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The Irving Collection

Lacquer, Jade, Bronze, Ink

Christie's New York

7 PM., March 20, 2019

Sale 17836

Twin fish  606

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

By Carter B. Horsley

Herbert Irving, who died in 2016 at the age of  99, was the vice-chairman of the Sysco Corporation, the world's largest distributor of food products.  He turned down the chairmanship when he learned it would require a great deal of traveling as he wanted to spend more time with his wife, Florence, who died in 2018 at the age of   .

In 1968, they made their first substantial acquisition of Asian Art, a marble headrest, from Alice Boney in Tokyo who became their principal advisor.

In 1994, the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated the Florence and Herbert Irving Galleries of the Arts of South and Southeast Asia.  In 2004, the museum dedicated the Florence and Herbert Asian Wing and in 2015 the Irvings gave 1,300 objects to the museum.

In 2017, Florence Irving gave $700 million to the Columbia-New York Presbyterian Hospital.

In two catalogues, Sotheby's New York offered about 1,300 objects from the private collection of the Irvings.  The evening action March 21, 2014 included only 26 items and all but one sold for $17,894,750 with only one lot failing to sell.

The first Asian Art item acquired by the Irvings was the first lot, 801, in the evening auction, a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) is a mottled pale greenish white and russet jade rectangular pillow with a circular hole.  It is 6 7/8 inches long.  It has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000.  It sold for $68,000 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article. It was acquired from Alice Boney in Tokyo in 1968. 
Jade pillows of this type are very unusual. A similar jade pillow from the collection of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth was sold at Christie’s, New York, 17-18 March 2016, lot 1664. Ceramic pillows of similar form were popular during the Tang (AD 618-917) and Song dynasties (AD 960-1278), as exemplified by various examples from the Yeung Wing Tak Collection, illustrated in Chinese Ceramic Pillows from Yeung Wing Tak Collection, The Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, 1984, nos. 8, 9, 13, 48, and 70.

Lot 806, is an "important and extremely rare Imperially inscribed, greenish-white jade 'twin fish' washer bowl from the Qing Dynasty in China that has a Qianlong incised four-character mark and of the period and is dated by inscription to the Cyclical Bingwu Year, corresponding to 1786.  It is 10 inches in diameter and has straight flaring sides encircled by three bow-string bands and is raised on five rectangular feet and has a poem inscribed on the bottom of the bowl.  The text
of the imperial poem is recorded in Complete Collection of the Imperial Poems of the Qing Emperor Gaozong (Qianlong). It was acquired by the Irvings from Eskenazi & Co. in San Francisco in 1982 three years after the gallery had acquired it at Sotheby Parke Bernet in 1979 in Hong Kong.

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."

"A 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....

"The 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 harmony. 

"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."

The lot has an estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000.  It sold for $2,895,000.

Irving 813

Lot 813, standing figure of an Acuoye Guanyin, gilt bronze, 18 inches high, China, Yunnan, Dali Kingdom, 12th Century

Lot 813 is a rare gilt-bronze figure of an Acuoye Guanyin from the Dali Kingdon in Yunnan, China in the 12th Century.  It is 18 inches high.  It was once owned by Robert H. Ellsworth.

The catalogue contains an essay by Robert D. Mowry, Alan J. Dworsky Curator of Chinese Art Emeritus, Harvard Art Museums, and Senior Consultant, Christie’s, with the following commentary:

"Termed the 'Luck of Yunnan' by American scholar Helen Burwell Chapin (1892–1950), sculptures of this type represent the Bodhisattva Acuoye Guanyin and were produced in the twelfth century in the Dali Kingdom (AD 937–1253), an independent state in southwestern China that was coeval with China’s Song dynasty (AD 907–1279) and more or less congruent with present-day Yunnan province. The comparatively large image of a seated Buddha Amitabha at the base of the figure’s high topknot of hair identifies this sculpture as the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of Infinite Compassion, known formally in Chinese as Guanshiyin Pusa and informally as Guanyin. Considered a spiritual emanation of Amitabha, Avalokiteshvara is the only bodhisattva in whose crown or headdress Amitabha appears, and thus Amitabha’s presence here definitively identifies this figure as Avalokiteshvara. Standing upright with his weight evenly distributed on both legs, the bodhisattva holds his left hand in the varadamudra, or gift-giving gesture, in which the hand is lowered, palm outward. (A ritual hand gesture, a mudra symbolizes a particular action, power, or attitude of a deity.) He holds his right hand, raised to chest height, in the vitarka mudra, in which the tips of thumb and index finger touch to form a circle; this mudra emblemizes both intellectual discussion and the transmission of the Buddha’s teachings. Together, the combination of vitarka and varada mudras indicates that the bodhisattva is preaching.

Irving 813 detail

Detail of Lot 813

"The Chinese term for this type of Guanyin image, 'Acuoye Guanyin,' first appeared in the Nanzhao tuzhuan, a long, illustrated handscroll depicting the history of the Nanzhao Kingdom now in the collection of the Fujii Yurinkan, Kyoto. The scroll, dated by inscription to AD 898, represents the prophecy made by an Indian monk, which predicted the rise to power of the Meng family and the casting of a bronze Acuoye Guanyin modeled on the monk’s mental vision. The Indian monk, who demonstrated various supernatural deeds, was actually a manifestation of Acuoye Guanyin. This leads to one theory that the name 'Acuoye' is a transliteration of the Sanskrit term acharya, which means 'preceptor.'...Other scholars have suggested that the name 'Acuoye' may be a transliteration of the Sanskrit term ajaya, which means 'all victorious.' Invested with miraculous powers, the sculpture was adopted by the Meng family as its tutelary deity and witnessed the family’s rise to royal status and fostered the establishment of the Nanzhao Kingdom (738–937), which controlled Yunnan during the eighth and ninth centuries. From 937 onward, the same region, by then controlled by the Duan family, became known as the Dali Kingdom (AD 937–1253). While the Chinese emperor based his legitimacy on the Mandate of Heaven, the Yunnan monarchs grounded theirs on the will of Guanyin. The possession of a special image, a palladium in the form of the Acuoye Guanyin, thus conferred legitimacy on the ruler. In that context, a tutelary deity called ajaya, or 'all victorious,' stood as an appropriate reference for an icon associated with members of a ruling family....

"Fashioned in gold and backed by an elaborate, openwork mandorla, the eighth- or ninth-century Acuoye Guanyin discovered in 1978 inside the Qianxun Pagoda at the Chongsheng Temple, Dali, Yunnan province, is both the earliest and the most prominent example of the tutelary deity of the Nanzhao and Dali kingdoms....This effigy of Guanyin, which was replicated through successive dynasties, is the model from which derive the several related twelfth-century sculptures including the present example...

"This figure’s slender body, elongated proportions, and distinctive facial features are typical of Dali-Kingdom sculptures, as are the torque, the long earrings that rest on the shoulders, and the arrangement of the hair in an Indian-style jatamukuta. Those features not only distinguish such images from sculptures produced in Song-dynasty China but closely link them to sculptures created in India and Southeast Asia. In fact, the slender body, clinging drapery, and fashioning of the hair in a jatamukuta find parallels in such Buddhist and Hindu sculptures from Indonesia as three seventh-to-ninth-century bronzes in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: 2004.556, 1987.142.160, and 1987.218.15. Apart from possible relationships with Indonesian sculptures, elements of the Acuoye Guanyin bear a striking resemblance to those of a ninth-century, sheet gold and electrum sculpture of an Avalokiteshvara from Champa now in the collection of the Asian Civilizations Museum, Singapore....To wit, the matted hair piled high on the head and bound together with cords in a jatamukuta, the proportionally large image of the Buddha Amitabha set at the base of the jatamukuta, the slender body with a torque embellishing the neck, the scarf tied at either hip and looping below the waist, and the subtle drapery folds that delicately flow over the legs all suggest possible influence from Champa, in present-day central Vietnam, on the sculpture of the Dali Kingdom.... 

"Sculptures of the Acuoye Guanyin are dated to the second half of the twelfth century on the basis of their similarity to a sculpture in the collection of the San Diego Museum of Art (1941.83) that bears an inscription that dates it between 1147 and 1172. That date is further confirmed by the striking resemblance of such sculptures to a golden image depicted in the so-called Long Scroll of Buddhist Images (Fig. 1) painted between 1172 and 1190 by Zhang Shengwen (active 1163–1189) and now in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei.... 

"Closely related sculptures of the Acuoye Guanyin appear in a number of collections in both Asia and the West, including the Yunnan Provincial Museum, Kunming; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (42.25.28); Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (F1946.10a-b); Asian Art Museum, San Francisco (B60S34); San Diego Museum of Art (1941.83); Brooklyn Museum; National Palace Museum, Taipei; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Musée Guimet, Paris; and Sumitomo Collection in the Sen-oku Museum in Kyoto, Japan. "

The lot has an estimate of  $2,000,000 to $3,000,000.  It sold for $1,935,000.

Guanyin 814

Lot 814, gilt-bronze figure of a multi-armed Guanyin from the Dali Kingdom in Yunnan, China.  It is 14 4/8 inches high.

Lot 814 is a highly important and extremelty rare gilt-bronze figure of a multi-armed Guanyin from the Dali Kingdom in Yunnan, China.  It is 14 4/8 inches high. The Irvings acquired it from Alice Boney in 1982 and she got it in 1972 from the Pan-Asian Collection of Christian Humann. 

In his catalogue essay on the lot, Mr. Morey noted that "Based on its similarity to a sculpture sold at Christie’s, New York, 24 March 2004, lot 77, which included an image of the Buddha Amitabha in the center of the crown, this compelling sculpture represents the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, known in Chinese as Guanyin...."

"The sculpture’s style," he continued, "indicates that it was produced in the Dali Kingdom (AD 937–1253), an independent state in southwestern China that was coeval with China’s Song dynasty (AD 907–1279) and more or less congruent with present-day Yunnan province. Dali sculptures are rare; the large scale, multiple arms, and unusual position in which the figure sits make this an especially rare and important example. 
A bodhisattva is a benevolent being who has attained enlightenment but who has postponed entry into nirvana in order to assist other sentient beings in gaining enlightenment. Richly attired, bodhisattvas are represented with long hair often arranged in a tall coiffure, typically with long strands of hair cascading over the shoulders, and often with a crown surrounding the high topknot. They wear ornamental scarves, dhotis of rich silk brocade, and a wealth of jewelry. Like Buddhas, bodhisattvas have distended earlobes; some wear earrings, others do not. Though generally shown barefoot, bodhisattvas may be shown wearing sandals, as in this sculpture. 

"Though usually depicted with a single head, two arms, and two legs, Guanyin - formally known as Guanshiyin Pusa - sometimes appears with multiple heads and limbs. The multiple heads and limbs indicate that the deity is able to assist more beings than can a deity with but one head, two arms and two legs. Though this sculpture originally sported additional arms - the original number is unknown - only four now remain. Separately cast, the additional arms were attached to the tenons that project from the backs of the upper arms. Two of the remaining arms are raised and clasped at the chest in a gesture of respect and reverence known as the anjalimudra; the other arms are lowered, the hands resting on the knees. The lowered left hand likely originally held a rosary, while the lowered right hand probably grasped a coiled rope or lasso as a lifeline to draw back to the path of enlightenment those who have gone astray. 

"Bodhisattvas generally are represented as standing but when shown seated are usually presented in the lotus position, or padmasana, with the legs crossed. By contrast, most Chinese images of Buddhist deities seated in 'Western style,' or paryankasana, typically represent Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future. The presentation of this Guanyin in Western fashion immediately points to this sculpture’s origins in the Dali Kingdom. The alert, fully open, almond-shaped eyes that look directly outward also point to its origins in the Dali kingdom, as does the vertically set third eye that has been substituted for the traditional urna. In addition, the tall, cylindrical crown embellished with stylized, cursorily rendered clouds, the long, beaded necklace that descends to cross at the abdomen and then loops over the knees, and the low-waisted dhoti, which is secured at the hips, all signal this impressive sculpture’s origin in the Dali Kingdom, likely in the eleventh or twelfth century....A sculpture closely related in style, iconography, and general appearance in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York...has been dated to the eleventh to twelfth century."
The lot has an estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000.  It was passed at $1,800,000.

Red 807

Lot 807, Mallet-form vase, red lacquer, Ming Dynasty, China, 15th-16th Century, 6 1/4 inches high

Lot 807 is a rare and finely carved red lacquer mallet-form vase from the Ming Dynasty, 15th-16th Century in China.  It is 6 1/4 inches high and is carved all over with a dense design of overlapping peomny blossoms and leaves below a band of lingzhi sc4roll encircling the moth.

Patricia Curtin, a consultant to Christies, noted in her catalogue essay that "
This rare vase is a fine example of the centuries-old tradition in the Chinese applied arts of artisans working in one medium looking to other media and periods for inspiration," adding that "In the case of the present vase, a Song-Yuan dynasty Longquan celadon shape, the 'mallet' vase, has been appropriated for the medium of carved lacquer."

"The 'mallet' form, which takes its name from the wooden beater used in fulling cloth, first appears in Longquan celadon wares of Southern Song dynasty date (1127-1279). Most vases of Longquan celadon "mallet" type have a pair of either phoenix or dragon-fish (yulong)-form handles flanking the columnar neck, but a small number without handles exists, such as the vase from the Qing Court collection in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 33 - Porcelain of the Song Dynasty (II), Hong Kong, 1996, p. 112, no. 100. Another was sold at Christie's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2018, lot 8007. Both of these vases exhibit the best features of these Longquan celadon vases, a glaze that is thick and translucent with a texture reminiscent of jade, and a lack of any decoration that would detract from the elegance of the shape and glaze. 

"On the present vase, this refined, simple shape has been transformed, not only by being made in lacquer but by having the body carved all over with flower scroll, a decorative motif popular during the Yuan and Ming dynasties, thirteenth-sixteenth centuries, on wares of different media, including blue and white porcelain, cloisonné enamel and carved lacquer. The floral decoration on carved lacquers is more densely arranged than on the contemporaneous porcelain and enamel wares, where there tends to be more visible background. Although most of the lacquer pieces of this date carved with flowers are dishes, there are a few vessels of a different shape."

Few other carved red lacquer vases of this "mallet" shape appear to have been made. Those that have been published appear to fall into two categories. On the first type, a plain, narrow band separates the flower scroll on the body from that on the neck. Two vases of this type have been published, and on each the decoration is of composite flowers, with a fretwork band encircling the outside of the mouth rim. One of these vases is the well-known example with Yongle mark in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Carving the Subtle Radiance of Colors: Treasured Lacquerware in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2008, pp. 24-25, no. 7. (Fig. 1) The other, also with an incised Yongle mark, and dated early Ming dynasty, 15th century, from the collection of Mrs. M. Legrand (1883-1978), was sold at Christie's, London, 10 May 2016, lot 1." 

The lot has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000.  It sold for $951,000.

Red 808

Lot 808, Octagonal box and cover, red lacquer, Ming Dynasty, China, Jialing six-character incised and gilt mark of the period (1522-1568), 8 1/8 inches in diameter

Lot 808 is a carved red and black lacquer octagonal box and cover from the Ming Dynasty in China with a Jiajing six-character incised and gilt mark of the period (1522-1566).  The cover depicts a five-clawed dragon leaping amidst clouds below a shou medallion in the center of two interlocking square panels.  It is 8 1/8 inches wide and was acquired by the Irvings in 1991 from Klaus F. Naumann in Tokyo.

The catalogue entry provides the following commentary:

"The choice of decoration on this box is reflective of the Jiajing emperor's keen interest in Daoism and the attainment of immortality, and as
such makes use of symbols with Daoist connections. The imperial five-clawed dragon is here shown below a shou (longevity) character carved in simplified seal script. The two are surrounded by various motifs, the Eight Treasures, and on the vertical sides are panels of lingzhi scroll that symbolize immortality. Similar decoration can be seen on a circular covered box, also of Jiajing date, included in the exhibition catalogue, Dragon and Phoenix: Chinese Lacquer Ware, the Lee Family Collection, Tokyo, The Museum of East Asian Art, Cologne, 24 March - 24 June 1990, no. 59, subsequently sold at Christie's, Hong Kong, 28 November 2012, lot 2096, where the dragon is shown leaping below a similarly carved shou character and the sloping sides of the cover and box are carved with auspicious symbols supported on lingzhi scroll. 

"The unusual decorative use of two interlocking square panels as a framing device for the central motif and the surrounding auspicious symbols may be specific to the Jiajing period as it seems to appear only on lacquer wares of Jiajing date. Four such pieces have been published. As on the present box, a large dragon decorates the center of a polychrome lacquer domed circular box in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Catalogue of a Special Exhibition of Lacquer Ware in the National Palace Museum, 1981, pl. 36. On two red lacquer octagonal trays, the central motif is a large shou character, while the imperial five-clawed dragon is shown enclosed within eight small ingot-shaped reserves that decorate the eight facets on the interior: one is illustrated by James C. Y. Watt and Barbara Brennan Ford, East Asian Lacquer: The Florence and Herbert Irving Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1992, pp. 96-97, no. 34; the other, from the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, is illustrated in Chinese Art in Overseas Collections: Lacquerware, Taipei, 1987, p. 103, pl. 190. The most unusual central motif, a seated Daoist immortal holding a scroll while two attendants holding offerings of a peach and a lingzhi stand before himin a landscape setting, can be seen on a carved polychrome lacquer circular covered box from the Qing Court collection, Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 45 - Lacquer Wares of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, Hong Kong, 2006, Hong Kong, p. 183, pl. 141."

The lot has an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000.  It sold for $275,000.

Red 809

Lot 809, Daoist scripture box, red lacquer, Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period (1736-1795), China, 13 1/2 inches high

Lot 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.

In her catalogue essay on the laot, Mrs. Curtin observed that "This rare scripture box belongs to a group of similar carved red lacquer boxes that were made during the Qianlong period to store Daoist and Buddhist scriptures"

"Although the Qianlong emperor was a devotee of Tibetan Buddhism, he followed the tradition of the Qing court in supporting Daoism, as well. During his reign, and that of the other Qing emperors, he participated in annual Daoist rituals and festivities, and elaborate Daoist celebrations were held around his birthday. This fluid boundary between Daoism and Buddhism that had evolved during the centuries since the introduction of Buddhism to China, when Daoism was already well established, also resulted in the intermingling of Buddhist and Daoist imagery, Whether made to store Daoist or Buddhist scriptures, all of the published lacquer scripture boxes of this type are finely carved with similar densely populated assemblies of either Daoist or Buddhist celestial beings. 

"The 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.'"

The lot has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000.  It sold for $1,035,000.

Lacquer  810

Lot 810, Rectangular lacquer tray, Shibata Zeshin, Japan, 14 3/4 inches long

Lot 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.

Veshin painting 812

Lot 812, "The Narrow Road to Shu," by Shibata Zeshin, hanging scroll, lacquer painting on paper, 20 by 15 inches

Lot 812 is a lacquer painting on paper on a hanging scroll by Shibata Zeshin.  It is entitled "The Narrow Road to Shu" and measures 20 by 15 inches.  The catalogue entry notes that Zeshin "was a virtuoso technician: he invented flexible colored lacquers that could be used on paper."

"Painting with lacquer, a viscous and sticky substance, was extremely difficult. The artist’s patience and skill in recreating delicate details is almost unimaginable. Here, he chose a Chinese subject that was much beloved in Edo-period painting, the path in the mountains of Shu in Sichuan province in southwestern China, where the Tang emperor Ming Huang fled with his concubine, Yang Gueifei. The capital of Chengdu appears in the distance at the far left, delicately rendered and obscured by mist. A precarious plank bridge crosses over the cascading river that cuts a deep gorge through dramatic, rugged mountains. The artist skillfully contrasts meticulous detail with forceful, swirling brushwork. This small hanging scroll, a technical tour-de-force, is without doubt one of Zeshin’s finest lacquer paintings.
The lot has an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000.  It sold for $275,000.

Irving 817

Lot 817, "Lithe Like a Crane, Leisurely Like a Seagull," by Fu Baoshi, scroll, ink and color on paper, 17 3/4 by 26 5/8 inches, 1962

Lot 817, "Lithe Like a Crane, Leisurely Like a Seagull," by Fu Baoshi (1904-1965), scroll, ink and color on paper, 17 3/4 b 26 5/8 inches, was painted in 1962.

The catalogue entry by Professor Xiao Ping,  an artist and art critic, provided the following commentary:

"The subjects of Fu Baoshi’s figure paintings often consisted of historical figures The statesman and poet Qu Yuan (c. 343-c. 278) and characters from his writings account for most of them. He painted many of such works during the Sino-Japanese War, which were rife with symbolism. Other historical figures Fu Baoshi admired included Tao Yuanming, Li Bai, Du Fu, Huai Su, Ni Zan, and Shitao. Whether it is because of Fu’s admiration of their minds, a feeling of shared personalities, or the heritage of artistic ideologies, Fu continuously pursued and emulated their images and spirits.

"This masterpiece depicting Shao Sengmi (c. 1593-1642) was acquired by the Irvings in Hong Kong in 1988. Shao Mi, whose sobriquet is Sengmi was a native of Suzhou province. He was one of the nine painters praised in Wu Weiye’s (1609-1672) poem titled 'Song of the Nine Friends of Painting,' The 'nine friends' includeDong Qichang, Wang Shimin, Wang Jian, Li Liufang, Yang Wencong, Zhang Xuezeng, Cheng Jiasui, Bian Wenyu, and Shao Mi, all were famous artists during the late Ming dynasty. Since his childhood, Shao Mi had enjoyed practicing calligraphy and painting and excelled in these arts. Known to be eccentric and unconventional, he he was studious and talented in various fields.

"Shao Mi’s poetic progenitors were Tao Yuanming (c. 365-c. 427) and Wei Yingwu (737-792). Calligraphically, he followed the characteristics of the father-son duo Mi Fu (1051-1107) and Mi Youren (1074-1153) in his cursive script, and Zhong Yao (151-230) (as well as Yu Shinan and Chu Suiliang) in his standard script. He also emulated the painting techniques of the Song and Yuan masters, displaying an abbreviated approach to landscape with a leisurely sentiment."

The lot has an estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000.  It sold for $1,815,000.

Wu 818\

Lot 818, "Waterfall," by Wu Guanzhong, scroll, ink and color on paper, 27 by 53 3/8 inches

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 for $975,000.

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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)

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