleries included a moving quote by the artist:

"I see striking variety and vitality in the works of my colleagues and I share their very natural desire, not to be modern - a very much abused term - but to discover the unknown. True art is neither modern or ancient; it is eternal, it is universal." (from Trends in Contemporary Paintings from India, Graham Gallery, New York, 1959).

Triptych by Jamini Roy

Triptych by Jamini Roy, (1887-1972): Left: Lot 2, "Untitled (Worshipper)," gouache on card, 22 1/8 by 27 7/8 inches; Center: Lot 1, "Untitled (Krishna and Balarama)," gouache on linen, 34 1/8 by 58 1/4 inches; Right: Lot 3, "Untitled (Gopi)," gouache on card 22 1/2 by 28 inches. Property from The Collection of Leonard Gordon

A stunning tryptich by Jamini Roy, illustrated above, is a real collectible, from the collection of Leonard Gordon. Rare and beautifully executed, Lot 2, "Untitled (Worshipper)," (left) has an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000, Lot 1, "Untitled (Krishna and Balarama), (center) has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000, (it sold for $60,000), and Lot 3, "Untitled (Gopi)," also has an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. Christie's catalogue for this sale notes:

"These works were acquired directly from the artist in circa 1964 by Leonard Gordon. Mr. Gordon was introduced to Jamini Roy by his professor and life-long friend, Edward C. Dimock, Jr., of the University of Chicago while studying Bengali under a Ford Foundation Foreign Area Program grant. Mr. Gordon arrived in Calcutta in 1963 and soon became close friends with Jamini Roy, often visiting his home in Ballygunge where the front part served as a gallery to display and sell his paintings. The three works presented here were displayed in the gallery on one wall, the central large painting of Krishna and Balaram was flanked b the worshippers. They were conceived as a tripytch by the artist."

"Imported Plant" by Bhattacharjee

Lot 60, "Imported Plant," by Bikash Bhattacharjee, (1940-2006), painted in 1983, oil on canvas, 40 1/8byx 42 1/8 inches

Deepanjana Klein, Head of Sale, described Tyeb Mehta's Lot 17, "Untitled (Man vs Horse)" as an uneasy and conflicted relationship between man and beast, in which they are inter-dependent, but man always wants to dominate and the beast resists being "tamed." This rare and superb painting is one of the earliest larger paintings by the artist from his formative years, clearly inspired by Pablo Picasso's famous "Jeune garcon au cheval (Boy Leading a Horse)," from 1906. The influence of Cubism is strong, but Mehta's horse is infused with personality, eyeing his master with deep suspicion. Lot 17 has an estimate of $300.000 to 500,000. It sold for $602,500.

Lot 60, "Imported Plant," by Bikash Bhattacharjee, from The Times of India Group, a beautiful and mystical work infused with naturalism, and painted with great virtuosity. Lot 60 has an estimate of $80,000-100,000. It sold for $134,500. Representing contemporary Indian art is the marvellous work illustrated below, Lot 108, "Untitled 1 (Ganesha on a Train)," by Prajakta Palav Aher, who was born in 1979. It has an estimate of $18,000 to $25,000. It sold for $132,500.

"Ganesha on a Train"

Lot 108, "Untitled - I (Ganesha on a Train)," 2007, acrylic on canvas 95 by 77 1/8 inches

Many more superb works by modern and contemporary Indian and South Asian artists are reviewed separately on this site, including Ram Kumar, Francis Newton Souza, Syed Hyder Raza, Jagdish Swaminathan, Rina Bannerjee, Atul Dodhiya, Manjit Bawa, Jayashree Chakravarty, Shibu Nateshan and Thukral and Tagra, to name only some. Collectively they made compelling viewing in Christie's galleries, testament to India's superb cultural and artistic legacy, evident in the work of its innovative contemporary artists.

South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art totaled $7,373,775 and was 69 percent sold by lot.

Lot 19, "Sprinkling Horses," by Maqbool Fida Husain, oil on canvas, with an estimate on request, sold for $1,142,500

Indian and Southeast Asian Art

Sale No. 2461

September 13, 2 PM

Gray schist figure of a Bodhisattva

Lot 222, "A Gray Schist Figure of a Bodhisattva," Gandhara, 2nd/3rd Century , 34 inches high

Christie's sale of Indian and Southeast Asian art will offer an selection of over 200 lots of sculpture, paintings, ritual objects and works of art from India, tibet, Nepal and Southeast Asia. It includes The Burkhart Collection and Property from the Dr. avid Nalin Collection, which has a large focus on on stone and stucco sculpture from the Gandharan region.

Lot 222, "A Gray Schist Figure of a Bodhisattva," was carved in Gandhara in the 2nd to 3rd century and is Property from a Private Swiss Collection. It was acquired from Spink, London, in 1978, and Christie's catalogue for this sale notes that "the treatment of the jewelry, with the necklace elegantly suspended across the shoulder and the fluid drapery spilling across the throne is of outstanding execution." Lot 222 has an estimate of $180,000 to $250,000.



Lot 346, "A Rare Cold Gold Painted Stone Figure of Padmapani," Nepal, 11th Century, 23 7/8 inches

Lot 346, illustrated above, is "A Rare Cold Gold Painted Painted Stone Figure of Padmapani," created in Nepal in the 11th century. Christie's catalogue for this sale notes:

"Avalokiteshvara was a popular deity in Nepal, and as such, his image, especially in the form of Padmapani, was extremely prevalent from an early period. Iconographically and stylistically, images of Padmapani varied little with time, and a representation carved on a stupa base at Kenakarna Mahavira in Katmandu in the 7th century bares a striking resemblance to this present example. For further discussion of sculptural representation of Padmapani in Nepal, see S. Kramrisch, 'The Art of Nepal,' 1964, p. 27-29."

Lot 346 has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000. It sold for $182,500.


Lot 270, "A Bronze Figure of Chandeshvara," South India, Chola Period, 12th Century, 22 3/4 inches

The winsome 12th century bronze illustrated above, Lot 270, "A Bronze Figure of Chandeshvara," from South India, is extraordinarily lifelike. The figures dignified stance, and its beautiful patina, makes it even more compelling. Christie's catalogue for this sale provides the following commentary:

"The Shaiva saints of which there is a group of sixty three, are known as nayanmars or leaders. They were part of a community of holy persons traveling the countryside, stopping at temples a long the way to sing the glories of the enshrined deity. Their hymns form the sacred canon of South India. The images of the saints are ideal portraits, transfigured by bhakti, the state of loving devotion. Chandikeshvara is the principal guardian of Shiva. During the Chola period, all Shiva temples had a separate subsidary shrine dedicated to Chandikeshvara as supervisor, usually on the northern side near the sanctum. Legend speaks of the young boy worshipping a simple mud linga and using milk from the cows he tended for the ritual daily lustration. When his father came to chastise him for wasting the milk, Chandesha was so absorbed in meditation that he did not hear. His angry father kicked the linga and Chandesha lashed out with his staff, which miraculously turned into Shiva's sacred axe. Pleased by the intensity of Chandesha's devotion, Shiva and Uma blessed him with a divine garland, see V. Dehejia, Chola, Sacred Bronzes of Southern India, 2006, p. 109."

Lot 270 has an estimate $400,000 to $600,000. It sold for $482,500.


Lot 260, "A Red Sandstone Figure of Ganesha," India, Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan, 11th century, 32 inches high

Lot 260, "A Red Sandstone Figure of Ganesha," illustrated above, is from Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan, and depicts the lovable and mischievious god dancing on a lotus base, flanked by dancing diminutive Ganesha figures.

Indian minatures and Gandharan sculptures

Indian miniatures, and ancient Gandharan sculptures are displayed with Lot 291, Center: "A Painting of Snakes and Ladders," Nepal, 19th Century, divided into a grid of squares, each with a Buddhist figure, with blue and red snakes interspersed and connecting different squares, 25 by 24 1/2 inches

Lot 291, "A Painting of Snakes and Ladders" is from Nepal, and Christie's catalogue for this sales notes:

"Played with dice, the board represents the progress of life with certain squares denoting good deeds, and others bad deeds, along with the consequences of both actions; the squares at the lower rungs represent states of hell ultimately leading up towards the heavens. The game, often played during the Paryusana festival, was popular amongst Jain nuns who used it as a didactic pastime to impart the notion of karma. Versions were also adapted for Hindus and Muslims; interestingly, and perhaps unusually, this present example includes Buddhist deities."

Instead of money, or just plain "winning," it is the soul that is at stake in this version of the time-honored game of "Snakes and Ladders." Lot 291 has an estimate of $4,000 to $6,000.

Christie's Indian and Southeast Asian Art sale totaled $4,130,000, and was 67 percent sold by lot. 

Japanese and Korean Art

Sale No. 2462

September 14, 2011, 2 PM

 Sharaku woodcut

Lot 725, "The Actor Otani Oniji III as Edobei in the Kabuki Play Koi nyobo somewake tazuna (The Beloved Wife's Particolored Reins)," woodcut by Toshusai Sharaku (active 1794-95)

The Japanese Sale will offer 100 lots, featuring the Inro from the Collection from the Estate of Catherine H. Edson, paintings, lacquer wares, and furniture. Leading the Japanese Art sale is Lot 725, "The Actor Otani Oniji III as Edobei in the Kabuki Play Koi nyobo somewake tazuna (The Beloved Wife's Particolored Reins),"........, a magnificent woodcut by Toshusai Sharaku, and the most sought after of his portraits. The impression of this print is in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and The Art Institute of Chicago, among other great museums. 

Christie's catalogue for this sale offers fascinating insights about the subject of this play:

"At Shijogawara along the Kamo River in Kyoto, Edobei, the leader of a gang of a social outcasts (hinin), reaches out to steal 300 ryo from Ippei. He is itching to get his fingers on the purse filled with gold coins. Ippei, a manservant (yakko), is delivering the money his young master gave him to liberate a courtesan from bondage in a brothel. (The Sharaku print in lot 726 shows Ippei reaching for his sword to defend himself.) Edobei, dressed in the stylish fashion of a ronin, was hired by the villain Washizuka Hachiheiji (the brother of Washizuka Kandayu) to steal the money. The scene takes place in Act 3 of the play."

Lot 725 has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000.  It failed to sell.

Dainichi Nyorai

Lot 679, "A Wood Sculpture of Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana)," Heian period (12th century), traces of pigment, 11 3/8 inches high

Lot 679, "A Wood Sculpture of Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana)," illustrated above, is carved in single-block technique depicting the subject seated in a cross-legged position, his hands forming the "knowledge fist" gesture. His head is adorned with a crown. At one time it was painted and gilded, but it now displays extensive wood grain and only traces of pigment. An exquisite work of art, Lot 679 has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000.

Single case inlaid lacquer inro

Lot 567, "A Single-Case Inlaid Lacquer Inro," Taisho period, dated Taisho mizunoe-inu fuyu (winter 1922), signed Tokoku Fuzui and sealed Bairyukutsu; metal, coral, wood, ivory and stained ivory inlays, 3 7/8 inches

Lot 567, "A Single-Case Inlaid Lacquer Inro," illustrated above, is decorated with metal, coral, wood, ivory and stained ivory inlays with a scene of "Nanko" wearing full armor, holding a bow and kneeling beside a pine tree awaiting the arrival of the emperor, whose banner and palanquin roof appear in the distance. The latter is depicted on the reverse. A one-inch ivory netsuke of a chrysanthemum decorates the silk cord. Lot 567 has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000, and is one of several magnificent inro from the Estate of Catherine H. Edson that will be offered at this sale.

Katsura Yamaguchi

Katsura Yamaguchi, Christie's International Director Japanese Art, with one of two six-panel screens, (left screen), Lot 706, "The Battles of Yashima and Ichinotani from The Tale of the Heike," Anonymous, (Momoyama or early Edo period, early 17th century), ink, color, gold, silver, gold and silver leaf on paper, 60 5/8 by 140 inches

Lot 706, "The Battles of Yashima and Ichinotani from The Tale of the Heike," is an imposing and magnificent composition spanning two six-panel screens by an anonymous artist, both dating from the late 16th century. The product of two different Kyoto painting studios, they have since been joined to create the pairing of the final two battles of the Genpei Wars, fought between the Minamoto (Genji) and Taira (Heike) clans in the 1180s. The right screen (not illustrated) depicts the battle in the spring of 1184 at Ichinotani (near presen day Kobe), while the left screen depicts the Taira retreat to Yashima, following their defeat in 1184. 

Christie's catalogue for this sale notes that in the right screen (that is not illustrated here):

"The battle begins with the charge of the Minamoto troops down the Hiyodori Pass, at the top of the third panel. The Taira are driven from their improvised fortress and escape into overloaded boats. At the upper left, the boy emperor Antoku (1178-1185) appears in an elaborate, small boat. His mother was a Taira, married to the emperor Takakura. When the Taira were defeated in the naval engagement at Dannoura in 1185, she threw herself into the sea, holding the boy emperor in her arms. She survived but the boy perished."

And there is more drama and feminine valor illustrated in the screen here:

"After their defeat in 1184, the Taira retreat to Yashima, on the coast of the island of Shikoku. In 1185, a Minamoto squadron arrives and forces the Taira out to sea, as shown on the left screen. In the third panel from the right is the famous incident in which Lady Tamamushi, a Taira woman in one of the boats, fixes a fan to a pole as a target, intending to lure the enemy closer to the water's edge. The sharpshooter Nasu no Yoichi accepts the challenge, and the fan shatters in mid-air."

Lot 706 has an estimate of $350,000 to $400,000.

Not illustrated is Lot 625, "A Lacquer Cabinet," that is absolutely exquisite. It has an estimate of $300,000 to $350,000.


Korean Art

Heakyum Kim of Christie's

Heakyum Kim, Christie's Specialist, with Lot 782, "Returning from the Market," by Park Sookeun, 1965, 7 3/16 by 13 7/16 inches, oil and mixed media on board

Lot 782, "Returning from the Market," is a nostalgic and poetic work by Park Sookeun, execuited in his signature somber, diminutive, heavily textured style. Heanyum Kim, Christie's Specialist, Korean Art, expressed admiration for the artist, whose work was widely appreciated by Americans stationed in Seoul during the 1960s, when they were available for a song. Back then his paintings were not appreciated by Koreans, whereas today his paintings are prized by Korean private collectors and institutions. Christie's catalogue for this sale notes:

"Founded by an American, the Bando Gallery at the Choson Hotel near the American embassy began exhibiting his paintings in 1955, selling them for nominal sums."

Ms. Kim said Park Sookeun's body of work was small, perhaps 400 in total:

"It is hard to find Sookeun's paintings now. Those that collect them don't want to part with them. In the past, some were thrown away because people misunderstood them. His work is also prized today because this nice rural landscape is now crowded with skyscrapers. The clothes worn by the people in it are traditional."

Ms. Kim estimates the present lot was purchased for $50. Today, Lot 782 has an estimate of $400,000 to $500,000. It measures 7 3/16 by 13 7/16 inches:

Bottle from Joseon Dynasty

Lot 771, "A Large Square Blue and White Porcelain Bottle Painted with Riverscapes and Plants," Joseon Dynasty (18th Century), 5 by 3 by 7 inches.

Painted in the 1700s, and exquisitely beautiful because its color is "older," patinaed by age, Lot 771 is "A Large Square Blue and White Porcelain Bottle Painted with Riverscapes and Plants." There is also a scholar and boy attendant on a rocky ledge observing a fisherman poling his boat, and distant hills, all "painted expertly in underglaze cobalt blue of varying intensities of color and saturation" cites Christie's catalogue for this sale. This is a work of pure visual poetry. Lot 771 has an estimate of $400,000 to $500,000.

"Landscape in Blue" by Kim Whanki

Lot 781, "Landscape in Blue," by Kim Whanki, (1913-1974), oil on canvas, 57 1/2 by 57 1/8 inches

The "art name" Kim Whanki chose was Suhwa, "to speak with the trees." Lot 781, "Landscape in Blue," is part eastern, part western, reflecting the artists influences, and by the 1950s Whanki began to extract imagery from the Korean landscape. This painting represents the abstract style with which the artist is so closely associated. Whanki has become a pilar of Korean modern masters, and this is an impressive example of his work, that was purchased by a private collector directly from the artist. Kim Whanki's work has been showing continuously in the Americas, Europe and East Asia for seven decades. Lot 781 has an estimate of $2,000,000 to $2,200,000.

Christie's Japanese and Korean Art sale totaled $3,778,750, and was 59% sold by lot. The top selling lot was Lot 782, "Returning from the Market," oil and mixed media on board, that sold for $722,500 (estimate $400,000 to $500,000)

A Connoisseur's Vision: Property from The Xu Hanquing Collection

Sale No. 2529

15 September, 2011, 10 AM

Michael Bass with Bamboo Brush Pot   Bamboo brush pot

Michael Bass, Christie's Co-Head of Department, Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art with Lot 905, "A Superbly Carved and Important Large Oval Bamboo Brush Pot," Early 17th Century, 7 1/4 inches high

The elite group of 150 objects in this sale of important Chines works of art include ancient Chinese paintings, rare calligraphy, lustrous jades, an assortment of uxurious seals and sophisticated scholar's objects from the single-owner collection of Xu Hanquing, whose artistic name was Xu Fubing. Xu Hanquing was a chief official with the Chinese Qing-dynasty, in the early Republican period, and a co-founder and President of Continental Bank. Xu Hanquing was a banker by profession, but also and accomplished calligrapher, with a passion for the traditional arts, a collector, and an art historian and an expert in inscriptions and textual research.

Lot 905, "A Superbly Carved and Important Large Oval Bamboo Brush Pot," is a beautiful early 17th Century work of art that is described in Christie's catalogue for this sale:

" Very finely and deeply carved in multiple layers of relief with a highly detailed scene of scholars and attendants in a densely forested retreat of various types of trees growing amidst outcroppings of rocks, on one side two scholars are seated in conversation as an attendant holding a staff hung with a double-gourd flask stands nearby, on the other side two scholars stand holding gnarled staffs as they inspect a lingzhi stem which had probably been collected by an attendant carrying further lingzhi stems as he crosses a stone bridge that spans a rushing stream, one of the rock faces inscribed with a five-character inscription, Wuqu Tang Ying hua (painted by Tang Ying from Wuqu), and two seals, Zhu and Zhizheng, with hardwood rim and base, the base inscribed with a seal, Yijin Zhai cang (Yijin Zhai collection)."

That all this can be achieved on a work of art 7 1/4 inches high is mind blowing. When asked why such elaborate work was done on bamboo, Michael Bass, Christie's Co-Head of Department, Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art said:

"I like that scholars take humble material and elevate it. Everyday materials are trasnformed into masterpieces."

In fact this work of art is not so humble at all. It has noble provenance, and is from Yijin Zhai, the name of the studio belonging to emperor Qianlong's eleventh son, Yong Xing (1752-1823). Christie's catalogue for this sale provides more fascinating insights about this work:

"The two seals, Zhu and Zhizheng, are those of a Ming-period bamboo carver of the Jiading School, who is thought to have been active during the first half of the 17th century. Jiading bamboo carving, named for Jiading, Jiangsu province, was invented by Zhu Zhizheng's grandfather, Zhu He, during the Zhengde and Jiajing periods (1506-1566) of the Ming dynasty. Zhu He merged calligraphy and painting into bamboo carving, a technique characterized by openwork carving and deep carving, and made bamboo carving an independent visual art form. Zhu He's son, Zhu Ying, and his grandson, Zhu Zhizheng, not only inherited the carving skills of their fathers, but made improvements, each becoming more skilled than his predecessor. The three generations established the basic characteristics associated with Jiading bamboo carving, and are referred to as the 'Three Zhus'. Similar depth and intricacy of carving can be seen on a brush pot carved with a hunting scene, dated to the early Qing dynasty, illustrated in The Palace Museum Collection of Elite Carvings, Beijing, 2002, p. 53, no. 24, which, like the present brush pot, has a wood rim and base. "

Michael Bass showed the inscription "Wuqu Tang Yin hua" (painted by Tang Yin from Wuqu) on the side of Lot 905, which has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000.  It sold for $842,500.

Illustrated on the cover of the catalogue for this sale, but not here, is Lot 893, "A Rare Small Tianhuang Rectangular Seal" of exquisite warm, yellow color, depicting a mythical beast. 1 3/8 inches high, it is late Ming/Early Qing Dynasty, (16th to 17th Century), and bears the inscription " my cleansed heart is like the autumn moon." Lot 893 has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.  It sold for $458,500.

Michael Bass described this as "a rich and thoughtful collection."

"Poems in Cursive Script" by Zhu

Lot 817, "Poems in Cursive Script," by Zhu, (1130-1200), Handscroll, ink on paper, signed by the artist, five colophons, including one each by Yu Zhuo (Yuan dynasty), Ye Heng (Yuan dynasty), Cheng Yangquan (1299-1354), and two of Ye Gonghui (1355-1435?), with a total of thirteen seals, Qi Junzao (1793-1866) inscribed a biography of Zhu Xi, with two seals, eighteen collectors' seals, including four of Xu Hanqing (1882-1961), 13 1/3 by 400 3/4 inches

Elizabeth Hammer, Christie's Specialist, Chinese Paintings, showed part of Lot 817, "Poems in Cursive Script, a beautiful scroll by the poet Zhu, created in circa 1130-1200. Paper itself had not been in production that long! "Cursive script" reaches new heights here, seeming more like the finest abstract expressionist brushwork than mere writing. 1000 years old, and just over 400 inches in length, the poem is "A Poem Dedicated to Friends at a Mountain Gathering during My Illness in Fall." Christie's catalogue for this sale notes: "The poem is five-character prose with thirty rhymes and totals a hundred and fifty words."

This has to be the most sublime way to write poetry: 150 gorgeous calligraphic characters spread over 400 inches of beautiful paper." It makes the viewer want to learn Chinese immediately. Lot 817 has an estimate of $1,500,000 to $1,800,000.  It sold for $1,762,500.


Lot 824, Emperor Qianglong (1711-1799), "Chunhua Ge Tie:" EMPEROR QIANLONG (1711-1799), Chunhuage Tie Rubbing
Set of two boxes, with fives volumes in each box, ink on paper, First box: Volume 1 with 80 leaves, Volume 2 with 64 leaves, Volume 3 with 74 leaves, Volume 4 with 70 leaves, Volume 5 with 70 leaves, Second box: Volume 6 with 74 leaves, Volume 7 with 80 leaves, Volume 8 with 60 leaves, Volume 9 with 68 leaves, Volume 10 with 76 leaves, Steles carved and rubbings commissioned by Emperor Qianlong, Twenty-four collector's seals of Emperor Qianlong: Jingji ShanzhuangEach leaf: 11 7/8 x 6 3/4 in. (30.2 x 17.2 cm.) (2)

This collection continues to amaze with a rare imperial commission, Lot 824, the "Chunhua Ge Tie," which Elizabeth Hammer said "became a canon of calligraphy," and was the brainchild of Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799). Christie's catalogue for this sale describes how it came into existence:

In the third year of Chunhua reign in the Song dynasty (993), Emperor Song Taizong commissioned scholar and government official Wang Zhu to amass together famous books and calligraphic works from previous dynasties into a collection that became known as the Chunhua Ge Tie. This Song dynasty version is the earliest collection of Chunhua Ge Tie and was used as a compendium of model calligraphy examples. However, Wang Zhu's inadequacies resulted in many mistakes in the original series, and he made poor selections. In response, Emperor Qianlong employed specially elected artisans to re-engrave the Chunhua Ge Tie, using the Bi Shi'an Collection of artifacts as the master reference. The Emperor concurrently ordered Yu Minzhong and a team of scholars to carry out a detailed investigation regarding this matter and to gather related material, as word by word accompanying explanations were absent in the original. Upon its completion in the thirty-fourth year of Qianlong's reign (1769), the Emperor evaluated the whole project himself and deemed the collection as a "Royal Commission".

Lot 824 has an estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,500,000.

Christie's sale "A Connoisseur’s Vision: Property from the Xu Hanqing Collection" totaled $13,137,625 and was 84% sold by lot. The top selling lot was Lot 817, "Poems in Cursive Script," by Zhu Xi (1130-1200),  Hand scroll, ink on paper, that sold for $1,762,500 (estimate $1,500,000 - 1,800,000)

Superb Jade Carvings from an Important European Collection

Sale No. 2632

September 15, 2 PM

Christopher Engle of Christie's

Christopher Engle, Christie's Co-Head of Department, Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, with (Right, partial view), Lot 1035, "A Superb and Very Rare Pale Greenish-White Jade Raft Group, 18th Century, 9 5/8 in. (24.6 cm.) long, fitted wood stand; Left: Lot 1036, "A Superb and Very Rare Pale Greenish-White Jade Table Screen," 18th Century, 10 inches high, silver wire-inlaid wood stand

Christopher Engle, Christie's Co-Head of Department, Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, highlighted several outstanding jades, including two illustrated above. Lot 1035, "A Superb and Very Rare Pale Greenish-White Jade Raft Group, 18th Century," only 9 5/8 inches long, which he turned over so we could see the exquisite carving underneath, has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000.  It sold for $242,500.

Lot 1036, "A Superb and Very Rare Pale Greenish-White Jade Table Screen," 18th Century, only 10 inches high, is carved on both sides with different subjects, the most fascinating being the "back," with a delicate carving of the ghostly silhouette of a Middle Eastern or Turkish galleon - not distinctly Chinese - nestling on swirling waves in the ocean. This kind of technical wizardry is jaw -dropping, especially in a material as fragile as jade, which leaves no margin for error. It has excellent provenance, originally acquired from Spink in London, but most of all it is exquisitely beautiful. Lot 1036 has an estimate of $350,000 to $550,000.  

When asked about flaws in the stone, Mr. Engle said "flaws in the stone are old world." He said it was "easy to recognize fakes because they are too good. Imperfections bother people more now than they did in the past."

So, if it has a few flaws, it is more likely to be genuine, not a modern fake, which is good to know.

Jade vase

Lot 1025, "A Very Rare Large White Jade Archaistic Vase and Cover Quianlong/Jiaquing Period (1736-1820), 8 in. (21 cm.) high, wood stand

Lot 1025, "A Very Rare Large White Jade Archaistic Vase and Cover," from the Quianlong/Jiaquing Period (1736-1820), is another gem in this sale, is also illustrated in "Chinese Porcelain and Hardstones," vol. 11, London, by E. Gorer and J. Blacker. It has an estimate of $750,000 to $1,000,000.  It sold for $2,658,500.

Christie's sale "Superb Jade Carvings from an Important European Collection" totaled $8,596,100, and was 75% sold by lot. 

Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Part I and II

Sale No. 2463

Part I, September 15, 3.30 PM (Lots 1101-1267)

Parts I & II, September 16, 10 AM (Lots 1268-1439)

Part II, September 16, 2 PM, (Lots 1440-1675)

Wucai ducks and lotus pond fish powl

Front: Lot 1483, "An Important and Extremely Rare Wucai 'Ducks and Lotus Pond' Fish Bowl," Wanli Six-Character Mark in Underglaze Blue in a Line Within a Double-Rectangle and Of The Period (1573-1619), 18 5/8 inches in diameter. Behind it is Lot 1347, "A Rare and Magnificent Large Twelve-Panel Painted Screen," 17th century, each panel 85 2/3 by 23 1/2 inches. Formerly in the Robert Hatfield Ellsworth Collection

This mamoth sale of over 550 lots encompasses many gems, at reasonable to high estimates, far too numerous to mention in an overview. A comprehensive review of Parts I and II is included on this site. There are several outstanding gems, however, from different periods. and styles, reflecting China's ancient and awesome artistic heritage.

Lot 1483, "An Important and Extremely Rare Wucai 'Ducks and Lotus Pond' Fish Bowl," illustrated above, is reminiscent of Matisse, but was created between 1573-1619. Christie's catalogue for this sale describes it best:

"The massive sturdily potted vessel with flared, slightly rounded sides painted in tones of cobalt and highlighted in bold tones of iron-red, green and yellow and brown glaze to depict an aquatic scene with two pairs of mandarin ducks among lotus leaves, blooms and waterweeds below an alternating underglaze blue and iron-red scroll border beneath a band of scrolling vine adorning the flattened rim, the reign mark written in a line below the rim."

Lot 1483 has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000.

Behind the beautiful fish bowl is Lot 1347, "A Rare and Magnificent Large Twelve-Panel Painted Screen," circa 17th century, that was formerly in the Robert Hatfield Ellsworth collection, and was exhibited at "The Manchu Dragon: Costumes of the Ch'ing Dynasty 1644-1912," at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 16 December 1980-30 August 1981. It is painted in ink and color on silk. This luscious Garden of Eden depicts two phoenixes in a lush landscape with pairs of cranes, ducks, herons, pheasants and peacocks among plantain trees, peony and other flowers, cherry and magnolia trees, with swallows and magpies in flight. The gilding symbolizes a sun-streaked sky. A superb work of art, Lot 1347 has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000.

Hu wine vessel

Lot 1118, "A Rare Large Ritual Bronze Wine Vessel and a Cover, Hu, Middle Western Zhou Dynasty, Circa 9th Century BC, 21 1/2 inches high

Detail of Lot 1118

Detail of Lot 1118

Lot 1118, "A Rare Large Ritual Bronze Wine Vessel and a Cover, Hu" is a magnificent work of art from the Middle Western Zhou Dynasty, circa 9th century BC. Christie's catalogue for this sale notes:

"The pear-shaped body cast in high relief with two wave bands, the lower band incorporating four stylized taotie masks alternating with addorsed dragon pattern, a further wave band on the flared neck interrupted by a pair of animal mask loop handles suspending ribbed ring handles, the whole raised on a spreading foot encircled by a similar undulating band, the cover with deep lower collar below a band of scrolls on the sides, the slightly domed center within a flared crown cast with a tightly coiled bird with long tapering beak, claw foot and long crest feather, with malachite, azurite and some ferrous encrustation."

The traces of malachite, azurite and ferrous encrustation form a beautiful pattern in the swirling detail above. Lot 1118 has an estimate of $400,000 $600,000.  It sold for $902,500.


Lot 1652,"A Rare and Finely Enameled Famille Rose Teapot and Cover," Jiaquing Seal Mark in Iron Red and of the Period (1796-1820), 7 7/8 inches wide, box

Lot 1652, "A Rare and Finely Enameled Famille Rose Teapot and Cover" is the original "famille rose teapot" of so many inferior imitations, a masterpiece created between 1796 and 1820. The description in Christie's catalogue includes a curious creature:

"Each side of the globular body brightly painted with a bat positioned above a cluster of three peaches supported by a large stylized hibiscus blossom borne on and surrounded by scrolling, leafy tendrils bearing various types of flowers and interspersed with auspicious clouds, all between a ruyi border on the shoulder above and a petal lappet border below, with pink bands of key fret encircling the neck, foot and everted rim of the similarly decorated cover surmounted by a bud-form finial, the interior and base covered with turquoise enamel surrounding the seal mark."

Lot 1652 has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000.

Rendle Zhai porcelains

"A Selection of Porcelains From The Rende Zhai Collection", all from The Guangxu Period (1875-1908), except for Lot 1611: Lots featured above are: Top left: Lot 1611, Daoguang Seal Marks and Of The Period (1821-1850), estimate $30,000 tp $50,000; Top right: 1608; Middle left: 1604; Middle right:Lot 1603; Bottom left: 1605; Bottom Center: 1606; Bottom right: 1607

Before reading the catalogue and finding out the amazing story behind the striking porcelains from The Guangxu Period (1875-1908), illustrated above, from "A Selection of Porcelains from The Rende Zhai Collection, (Lots 1603-1643), I was drawn to their perfect fusion of classicism and modernity. When I read the catalogue, I found out that they were collected by Dr. and Mrs. Skinsnes, and Christie's catalogue for this sale includes a moving description of the couple that collected these unique works of art, who experienced China in a way that is no longer possible because those times has been erased from modern life, but not from memory. It also includes a photograph of the Skinsnes at home in Guangzhou in the late 1980s:

"The Rende Zhai (House of Benevolent Learning) Collection of ceramics and works of art was carefully assembled by Dr. Olaf K. Skinsnes (1917-1997) from 1949 through the 1970s. Dr. Skinsnes was born in Henan in 1917 to parents who were medical missionaries, and after having been raised in China, moved to his parents' original home in the midwestern United States to attend university. It was during this time that he became increasingly dismayed at his fellow American's limited knowledge of China. Dr. Skinsnes not only deeply loved China, but felt that art was one of the most effective vehicles for improving mutual understanding between East and West. The Rende Zhai Collection was therefore formed as a teaching collection, used to share with those in the West the rich culture and history of China."

"After completing his M.D. and Ph. D., Dr. Skinsnes intended to return to China, a wish shared by his new wife, Elizabeth Anderson Skinsnes (known as Si Anli), a nurse who had her own lifelong interest in China. However, circumstances caused the couple to relocate to Hong Kong, where they lived and worked for ten years, focusing on the study and treatment of leprosy. A man of many talents, while in Hong Kong Dr. Skinsnes designed the Diamond Hill Lutheran Church, the Yuanlong Church and the Hay Ling Chou Center for people who had leprosy. The couple subsequently returned to the United States, where Dr. Skinsnes joined the faculty of the University of Chicago. Later, in 1967, they moved to Hawaii, to help develop the University of Hawaii's John A. Burns School of Medicine, although they would continue to visit Hong Kong on an annual basis."

"Although having lived all over the world, Dr. Skinsnes always longed to return to China, the land of his birth. Throughout the years, he kept in close touch with friends and colleagues in China. In 1985, his friend Dr. George Hatem (Ma Haide, 1910-1988), who had participated in the Long March, invited Dr. Skinsnes to serve as an advisor at the Sun Yat Sen University of Medical Sciences. Dr. and Mrs. Skinsnes eagerly accepted and moved to Guangzhou, where they were amongst the first Americans to be granted permanent residency. Fluent in Chinese and relishing local life, the couple veered away from the foreign settlements and moved into a smaller, local neighborhood, where they remained until 1995, when health issues forced them to return to their family in the United States. In recognition of his devotion to the country, the Chinese government awarded Dr. Skinsnes the Friendship Medal in 1992.

Christie's is very pleased to be offering a selection of ceramics from the Rende Zhai collection this September. Works of art from this important collection are also being offered separately as lots 1213, 1221, 1223 and 1273."

Huaanghuali Horseshoeback armchairs

Lot 1335, "A Pair of Finely Carved Huanghuali Horseshoeback Armchairs," Quanyi, 17th century; 37 1/2 inches high, 23 3/8 inches wide, 17 5/8 inches

Lot 1335, "A Pair of Finely Carved Huanghuali Horseshoeback Armchairs," were carved in the 17th century, and are in mint condition. They are works of art, pure sculpture, with an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.

Christie's sale "Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art" totaled $38,842,525, and was 80 percent sold by lot. The top selling lot was Lot 1547, "A rare blue and white Ming-style moonflask," Qianlong seal mark in underglaze blue and of the period (1736-1795), that sold for $2,658,500 (estimate: $500,000-$700,000).

For prices achieved for individual lots, please see reviews for each of the sales on this site.



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