The Irving Collection
Lacquer, Jade, Bronze, Ink
7 PM., March 20, 2019
Lot 806, "twin fish"
washer, greenish-white jade, Qing Dynasty, Qianlong incised
four-character mark and of the period, dated by inscription to the
Cyclical Bingwu year, corresponding to 1786, 10 inches in diameter
The catalogue entry includes an essay by Rosemary Scott on the work that notes it is "the largest of three known Qianlong jade washers of this form with two archaic-style fish carved on the interior."
small example (13.2 cm. diam.), apparently without an inscription, is
in the Baur Collection, Geneva (see Pierre-F. Schneeberger, The
Baur Collection – Chinese Jades and Other Hardstones, Geneva,
1976, no. B10); a somewhat larger, unpublished example is in a British
private collection (17.8 cm. diam.); while the current example is the
largest with a diameter of 25.5 cm. Like the present example, the
washer in the private collection has low, neatly carved feet, but while
the current vessel has five feet, this slightly smaller washer has four
feet. The washer in the private collection also has the same imperial
inscription and cyclical date.
"The fish carved on these washers have been deliberately rendered in archaistic style, with the two fish carved side by side in high relief, and slightly under-cut, in a more formal style than is commonly seen on other jade pieces. As the inscription suggests, vessels with this type of twin-fish design are well-known in bronze from the Han dynasty, and there were a number of these bronze examples in Qianlong’s own collection....
choice of fish as the motif to decorate the current imperial jade
washer would not simply have been a reference to ancient vessels, but
also to the meaning behind the depiction of fish. A source for the
link between fish and harmony can be found in philosophical Daoism,
specifically in the Zhuangzi ??, attributed to Zhuangzi, or
‘Master Zhuang’ (369-298 BC), who, after Laozi, was one of the earliest
philosophers of what has become known as Daojia ??, or the
"School of the Way". Among other things, Zhuangzi consistently uses
fish to exemplify creatures who achieve happiness by being in harmony
with their environments. As part of a much more complex discussion in
chapter seventeen (Qiu shui?? “The Floods of Autumn”), Zhuangzi, who is
crossing a bridge over the Hao river with Huizi, notes: “See how the
small fish are darting about [in the water]. That is the happiness of
fish.” In chapter six (Dazongshi ???”Great Ancestral Master”),
Zhuangzi recounts Confucius’ comments to illustrate Daoist attitudes.
Confucius said: “Fish are born in water. Man is born in the Dao. If
fish, born in water, seek the deep shadows of the pond or pool then
they have everything they need. If man, born in the Dao, sinks deep
into the shadows of non-action, forgetting aggression and worldly
concern, then he has everything he needs, and his life is secure. The
moral of this is that all fish need is to lose themselves in water,
while all man needs is to lose himself in the Dao.” It is therefore not
surprising that the depiction of fish in water came to provide a rebus
for yushui hexie ???? “may you be as harmonious as fish and
water”. When the fish in the bottom of the present jade washer were
covered with water they would perfectly represent this wish for
"The Qianlong emperor’s great love of jade combined with his passion for antiques resulted in his commissioning significant numbers of archaistic jade items for his court, a number of which were inscribed with the characters Qianlong fanggu ???? – “Qianlong copying the ancient." In the case of the present jade washer, the emperor’s intentions are made quite clear from the inscription that he commanded to be applied to the base of the vessel. Of all the Ming and Qing emperors, Gaozong (the Qianlong emperor) was perhaps the most fervent collector and patron of jade carving. In the early part of his reign the emperor was frequently dissatisfied with the work of the lapidaries producing carved jades for the court and encouraged the craftsmen to achieve higher standards of perfection. One of the problems for the jade carvers in the early years of the reign was the lack of suitable jade, and it was only in the 1750s, after the punitive battles against the Dzungar tribes and Hui people, that the Xinjiang area was captured for the Chinese empire and Khotan jade was sent to the court as tribute each spring and autumn. With this newly available source of fine, raw jade, the lapidaries in the palace workshops could produce carved jade pieces of the exemplary standard sought by the emperor. Clearly, the present jade washer met the extremely high imperial expectations and was deemed a fitting vessel on which to inscribe a poem from the imperial brush and two of his imperial majesty’s favorite seals."
lot has an estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It sold for $2,895,000.
Lot 809, Daoist scripture box, red lacquer, Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period (1736-1795), China, 13 1/2 inches high
809 is a rare and finely carved red lacquer Daoist scripture fbx and
cover is from the Qing Dynasty, in China, Qianlong Period
(1736-1795) It is 13 1/2 inches high.
Irving box appears to depict Wenchang, the Daoist god of Literature and
Culture, seated holding a hu tablet on a throne at the top.
The assembly includes gods dressed as officials
holding hu tablets, intermixed with other gods holding discs
of the Twelve Animals of the Zodiac, some figures with dragon, bird or
animal heads, guardian figures and a central figure of Marshal Wang
(Wang Yuanshuai) standing on a flaming wheel. A lacquer box with
related decoration of an assembly of Daoist celestial beings, also with
a seven-character Qianlong mark, as well as the scripture that it held,
the Huangtingjing (Scripture of the Yellow Court), is in the
collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing, and illustrated
in China: The Three Emperors 1662-1795, Royal Academy of Arts,
London, 2005, p. 153, no. 60. The catalogue entry notes that the
scripture book consists of two volumes with brocade covers and a
brocade-covered slipcase that would have been kept in the carved red
lacquer box. The back of the box has an inscription, Da Qing
Qianlong nian jing zao (Made with reverence in the Qianlong
era of the Great Qing). The catalogue entry further notes that
the Huantingjing was a fourth-century Chinese meditational
text that 'encompasses several layers of doctrines and practices in the
Daoist cosmology,' and that the 'duplication of scriptures was
considered a meritorious practice in both Buddhism and Daoism.' The
copy in the Palace Museum collection was executed in the ninth year of
the Qianlong emperor's reign (1744), reflecting the 'Emperor's interest
in Daoist self-cultivation practices.'"
lot has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000. It sold for $1,035,000.
810, Rectangular lacquer tray, Shibata Zeshin, Japan, 14 3/4 inches long
819 is a lacquer tray was made by Shibata Zeshin (1807-1891) in the
Meiji Period in Japan, late 19th Century. There is a
grasshopper perched on the handle of the kettle whose spout has straw
stuffed in it to keep out insects. There is a grasshopper perched o the
handled. It is 14 3/4 inches long. The catalogue nots that that "There
are other trays with this design, indicating that the Irving lacquer
tray was originally one of a set of five. Other examples from this set,
all nearly identical, are in the Honolulu
Museum of Art, the Khalili Collection, London, and, formerly the Edson
Collection." The lot has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.
It sold for $93,750.
Lot 818 is a fine ink and
color on paper scross by Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010) that measures 27 by
53 3/8 inches. It is entitled "Waterfall."
The catalogue entry provides the following commentary:
"With a seamless blending
of traditional Chinese ink painting and abstract expressionism, Wu
Guanzhong’s Waterfall exemplifies his mastery of both styles
philosophically and technically. The unique way in which he
internalized Chinese culture and Western culture, as well as his
ability to demonstrate superior skills acquired from vastly different
visual sources, are all manifested in this work. Wu began to
focus on ink painting during the mid-1970s, extensively copying works
from masters like Shitao, Bada Shanren, Zheng Xie, the Four Masters of
the Yuan Dynasty and Four Wangs of the Qing Dynasty. He particularly
admired Shitao’s oeuvre for his interpretation of the relationship
between painting and nature. Shitao advocated “borrowing the past to
develop the now” and “the ink and brush should follow the present,”
which Wu considered the most progressive ideology in Chinese painting
history. During his stay in Paris, Wu immersed himself in the art of
Impressionism, post-Impressionism and Expressionism. To Wu, returning
to traditional Chinese painting meant using the paper medium as a
vehicle, to explore the possibility of combining the concept,
composition, structure, coloration, and brushwork of Western painting
with the heritage of traditional Chinese painting. It was an attempt to
develop a new, “contemporary” approach to ink painting.
"Wu reached the peak of his creative prowess in ink painting during the 1980s, when he emphasized the versatility of the ink and brush, and preferred a more subdued color palette instead of a vibrant one. Waterfall is a masterpiece from this period which embodies all of his most cherished ideals mentioned previously. Unlike many traditional Chinese painters, who mostly learned painting landscape from other landscape paintings and sometimes duplicating the scenery they see, Wu’s creative process involved a commune with nature in order to discern each element’s unique expressive form. He stressed the importance of painting landscape outdoor, even “visiting different sites and vantage points for a single compositional idea” so one could distill the aesthetic of the scene."
The lot has an estimate of
$750,000 to $850,000. It sold
Preview and recap of South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art auction, A Pioneering Vision: Works from the Collection of Arani and Shumita Bose, and Indian and Southeast Asian Art at Christie's New York Asia Week Fall 2014 by Michele Leight (9/17/14, updated 9/20/14)