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Peach Blossom Spring

Signed YUAN, dated 1982, inscribed, with four seals of the artist, and one collector's sealINSCRIPTIONPlanting plum trees upon the twin streams,I grew old and weary of the noisy city;Who can believe when A Chao arrived,That earthly Peach Blossom Spring was just a dream.The plum blossoms grow exuberantly at Moye Jingshe. Friends who have seen them were full of praise and admiration, and described it as Paradise. They said that ever since I moved here, neighbours have settled in and grew flowers. One could hear their chickens cackle and dogs bark, and see the lights from their residence. How would I be able to escape the hustle and bustle of city life? We all erupted in laughter. As I paint this work, I compose a little poem to commemorate the happiness of the occasion, and inscribed it on this painting. The seventy first year of the Republic of China, the seventh day of the last lunar month. Yuan, at 84 years of age. Zhang Daqian Peach Blossom Spring: Property from the Mactaggart Art Collection The Mactaggart Art Collection was formed by Mr. and Mrs. Sandy and Cécile Mactaggart. The Mactaggarts began collecting Asian art in the early 1960s, with a particular interest in Chinese textiles and paintings. Over a period of forty years, the Mactaggart Art Collection grew to be one of the finest privately held collections of East Asian art in the western world. In 2005 they donated the bulk of their collection, a total of more than 1000 works of Chinese art, to the University of Alberta Museums in Alberta, Canada, their former residence. It was the largest single donation the University had ever received from an individual. Zhang Daqian's Peach Blossom Spring, however, was one of their favourite works and remained in their possession.

  • USAUSA
  • 2016-04-05
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An outstanding and highly important massive gilt-bronze figure of

Well-cast and portrayed seated in vajraparyankasana, the right hand held in bhumisparshamudra and the left in dhyanamudra, wearing a pleated robe draped over the left shoulder with the undergarment gathered at the chest, the serene face with downcast eyes and a meditative expression, flanked by a pair of long pendulous ears cut with vertical slots, the head and domed ushnisha covered with tight curls and surmounted by an ovoid jewel, all supported on a double lotus pedestal with beaded edges and inscribed Da Ming Yongle nian shi, the base sealed and engraved with a visvavajra The Shakya Sage An Exceptional Yongle Gilt-Bronze Buddha David Weldon The artists working in the imperial workshops during the Yongle period remain anonymous, but their gilt bronze sculptures have now become recognised as among the most important works of art from the Buddhist world, characterised by faultless casting and rich golden hue. Some fifty-four examples bearing the inscription da Ming Yongle nian shi (‘bestowed in the Yongle era of the great Ming’) have been documented in Tibetan monastery collections; see Ulrich von Schroeder, Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet, Hong Kong, 2001, vol. II, pp. 1237-91. These works have survived in Tibet due to imperial patronage lavished on Tibetan hierarchs and monasteries during the reign of the Yongle emperor. Zhu Di (1360-1424) pursued a bountiful relationship with Tibetan religious leaders during his reign as Yongle (Perpetual Happiness) emperor, but not all bronzes from his workshops were cast as gifts to Tibetans, nor were they all made following the strict Tibetan iconographic canons. A relatively large group depict Chinese Buddhist iconography that was not popular in Tibet, such as the Speelman Udayana Buddha, sold in these rooms, 7th October 2006, lot 803, and the Markbreiter Marichi and Chintamanichakra Avalokitesvara, also sold in these rooms, 7th October 2010, lot 2141 and 2143. With the emperor’s espousal of Buddhism it may be assumed that works were also cast to be worshipped locally, especially those iconographic subjects that depict deities from familiar Chinese Buddhist traditions. The present gilt bronze Buddha shows no signs of having been ritually painted as is normal in Tibetan Buddhist practise, and it could be that the sculpture was made in the imperial workshops for local worship rather than as a gift to a Tibetan hierarch. The stylistic origin of the Yongle Buddha can be traced to the Yuan dynasty when Tibetan Buddhism became the court religion. Early fourteenth century woodblocks made for the monastery of Yangshen Yuan, Hangzhou, are evidence of a new style appearing in Chinese Buddhist art, see Heather Stoddard Karmay, Early Sino-Tibetan Art, Warminster, 1975, pp. 47-50, pls. 26, 29, 30. The gently smiling faces, full rounded figures and tiered thrones in these woodblock prints reflect the current Newar styles favoured in Tibet, and introduced into China by Nepalese artists such as Aniko (1244-1306). Yongle sculptors could almost have used these illustrations as a blueprint for works such as the Shakyamuni Buddha shrine in the British Museum, W. Zwalf ed., Buddhism: Art and Faith, London, 1985, frontispiece, and the Speelman shrine, sold in these rooms, 7th October 2006, lot 808 (fig. 1). The present Buddha follows much the same style but has no additional throne, and differs in subtle stylistic detail from the British Museum and the Speelman examples: the drape of the Buddha’s robe over the lotus seat gathers linearly in front of the legs, in the manner of the Speelman Vajradhara, sold ibid., lot 811, rather than spreading in undulating folds. And an incised line decorates the hem of the Buddha’s robe throughout, a detail not encountered elsewhere in the oeuvre. Apart from these minor differences the classic Yongle style is evident in the loosely folded cloth over the legs and torso, the ubiquitous drape of the robe falling from the right shoulder, and the bulbous lotus petals of the pedestal, evenly spaced around the base between rows of rounded pearls. Other than the monumental gilt-bronze Padmapani in the Qinghai Museum, see The Palace Museum, Splendors from the Yongle (1403-1424) and Xuande (1426-1435) Reigns of China’s Ming Dynasty, Beijing, 2010, p. 253, pl. 126, and the Cernuschi Museum example, Ulrich von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, Hong Kong, 1981, p. 531. Pl. 151E, this Buddha is one of largest extant Yongle marked bronze sculptures, comparable in size to the important Xuande Amitayus, Christie’s Hong Kong, May 31, 2010, lot 1961. The iconographic form, in which the historical Buddha is presented, unadorned but for a simple robe and seated in the earth-touching gesture (bhumishparsha mudra), is relatively uncommon in the corpus of Yongle bronzes, with only one small example recorded in von Schroeder’s survey of Tibetan monastery collections, Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet,  op. cit., p. 1280, pl. 358A. Other small examples include the rare Nepalese style Yongle Buddha in the Markbreiter Collection, sold in these rooms, 7th October 2010, lot 2142 and a classic version in the Palace Museum, Splendors from the Yongle (1403-1424) and Xuande (1426-1435) Reigns of China’s Ming Dynasty, op. cit., p. 244, pl. 118, but the present example is by far the largest yet recorded. The Buddha’s earth-touching gesture recalls an episode from his spiritual biography in which he triumphs over Mara (maravijaya) just prior to his enlightenment. Having vowed to remain in meditation until he penetrated the mysteries of existence, Shakyamuni was visited by Mara, a demon associated with the veils and distractions of mundane existence. The Buddha remained unmoved by all the pleasant and unpleasant distractions with which Mara sought to deflect him from his goal. According to some traditional accounts, Mara’s final assault consisted of an attempt to undermine the bodhisattva’s sense of worthiness by questioning Shakyamuni’s entitlement to seek the lofty goal of spiritual enlightenment and freedom from rebirth. Aided by spirits who reminded him of the countless compassionate efforts he had made on behalf of sentient beings throughout his many animal and human incarnations, Shakyamuni recognised that it was his destiny to be poised on the threshold of enlightenment. In response to Mara’s query, Shakyamuni moved his right hand from his lap to the ground before him, stating, ‘the earth is my witness’. This act of unwavering resolve caused Mara and his army of demons and temptresses to disperse, leaving Shakyamuni to experience his great enlightenment. The episode embodied in this rare Yongle gilt bronze took place upon the adamantine site (vajrasana) at Bodh Gaya, which by tradition was especially empowered to expedite his enlightenment.

  • HKGHongkong (S.A.R. Kina)
  • 2013-10-08
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An exceptionally large, fine and important blue and white lobed 'fish

Exquisitely potted, of ten-lobed mallow shape with deep rounded sides rising from a correspondingly shaped foot to a flared rim, the exterior strikingly decorated in different washes of cobalt with a dense and dynamic scene depicting four fishes, a carp, mandarin fish and two kinds of bream, swimming amidst water plants, the fishes with dark blue outlines and finely detailed with hatching and stippling, rendered interrupted by clumps of lotus blooms and leaves, the latter with white veins precisely picked out by incision through the washes to the porcelain body, the larger leaves further rendered with frayed edges accentuated with dark heaping and piling, the interior similarly painted with a double-line medallion enclosing a carp and mandarin fish dynamically swimming amidst clumps of lotus and undulating water weeds, the base inscribed with a six-character reign mark within a double circle Exhibited Chgoku Min Shin bijutsu ten mokuroku/Chinese Arts of the Ming and Ching Periods, Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo, 1963, cat. no. 290. Shinkan kansei kinen tokubetsu tenrankai zuhan mokuroku/Illustrated Catalogues of the Special Exhibition in Memory of the New Building, Kyoto National Museum, Kyoto, 1966, cat. no. 287. Mei hachi ten [Exhibition of famous bowls], Osaka, 1971, cat. no. 10. Ty no sometsuke tji ten/Far Eastern Blue-and-white Porcelain, Mitsukoshi, Tokyo, 1977, cat. no. 34. Min Shin no bijutsu [The art of Ming and Qing], Osaka Municipal Art Museum, Osaka, 1980, cat. no. 1-26. Literature Fujioka Ryoichi, Tji taikei [Outlines of ceramics], vol. 42: Min no sometsuke [Ming blue-and-white], Tokyo, 1975, col. pl. 17. Sat Masahiko, Chgoku tji shi [History of Chinese ceramics], Tokyo, 1978, p. 182, fig. 224. Sat Masahiko, Chinese Ceramics. A Short History, New York and Tokyo, 1981, p. 164, fig. 237. Fishes in the Imperial Pond Regina Krahl The deep fish pond on this dazzling bowl exudes an irresistible warm sentiment that instantly touches the heart. The bowl is unrivalled in its design, its painting quality, shape and size, and only two comparable smaller pieces appear to exist, both in the National Palace Museum, Taipei. Although the fish pond design has been frequently used as a motif on Chinese porcelain, it is hardly ever infused with as much life as on the present bowl, whose shape cleverly evokes the illusion of gentle underwater motion. Fish paintings were a recognized, if not widespread, genre of Chinese ink painting since the Song dynasty (960-1279), perhaps made popular through Liu Cai, a court painter of the late Northern Song (960-1127) specialized in paintings of fishes. The most famous painting attributed to him is the two-and-a-half-meter long handscroll Fish Swimming amid Falling Flowers today in the St. Louis Art Museum (97:1926.). The representation of fishes and their movements was perceived as a task yet more challenging than the depiction of other animals and birds, because their habitat impedes observation, and the resulting naturalism is awesome for painters not working directly from nature. The topos of fishes swimming in a pond was in China inextricably associated with one of the most famous passages of the book Zhuangzi by Zhuang Zhou (c. 369-c. 286 BC), Daoisms foremost thinker, where fish feature frequently in allegories. In this passage the free-thinking spirit of Zhuangzi, who comments on the pleasures of fishes darting around where they please, is opposed by the methodological reasoning of the Confucian Huizi, who challenges the Daoists legitimacy to talk about the feelings of fishes, not being a fish himself. After some exchanges, the Daoist eventually wins the argument by refusing to submit to his opponents formal logic. The Pleasures of Fishes thus became a byword for freedom from restraints, one of the perennial ideals of Chinas literati, which represented either unachievable dream, for the members of the bureaucracy, or perceived reality, for those who had withdrawn from it. Daoist thought flourished in the early Ming period (1368-1644), although the Xuande Emperor (r. 1426-35) did not propagate himself as a particularly fervent proponent of Daoism. Among the imperial princes, however, patronage of Daoist causes was strong enough to provoke several memorials to be handed in to the court, which requested a ban on the furthering of new Daoist monasteries (Richard G. Wang, The Ming Prince and Daoism. Institutional Patronage of an Elite, Oxford, 2012). Even without the philosophical significance of this motif in mind, the serene state of the four fat fishes floating through water plants, seemingly at total ease within their surroundings, is palpable when immersing oneself in this pond, which emanates an air of peace and contentment. Grouped in two pairs, the fishes depict a carp and a mandarin fish, or Chinese perch, each confronted with a type of bream, fangyu, characterized by the bumpy forehead often developed by older fishes. While the former two are well known from Chinese porcelain designs, the latter, although, like the other two species, part of Chinas staple diet for centuries, are rarely depicted on porcelain. The fishes are alternating with three large and two small clumps of lotus with fully opened blooms, buds, pods and large leaves in different stages of development, interspersed with long undulating fronds of pond weeds, clumps of clover fern and some fallen flowers. The latter may be meant to evoke the enchanting topic of Liu Cais painting, where some fishes are chasing blossoms shed by an overhanging flowering branch. The deep, barbed mallow shape of the bowl, with ten sharp ridges inside and with the foot cut to correspond, cleverly reinforces the impression of rippling waves and together with the naturalistic depiction of the fishes creates an astonishingly vibrant, lively effect. On the present bowl, the painters managed to exploit the cobalt pigment to maximum effect and to create an amazingly rich tonal variation in this monochrome palette: the fishes are drawn with dark blue outlines and details over pale blue washes; on the leaves the veins are in contrast reserved in white, being incised through the blue washes down to the porcelain body; and the large leaves that are rendered with frayed edges, as if about to wilt, are accentuated with dark heaping and piling, a feature that appears to have been deliberately induced. A large wilting lotus leaf, similarly rendered with fuzzy edges, appears next to a diminutive bird in an ink painting of a lotus pond signed yubi (imperial brush), executed by the Xuande Emperor, who was not only a devoted patron of the arts but is also considered as a gifted artist himself; see Craig Clunas and Jessica Harrison-Hall, eds, Ming. 50 Years that Changed China, The British Museum, London, 2014, p. 177, fig. 154 (fig. 2). As a porcelain motif, the lotus pond was taken up by Jingdezhens porcelain painters already in the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), and some of the finest Yuan blue-and-white jars are painted with this subject, such as, for example, the fish jar in the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, from the Ataka collection (see Ty tji no tenkai/Masterpieces of Oriental Ceramics, The Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, 1999, cat. no. 33). The scene on the present bowl appears to have been directly inspired by such Yuan porcelain prototypes a very rare feature for Xuande imperial blue-and-white. The four fishes on our bowl depict the same species as those on the jar in the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; and another exhibited in 2002 at Eskenazi, London; and the feature of the frilly lotus leaves is already found on the famous Yuan jar in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, from the Oscar C. Raphael collection, which depicts ducks in a lotus pond. For the two fish jars see Chinese Art under the Mongols. The Yüan Dynasty (1279-1368), The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, 1968, cat. no. 155; and Two Rare Chinese Porcelain Fish Jars of the 14th and 16th Centuries, Eskenazi, London, 2002, cat. no. 1, where all three fish jars are illustrated together, compared with related Chinese ink paintings of fishes, including the painting by Liu Cai, and where the fish-pond motif is further discussed by Regina Krahl and Sarah Wong; for the Fitzwilliam Museums ducks jar see Margaret Medley, Yüan Porcelain and Stoneware, London, 1974, col. pl. C. Only one other Xuande bowl of this basic shape and design, of lower proportions and much smaller in size (18.4 cm), appears to have been published, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the Museums exhibition Mingdai Xuande guanyao jinghua tezhan tulu/Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Selected Hsüan-te Imperial Porcelains of the Ming Dynasty, Taipei, 1998, cat. no. 140 (fig. 1), but two such bowls are listed in the inventory of the holdings of the National Palace Museum Gugong ciqi lu [Record of porcelains from the Old Palace], Taipei, 1961-6, vol. 2, part 1, p. 124. No comparable piece has ever been offered at auction or seems to be preserved in any other public or private collection. The Ming imperial kilns experimented with this design also on even smaller bowls: a related mallow-shaped bowl (15 cm) discarded at the kilns, also of deep bell shape and painted with a similar design, has been reconstructed from sherds excavated at the Jingdezhen kiln sites, and included in the exhibition Jingdezhen chutu Ming Xuande guanyao ciqi/Xuande Imperial Porcelain excavated at Jingdezhen, Chang Foundation, Taipei, 1998, cat. no. 103-2 (fig. 3), together with a related fragmentary bowl of circular section (15.8 cm), cat. no. 103-1. The present bowl shape was also used for a Xuande bowl decorated with ten small dragon roundels and a band of petal panels, but to strikingly different effect; see Sothebys Hong Kong Twenty Years, 1973-1993, Hong Kong, 1993, pl. 60, for a bowl sold in these rooms, 16th November 1973, lot 135 (fig. 4). On the formal dragon bowl, the indentations emphasize the solemnity of the design; on the halcyon fish pond bowl, the undulant sides highlight the vivacious air of the painterly motif. A reduced version of this fish pond design can also be found on four brush washers of Xuande mark and period, of similar mallow-shaped section, and on some circular dishes, all with shallow sides and thus nowhere near as striking as the present piece, which undoubtedly displays the design to best advantage. Compare a brush washer illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, London, 1994-2010, vol. 4, no. 1653, sold in these rooms, 7th April 2011, lot 54, where the other three washers of this design are listed; for a dish of this design see the National Palace Museum exhibition 1998, op.cit., cat. no. 180, illustrated together with a dish with a lotus pond without fishes, cat. no. 179. Fragmentary washers and dishes of this design were also recovered from the waste heaps of the kilns, see the Chang Foundation exhibition, 1998, op.cit., cat. nos 19-2 and 86-2. The design was also copied later in the Ming and probably the Qing (1644-1911) dynasty. A very shallow mallow-shaped bowl (or deep dish) with a similar fish pond design, of Jiajing mark and period (1522-66), in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, was included in the Museums exhibition Fu shou kang ning. Jixiang tu'an ciqi tezhan tulu/Good Fortune, Long Life, Health, and Peace: A Special Exhibition of Porcelains with Auspicious Designs, Taipei, 1995, cat. no. 72; and a very large bowl of similar shape and design in the same museum, inscribed with a Xuande reign mark and still included as being of the period in the Museums 1960s inventory Gugong ciqi lu, op.cit., p. 124, was included as a later copy in the Museums exhibition Ming Xuande ciqi tezhan mulu/Catalogue of a Special Exhibition of Hsuan-te Period Porcelain, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1980, cat. no. 28; it probably dates from the Qing period.

  • HKGHongkong (S.A.R. Kina)
  • 2017-04-05
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Återrop

A MAGNIFICENT AND UNIQUE FALANGCAI 'GOLDEN PHEASANT' VASE BLUE ENAMEL MARK AND PERIOD OF QIANLONG

A MAGNIFICENT AND UNIQUE FALANGCAI 'GOLDEN PHEASANT' VASE BLUE ENAMEL MARK AND PERIOD OF QIANLONG, THIS IS A PREMIUM LOT. CLIENTS WHO WISH TO BID ON PREMIUM LOTS ARE REQUESTED TO COMPLETE THE PREMIUM LOT PRE-REGISTRATION 3 WORKING DAYS PRIOR TO THE SALE. BIDnow ONLINE BIDDING SERVICE IS NOT AVAILABLE.   of the rarefied guyuexuan type, the body of tapering ovoid shape resting on an unglazed foot enclosing the countersunk mark, surmounted by the tall cylindrical neck finished with a slightly lipped rim, finely potted in the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen in white porcelain of the purest homogenous structure and applied with an even milky-white glaze suffused with tiny bubbles and with a smooth silky surface; enamelled in the imperial palace workshops within the confines of the Forbidden City in the finest opaque 'foreign colours', applied in subtly shaded washes and immaculately depicted detail with a pair of golden pheasants perched on a knotty trunk, the male balancing on one slender yellow leg, the other leg held up to the rich red breast, the head turned back over the shoulder with the long sharp beak flanked by short hairs below the bright oval eye, picked out in black, yellow, red and pink enamels, and the straw-yellow crest falling back over the thick pinkish orange ruff and multi-coloured wing feathers, the long tail depicted in iron red and sepia with yellow spot markings extending to the tip of the longest feather, the female crouching below her mate, the detailing of her feathers subtly picked out in sepia and the only colour being the yellow and puce of her eye; the thick knotted trunk set with spots of pale greenish moss and extending to angled branches sparsely sprouting pale pinkish leaves, small bright blue and deep purple asters with yellow stamens clustering at the base below a rose, the two large pink flowers and a single bud borne on thorny, leafy stems with detailing picked out in black on the green, the whole forming a continuous scene complimented on the neck with a couplet reading Zhaozhao long li yue.  Suisui zhan chang chun, ('May you capture the "beautiful month' for days on end.  May you seize enduring spring year upon year.') and three seals jiali ('beautiful'), sishi and changchun ('enduring spring at all seasons'), the countersunk base with the four-character mark Qianlong nian zhi written within a double-square in a characteristic greyish blue enamel 20.3 cm., 8 in.

  • HKGHongkong (S.A.R. Kina)
  • 2011-04-07
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AN OUTSTANDING BLUE AND WHITE VASE WITH FRUIT SPRAYS, MEIPING MING DYNASTY, YONGLE PERIOD

AN OUTSTANDING BLUE AND WHITE VASE WITH FRUIT SPRAYS, MEIPING MING DYNASTY, YONGLE PERIOD, THIS IS A PREMIUM LOT. CLIENTS WHO WISH TO BID ON PREMIUM LOTS MAY BE REQUESTED BY SOTHEBY'S TO COMPLETE THE PRE-REGISTRATION APPLICATION FORM AND TO DELIVER TO SOTHEBY'S A DEPOSIT OF HK$1,000,000, OR SUCH OTHER HIGHER AMOUNT AS MAY BE DETERMINED BY SOTHEBY'S, AND ANY FINANCIAL REFERENCES, GUARANTEES AND/OR SUCH OTHER SECURITY AS SOTHEBY'S MAY REQUIRE IN ITS ABSOLUTE DISCRETION AS SECURITY FOR THEIR BID. THE BIDnow ONLINE BIDDING SERVICE IS NOT AVAILABLE FOR PREMIUM LOTS. evenly potted of generous proportions with the full rounded shoulders rising at a gently flaring angle from the base, well painted in lively style with a wide band of ten fruit sprays arranged in an alternating double register, the upper register showing lychee, pomegranate, peach, longan, loquat, the lower one with crab apple, melon, ginkgo, cherry, and grape, all between a triple line border above and a five-line border below, the shoulders with a decorative band of twelve flower sprigs including two types of lotus, chrysanthemum, camellia, hibiscus and tea, each contained within a collar formed from interlocking upright and pendent ruyi lappets, all enclosing the white collar and small waisted mouth, the lower body with border of upright lotus lappets each enclosing a further flower sprig similar to those in the upper band, all above a narrow classic leafy scroll band above the foot, the underglaze cobalt blue of intense purplish-blue colour with pronounced 'heaping and piling' emphasising the three-dimensional quality of the design, the unglazed foot and slightly countersunk base showing the fine white ware dotted with tiny brown iron spots 36.5 cm., 14 3/8 in.

  • HKGHongkong (S.A.R. Kina)
  • 2011-10-04
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A FINE AND EXQUISITE FAMILLE-ROSE FLORAL MEDALLION BOTTLE VASE BLUE ENAMEL MARK AND PERIOD OF QIANLONG

A FINE AND EXQUISITE FAMILLE-ROSE FLORAL MEDALLION BOTTLE VASE ENAMELLED IN THE PALACE WORKSHOPS BLUE ENAMEL MARK AND PERIOD OF QIANLONG, THIS IS A PREMIUM LOT. CLIENTS WHO WISH TO BID ON PREMIUM LOTS ARE REQUESTED TO COMPLETE THE PREMIUM LOT PRE-REGISTRATION 3 WORKING DAYS PRIOR TO THE SALE. BIDnow ONLINE BIDDING SERVICE IS NOT AVALIABLE. Superbly potted, the slightly compressed spherical body sweeping up to a tall slender neck with a cupped mouth, in a tour-de-force of painting the fine white body covered in a clear glaze and decorated with four round white medallions each containing finely enamelled flowers, one with yellow day lilies growing beside pink and red poppies with small blue daisies on the side, the second with pink and red roses blooming from a bush with bamboo and asters, the third with a nandina bush laden with ripe red berries arching over a stand of narcissus with lingzhi fungus to the side, the final medallion with rich yellow hollyhock growing beside red and yellowish green leafy stems, all reserved on the blue ground decorated with pink and yellow bats swooping amidst multi-coloured clouds, between a border of lappets picked out in rose-pink enclosed by a narrow yellow border and two shades of green radiating from the foot and a puce-ground border painted with archaistic green and pink dragons on the shoulder, the raised collar picked out in orange, the splayed foot encircled by a pale blue ground border painted with a feathery pink scroll above a thin yellow line, all below a tall neck decorated with stylised multi-coloured flowers borne on scrolling leafy stems against a rich yellow ground, all between two borders of ruyi heads, one predominantly blue and the other pink, the cupped mouth with a border of small petals on the underside, the base inscribed with a blue enamel mark Qianlong nianzhi within a double square, the mate offered in the proceeding lot 18.4 cm., 7 1/4 in.

  • HKGHongkong (S.A.R. Kina)
  • 2010-10-06
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A large imperial portrait of consort chunhui by giuseppe castiglione

Hanging scroll, ink and colour on silk, majestically and vividly painted in precise detail with Imperial Noble Consort Chunhui seated in formal robes (chao fu) on an elaborate throne, the full-length imperial-portrait (shengrong) of the imperial consort resplendently rendered with a well-proportioned and porcelain-complexioned face, the regal yet serene expression accentuated with a powerful gaze transmitted from her almond-shaped eyes, the lips picked out with a warm ombré coral colour, flanked by a pair of earlobes adorned with three embellished double-gourd drop earrings on each side, clad in a fur-edged ceremonial costume comprising a full-length robe (chao pao) under a further full-length sleeveless vest (chao gua) with shoulder epaulettes projecting outwards from both shoulders, the vest opening down the centre along a border enclosing stylised lingzhi blooms, the garment elaborately decorated with five-clawed scaly dragons soaring sinuously amidst multi-coloured lingzhi blooms, above stylised 'shou' roundels and brightly coloured lishui diagonal stripes, all against a rich blue ground, the grandeur further highlighted with long beaded necklaces (chao zhu) of varying colours and sizes elegantly hanging over and around the figure's upper torso, all below a kerchief under a court hat (chao guan) with a black fur brim and a crown decorated with red floss silk tassels and ornamented gold phoenix, the golden-yellow rectangular throne framed on three sides with an ornate throne-back entwined with ferocious dragons sinuously writhing around the members, all supported on dragon-head cabriole legs terminating in claw-and-ball feet, the figure seated on a thick yellow-ground cushion decorated in multi-coloured threads with auspicious emblems, inscribed on the right with five characters by the Qianlong Emperor reading Chunhui Huangguifei ('Imperial Noble Consort Chunhui'), mounted on imperial yellow silk embroidered with phoenix amidst swirling clouds Discussing the 'Portrait of Consort Chunhui in Ceremonial Costume' Nie Chongzheng There exist many portrait paintings of past emperors and their consorts, as recorded in the archives of the Qing dynasty palace, from the first Qing dynasty reign of Shunzhi, until the reign of the Xuantong Emperor at the end of the dynasty. All dressed in the full official regalia of the period, they provide us with a wealth of information about these individuals and their appearances.  This is especially the case during the Qianlong period. The Qianlong Emperor lived to the ripe old age of 89, and reigned for 60 of those years, and even after abdicating in favour of his heir the Jiaqing Emperor, he still reigned supreme for a further three years. During this long reign, he frequently and consistently commissioned artists to paint portraits of him and his empress and consorts. From his youth as the heir apparent, right through his advanced age, he was painted at various stages and intervals by different artists. Not only do these provide visual testaments of the Qianlong Emperor, but they also immortalise his consorts in these portraits. In the first half of the Qianlong Emperor’s reign, the Italian painter Lang Shining (Giuseppe Castiglione) painted several portraits of the emperor and his consorts. He was born in 1688 (the 27th year of the Kangxi reign, Qing Dynasty) and was a painter at the imperial court from the 54th year of the Kangxi reign (1715) when he arrived in China, and never retired from his position, passing away in the 31st year of Qianlong’s reign (1766). His remains have been buried far from his homeland, in Beijing and still rest there today. Lang Shining played an important role in painting such imperial portraits. The works that remain allow us to appreciate the fruit of his labour, and are also noted down in the records of the imperial palace. Lang Shining received his basic artistic training in Europe and had a strong grasp of the fundamentals of portraiture. His true-to-life portraits were greatly admired by the Qianlong Emperor, and as such, resulted in his commissioning Lang Shining to paint many of these imperial portraits. Therefore, many of the portraits painted during the first half of Qianlong’s reign were by Lang Shining’s own hands. However, because most of these portraits do not bear the artist’s name or seal, it has created problems in attributing these works. This is because while it was deemed a great honour to be able to paint the portrait of the emperor or his consorts, it was, in fact, a duty to the ruler, and as such, to show due respect to the emperor and the members of the imperial family. Artists were not usually allowed to leave their mark on these portraits. In the Palace Museum, Beijing, and the National Palace Museum, Taipei, there are collections of imperial portraits, especially those portraying the imperial family in ceremonial costumes. Although the lack of an artist’s signature or seal may seem to present problems in the task of authentication, identification and attribution during the Qianlong period, the differences in techniques and styles between the European painters at the Chinese court, and the Chinese painters working in the Palace can be readily discerned by experts analysing this field and thus do not necessarily pose a problem. We now turn to the Portrait of Consort Chunhui. It is a portrait of one of the Qianlong Emperor’s consorts, which is painted in ink and colour on silk, and measures 198 by 123 cm. It does not bear any inscription or artist’s seal, and is also without any Qing official collector’s seal. However, on the right hand side of the subject matter, there is a line in calligraphic script, naming her Consort Chunhui. This is undoubtedly by the hand of the Qianlong Emperor. Information from records state that this consort was of Manchu origin, called Su Jiashi, daughter of Su Zhaonan, born in the 52nd year of the Kangxi reign (1713), and was two years younger than the Qianlong Emperor. During the Yongzheng period she was a lady-in-waiting, and soon after Qianlong ascended to the throne she was made imperial consort, and in the 2nd year of Qianlong’s reign (1737) was named Chunfei. In the 10th year of Qianglong’s reign (1745), she became Chun Guifei. In the 25th year of the Qianlong reign (1760), she was made Chun Huang Guifei. She passed away the same year at the age of 48.  Posthumously, she was awarded the title ‘Consort Chunhui’ by the Emperor. This painting is currently the only example of her in full ceremonial costume, and the inscription by the emperor, most likely written after her death, demonstrates his remembrance of his deceased consort. From this scroll, it is evident that the painter was skilled in analysing structure and perspective – the subject matter’s facial features are rendered using both light and shade, and are clear and distinct. In addition, the sides of the nose and cheeks have been painted to provide three-dimensionality, at the same time intricately depicting the flesh and tone of skin. The artist was also proficient in painting the throne and floor covering. Chunhui is also depicted on Lang Shining’s Portraits of the Qianlong Emperor, the Empress, and Eleven Imperial Consorts (fig. 1), now in the Cleveland Museum of Art. In this work, produced in the first year of Qianlong’s reign, Chunhui is fourth in the sequence (fig. 2). Comparing the two portraits of the imperial consort, it is clear that they are of the same person, save for the fact that the subject in the present portrait is slightly older than that in the group portrait; both portraits are by the same artist. As the Portraits of the Qianlong Emperor, the Empress, and Eleven Imperial Consorts is inarguably by the hand of Lang Shining, even though there is no seal on the painting, by inference, the European style and technique used in the present scroll attribute the painting to Lang Shining. As a distinctive European style can be detected, as well as taking into account the striking similarities, it is not unreasonable to attribute this work to Lang Shining. However as the lines of drapery, the throne and the carpet are painted with a more Chinese technique, it is likely that these areas were painted by Chinese students of Lang Shining, filling in the outline that he had left for them to complete. This style, however, still retains Qing official style. Similar portraits of consorts in ceremonial costume include the Portrait of Empress Xiaoxian (fig. 3) as well as the Portrait of Consort Huixian (fig. 4), both in the Palace Museum, Beijing. These are painted with similar stylistic features attention to detail and a distinct European flavour, and are therefore all attributed to Lang Shining. Naturally, during Lang Shining’s earlier years, his artistic victor allowed for his ability to use close detailing in the rendering of the subject, and he would have completed the whole painting single-handedly; in his later years, his advanced age did not allow for this, and he then focused on the main subject matter, leaving his Chinese students to fill in the outline of the clothing and the background, which gave rise to the latent inconsistencies in his portrait paintings. ___________________________________________________________ Guiseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), a native of Milan, arrived in Beijing in 1715 and served under three emperors, Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong for over 51 years. As a Jesuit missionary he entered the milieu of the imperial workshops and obtained the patronage and favour of all three emperors. He was trained by his order as a painter of religious subjects before being sent to China and became an accomplished painter. At the Chinese court he was obliged to paint under the direct supervision of the emperor. Among the three rulers he served under, the Qianlong Emperor was possibly the most demanding, supervising every aspect of the work down to the smallest detail. By adapting traditions and Chinese media, he created a unique style and developed a manner of painting that was pleasing to the imperial taste. He brought Western conventions of shading and depiction of volume and space to his courtly subject matter and became an expert in painting on silk and on paper as well as doing murals. Castiglione excelled in portrait painting, a style much in demand for ceremonial occasions and in the event of an imperial death. The Qianlong Emperor’s admiration of his portraits is apparent from comments inscribed on the hanging scrolls Spring’s Peaceful Message in the Palace Museum, Beijing, and illustrated in Yu Hui, ‘Naturalism in Qing Imperial Group Portraiture’, Orientations, vol. 26, no. 7, July/August 1995, p. 81. Yu (ibid., p. 80) translates the emperor’s comments as follows: ‘Castiglione excelled in portraying likeness, (this portrait) was painted for me in my youth’. The present painting is one of the very few extant imperial portraits that can be unequivocally attributed to Castiglione. It is very close in style and identical in its setting to Castiglione’s famous Portrait of Empress Xiaoxian in the Palace Museum, Beijing, which is illustrated in Qingdai gongting shenghuo, Hong Kong, 1985, p. 184. Another painting using the same setting, but perhaps executed by other court painters working closely together with Castiglione, and not inscribed by the Emperor like the present painting, is the Portrait of Empress Xiaoyi Chu, also in the Palace Museum, Beijing, included in the exhibition, Empresses and their Court Arts in the Forbidden City, Tokyo, 1997, cat. no. 54. Compare also a half-portrait of another imperial consort attributed to Castiglione, Portrait of Consort Huixian in the Palace Museum, also exhibited in Tokyo, 1997, ibid., cat. no. 61. The portrait of Chunhui is painted in the traditional shengrong style, a formal portrait style made for ceremonial works depicting the subject in a still pose without any facial expression. Castiglione’s brushwork gives his subject a beauty and gentility befitting a high ranking court lady. She looks young and beautiful, with a sensitive expression on her face achieved by the use of the European pictorial technique of light ‘shadowing’. Castiglione captured the inner vitality of his subject, producing a Chinese style portrait with Western influence. In the portrait, Chunhui is wearing an official Manchu court robe for winter called chao fu and a first-rank imperial consort’s winter hat called chao guan. The chao guan is heavily adorned with gold, precious stones and pearls, resembling a crown. A similar chao guan is illustrated in Gary Dickinson and Linda Wrigglesworth, Imperial Wardrobe, Berkeley, 2000, pl. 152. Sources Cécile and Michel Beurdeley, Castiglione, Peintre Jésuit à la Cour de Chine, Fribourg, 1971. Exhibition of Treasures from the Palace Museum, Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo, 1988. Yang Boda, 'Castiglione at the Qing Court', Orientations, vol. 19, no. 11 November 1988, pp. 44-51. Zhu Jiajin, 'Castiglione's Tielu Paintings', Orientations, vol. 19, no. 11, November 1988, pp. 80-83. Wu Hung, 'Emperor's Masquerade - Costume Portraits of Yongzheng and Qianlong', Orientations, vol. 26, no. 7, July/August 1995, pp. 25-41. Yu Hui, 'Naturalism in Qing Imperial Group Portraiture', Orientations, vol. 26, no. 7, July/August 1995, pp. 42-50. Shan Guoqing, 'Gentlewoman Paintings of the Qing Palace Ateliers', Orientations, vol. 26, no. 7, July/August 1995, pp. 56-59. Empresses and their Court Arts in the Forbidden City, Sezon Museum of Art, Tokyo, 1997. Gary Dickinson and Linda Wrigglesworth, Imperial Wardrobe, Berkeley, 2000. Emperor Qianlong's Grand Cultural Enterprise, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2002. The Life of Emperor Qian Long, Macao Museum of Art, Macao, 2002.

  • HKGHongkong (S.A.R. Kina)
  • 2015-10-07
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250 lm, 1964

Coachwork by Carrozzeria ScagliettiChassis no. 6107• An Italian operatic masterpiece of sound and color• One of the finest original examples of Ferrari’s first mid-engined car• Finished 8th overall and 1st in class at the 1968 24 Hours of Daytona• A time capsule that is being publicly seen and offered for the first time in decades Please note that Sotheby’s and/or RM owns the lot in whole or in part or has an economic interest in the lot equivalent to an ownership interest.An import duty of 2.5% of the purchase price is payable on this lot if the buyer is a resident of the United States. At times, the defining barometer of a motor car’s beauty is dependent on speed: how does it look at full speed as opposed to simply sitting statically on a manicured concours lawn or in a finely-lit private collection? By that qualifier alone, the Ferrari 250 LM is the epitome of design perfection. It is a purebred racing car that stirs the soul and enlivens the senses of not only the driver, but also the spectator, whether it’s being off-loaded from its transporter or roaring at breakneck speed down the famed Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans, in the middle of the night or in the pouring rain. Indeed, as Marcel Massini, the preeminent Ferrari historian declared, “Ferrari’s 250 LM is one of the most spectacular mid-engined sports cars ever built. A true competition race car rarer than the legendary 250 GTO, and the last Ferrari to win the gruelling 24-hour race at Le Mans.” Certainly the defining decision that affects the 250 LM’s shape is the mid-engined configuration, which allowed the artisans at Scaglietti to wrap the bodywork around the chassis in a heretofore unseen manner. At just under 44-inches tall, the car is low, sleek, and menacing. The voluptuous fenders over the rear wheel arches flow beautifully to the kammback tail, a feature that linked the LM to Ferraris of years past, and also to Ferraris of years to come. Add to that the state-of-the-art mechanical specifications of 320 horsepower, a rip-snorting Ferrari V-12 engine, a five-speed gearbox, four-wheel suspension, and disc brakes, and the resultant combination sees nothing but checkered flags whenever it takes to the track. CHASSIS NUMBER 6107 Chassis number 6107 is the 24th car of only 32 total 250 LM examples produced, and it is particularly special, because its first owner did not have racing in mind when he acquired the car. In fact, the car was used exclusively as a road car and enjoyed as such on open California roads! Steven Earle, of Santa Barbara, California, is well-known within the vintage racing community as the founder and longtime organizer of the Monterey Historic Automobile Races, and he ordered this car in the early summer of 1964 through Rezzaghi Motors, in San Francisco. The chassis was completed by the factory on July 23, 1964, with the body being eventually finished in Rosso Cina paint (a deep shade of red) and equipped with the LM’s standard spartan road car amenities, including blue corduroy cloth upholstery. Following completion, 6107 was shipped to San Francisco directly by air, not passing through the traditional conduit of importer Chinetti Motors, and it was delivered to Mr. Earle in November 1964. Registering the car for road use, with California tags reading “MKW 781,” Mr. Earle generally used it about town over the next several years, accruing only a few thousand miles during his ownership and photographing the car both at home and on the famous Mulholland Drive, where the car was an absolute thrill to drive. In 1966, desiring to attract less attention from police, he had the Ferrari repainted in a dark blue metallic color, and it was in this livery that the car appeared for sale in an advertisement in the January 1967 issue of Road & Track magazine. In the ad, Mr. Earle describes the car as “amazingly docile” and “very easy to drive.” Declaring the car to have accrued 3,000 miles on highways only, and never raced, Mr. Earle sought $14,750 for the rare Ferrari. In March 1967, a buyer was found in Chris Cord; he was a friend of Mr. Earle’s who resided in Beverly Hills and is better recognized as the grandson of E.L. Cord, the renowned founder of the pre-war American luxury marque of the same name. As Mr. Earle describes in a 1981 letter to Mr. Massini, Mr. Cord had previously purchased a different LM, but was dismayed when it arrived bodied in fiberglass, a factory decision on which he had not been consulted. In addition to experiencing significant flex, the fiberglass material caused Mr. Cord to develop an allergic reaction, eventually forcing him to sell the car in October 1965. During Mr. Cord’s brief year of ownership, the car was displayed by Chic Vandagriff’s renowned dealership, Hollywood Sports Cars, as the centerpiece of their stand at the Los Angeles Auto Expo in September 1967. RACECO AND THE GENTLEMEN FROM ECUADOR Soon thereafter, in early 1968, the race career of 6107 began in earnest, when the car was purchased from Mr. Cord by Guillermo Ortega and Fausto Merello, two Ecuadorean drivers who competed under the banner of the Raceco team. With little time to prepare, Raceco equipped 6107 for “Sports” Class endurance racing with the addition of four roof-mounted recognition lights and one so-called “Cyclops” lamp, which was centrally mounted on the front of the hood. Repainted a deep shade of red and wearing #34, chassis 6107 was entered in the 24 Hours of Daytona on February 4, where it was driven by Ortega, Merello, and John Gunn. It qualified for an impressive 14th place on the starting grid. Bested only by prototypes like Porsche’s 907 and the Autodelta team’s Alfa Romeo Type 33/2 entries (as well as a lone Shelby Mustang), the then four-year-old 250 LM managed an amazing 8th place overall finish and a 1st in class, outpacing every entry from the GT Class and numerous prototypes and Trans-Am cars. Two-and-a-half months later, the 250 LM was campaigned again by Raceco, this time at the 12 Hours of Sebring. With the car now painted yellow and racing as #39, the same team of drivers attempted to repeat their Daytona success, but a clutch failure after 33 laps forced an early retirement. In February 1969, chassis 6107 was entered by Raceco at the 24 Hours of Daytona again, with Merello, who was joined by Edward Alvarez and legendary Ferrari driver Umberto Maglioli. Unfortunately, the presence of the 1954 Carrera Panamericana winner was of no consequence, and the car (now wearing #38) was again forced to an early exit, this time retiring after lap 68 with engine troubles. Following these setbacks, Mr. Merello took the 250 LM home to Ecuador, where the recent creation of the Autodromo Internacional de Yahuarcocha in Ibarra was attracting some of the world’s top drivers. With Merello and Pascal Michelet, who bought out Ortega’s stake in the car, at the wheel, 6107 was entered at the inaugural Yahuarcocha race in 1970. Still competitive, Merello and Michelet led much of the race, until an engine failure forced them to retire. The car also competed at the 12 Hours of Ecuador on September 26, 1971, though it is unknown how well the car fared. Ultimately, Michelet purchased the other 50 percent stake from Merello and continued to race 6107 throughout Ecuador and Peru. It is also believed to have been entered by the French expatriate as #36 at the 1974 24 Hours of Le Mans, though the car never arrived for qualifying. Ultimately, in 1974, the technical rules were changed in Ecuador, and displacement was limited to 3,000 cubic centimeters. As a result, Michelet decided to sell the car. In 1975, he found a buyer in Londoner Robs Lamplough. In February of the following year, Lamplough sold this car to fellow Englishman Stephen Pilkington, of Lancashire; he was a known collector of fine race cars and immediately recognized 6107’s merit and potential, declaring “the chassis was never rusted. It was superb.”  Ferrari specialist Bob Houghton conducted a sympathetic restoration of the car, with it being refinished in red, as when it was first delivered, but it was never actively raced again. In 1983, chassis 6107 was purchased by a prominent Japanese collector, who also recognized the car’s inherent importance, and he put it on display in his personal garage for the next three decades. Believed to have as few as 10,000 original miles on its fully matching-numbers driveline, this phenomenal 250 LM, now gently freshened and returned to driving state, represents the zenith of 1960s vintage Ferrari collecting, claiming rarity, importance of model, celebrated beauty of design, and a legitimate racing pedigree. It is offered now for the first time in decades, and it has not been seen by the general public in as many years. Chassis 6107 is notable as perhaps the most original example with such an important racing record. Indeed, few known examples of notable originality lack a competition record of such significance. In fact, 6017 further distinguishes itself from others, as it is a car of clear, documented provenance and period correctness, which stands in stark contrast to some of its 31 colleagues, where years of racing and ownership changes have taken their toll on originality. Associated with some of racing’s most illustrious names, this superlative Ferrari offers an extremely rare opportunity to acquire one of the finest known 250 LM examples. Its public availability, which is the first in many decades, is a moment of tremendous historic importance. With over 300 horsepower roaring behind one’s back, and the driver seated inches from the ground at over 150 mph, the racing enthusiast will attest to the symphony of power, color, and noise that is a Ferrari 250 LM at full throttle, be it at full speed in the Le Mans retrospective or racing through the switchbacks on Mulholland Drive.

  • USAUSA
  • 2013-11-21
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An exquisite pair of yellow ground famille-rose double-gourd vases

THIS IS A PREMIUM LOT. CLIENTS WHO WISH TO BID ON PREMIUM LOTS MAY BE REQUESTED BY SOTHEBY'S TO COMPLETE THE PRE-REGISTRATION APPLICATION FORM AND TO DELIVER TO SOTHEBY'S A DEPOSIT OF HK$2,500,000, OR SUCH OTHER HIGHER AMOUNT AS MAY BE DETERMINED BY SOTHEBY'S, AND ANY FINANCIAL REFERENCES, GUARANTEES AND/OR SUCH OTHER SECURITY AS SOTHEBY'S MAY REQUIRE IN ITS ABSOLUTE DISCRETION AS SECURITY FOR THE BID. THE BIDnow ONLINE BIDDING SERVICE IS NOT AVAILABLE FOR PREMIUM LOTS.   each exquisitely potted, of flattened double-gourd form with a slender upper bulb resting on a compressed lower body and short slightly splayed foot, set with two delicate loop handles with arrow-shaped terminals, masterfully enamelled against a rich yellow ground, the lower bulb with a central rosette formed of an iron-red shou medallion reserved either on a gold or white ground, encircled by a row of small pink pointed petals and a blue-enamelled corolla of longer scrolling blades, all within a circle of five confronting iron-red bats, further wreathed by scrolling feathery leaves borne on interlocked undulating stems climbing towards the neck, the foliage painted in complex shades of green with attendant buds and occasional pale blue, iron-red or rose-pink leaves, the sides and the upper bulb similarly decorated with shou medallions encircled by short pointed petals, either pale blue or pale green, and a starburst of longer pink-enamelled scrolling blades, all wreathed by feathery scrolls, the handles picked out with a three-floret spray, one vase with a blue floret between a pale red and a pink flower, the other with a central pink flower, between an orange and a blue blossom, the foot encircled by a band of pendent pink ruyi centred with a yellow dot and finely outlined with a blue enamel fringe against a yellow ground, the rim and footring gilt, the underside of the handles, the interior and the base glazed in soft pale turquoise, the base inscribed with a six-character seal mark in underglaze blue within a square panel reserved in white on the turquoise ground, carved wood stands Qianlong Emperor’s Auspicious Wufu Vases Hajni Elias The present pair of vases is remarkable for its splendid decoration and eye-catching double-gourd form. Every aspect of the design, delicately painted with an impressive array of colours, conveys an auspicious message and is filled with lucky symbols. On each side, the large open-winged bats, painted in striking iron red, are carefully positioned to encircle the shou medallions in the centre of the body and surrounded by carefully shaded floral scrolls which appear to be climbing towards the neck. The shading and overlapping of different colours, as well as the arrangement of the composition on a double-gourd form required formidable organization and skill from the artist. The bats echo those seen on a Qianlong mark and period revolving double-gourd vase, painted in the yangcai enamels, where the bats can be seen flying amongst clouds, included in the National Palace Museum exhibition Stunning Decorative Porcelains from the Ch’ien-lung Reign, Taipei, 2009, cat. no. 67. Interestingly, in Chinese design, gourds and bats are frequently grouped together and appear to form a pattern, even if one is present in the shape and the other in the decoration. Bats, shou medallion and floral scroll are also main design elements found on a yellow-ground bottle form vase included ibid., pl. 32, from the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei. Red bats (hongfu) convey the message of ‘vast blessings’ as the word for bat in Chinese is fu, meaning riches and blessing, and the word red is hong which also means ‘vast’. Five bats (wufu) represent the ‘Five Blessings’ of old age, wealth, health, love of virtue and a peaceful death.  Bats and the shou medallion together convey the message of ‘may you possess both blessings and longevity (fushou shuangquan) with the bat standing for blessings and the shou character symbolizing longevity. The handles in the shape of ruyi sceptres convey the message ‘as you wish’ or stand for the wish-granting wand, while the double-gourd shape emulates the bottle gourd a pun for ‘blessings and ‘emolument’. For further reading on the meaning of symbols in Chinese art see Teresa Tse Bartholomew, Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art, San Francisco, 2006. These vases, with their fine potting, splendid decoration rich in auspicious symbolism, would have been a perfect birthday or wedding gift for the Emperor or one of his family members. These vases belong to a select group of pieces known as yangcai  porcelain that are closely associated with the aesthetic taste of the Qianlong emperor and the achievement of Tang Ying, supervisor of the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen. According to the study of Liao Pao-Show, ‘On Yang-ts’ai Porcelains of the Ch’ien-lung Reign’, Stunning Decorative Porcelains from the Ch’iern-lung Reign, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2009, p. 32, they are wares that were made during a short period, between the fifth and ninth years of Qianlong’s reign (1740-1744), demonstrating the emperor’s confidence in the early stages of his rule. The term ‘yangcai’, used officially by the Qing court as well as the emperor himself, indicates a link with the West, specifically the influence of techniques borrowed from paintings such as the application of Western-style shading, use of white pigment to show light and shadow and special Western-style floral compositions, much of which can be seen on the decoration of these vases. Qianlong was not only fond of yangcai pieces, but considered them to be examples of the technical and artistic innovations of his reign. While utilitarian vessels, such as bowls and teacups, were fired in mass quantities, larger vases were limited in number. Those that can be found in pairs, including the present example, are even more special. Liao further notes, ibid., p. 35, that ‘the  vast majority of those [yangcai porcelain] that were fired successfully were stored in the Ch’ien-ch’ing-kung Palace [Qianqing Gong or Palace of Heavenly Purity], although a few were put on display at the Yuan-ming-yuan garden in the Summer Palace’. Another important aspect of yangcai porcelain is that they were made for imperial use and not as gifts from the court. This is confirmed by the Qing Court inventories of the Qianqing Gong that was the Emperor’s main residence and where the majority of yangcai pieces were stored. A slightly taller vase of the same shape but covered in a deep-blue glaze and painted in gilt with a combination of auspicious design elements, in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, was included in the museum’s Special Exhibition of K’ang-His, Yung-cheng and Ch’ien-Lung Porcelain Ware from the Ch’ing Dynasty in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1986, cat. no. 78. It is also comparable with blue-and-white vases of related flattened double-gourd body painted on either side with a shou medallion flanked by two descending three-clawed dragons, the handles similarly in the form of ruyi sceptres and bearing a Qianlong reign mark and of the period. For example, see one published in the Illustrated Catalogue of Ch’ing Dynasty Porcelain in the National Palace Museum: Ch’ien-lung and Other Wares, vol. II, Tokyo, 1981, pl. 3; another, from the Qing Court collection and still in Beijing, included in The Official Kiln Porcelain of the Chinese Qing Dynasty, Shanghai, 2003, pl. 277; and a third example sold in these rooms, 30th October 2000, lot 192. A much taller Qianlong vase of related shape decorated with dragons and clouds in underglaze-blue and red on a yellow-ground, from the collection of M. Calmann, Paris, was included in the International Exhibition of Chinese Art, the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1935-6, cat. no. 1760. The vases are from the collection of Mrs. Christian Holmes (1871-1941) (fig. 1), née Bettie Fleischmann, born in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Charles Fleischmann and Henrietta Robertson. Mrs. Holmes' father, together with her uncle Maximilian, were responsible for commercially produced yeast that revolutionized the way people baked and was the basis for today's mass production and consumption of bread. In 1892, she married Dr. Christian Ramus Holmes (1858-1920), son of a Danish miller and a specialist in diseases of the eye, ear, nose and throat. Dr. Holmes was permanent chairman of the New Hospital Commission of Cincinnati and was the leader in the movement that led to the establishment in Cincinnati of one of the finest modern general hospitals in the nation. Following her husband's death, Mrs. Holmes moved to Sands Point, Lewis in Long Island, New York, where she built her famous residence called 'The Chimneys', designed by the architect Edgar Irving Williams and completed in 1929. Mrs. Holmes was a noted philanthropist and a prominent figure in the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform. She actively supported many academic and musical institutions such as the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera Guild, being a patron for both organizations. She owned a splendid art collection, which included Chinese archaic bronzes and ceramics (fig . 2). Her bronzes are published in the catalogue titled Selected Ancient Chinese Bronzes from the Collection of Mrs. Christian Holmes. (For further information on Mrs. Holmes see Roy Davids and Dominic Jellinek, Provenance, 2011, pp. 239-40.).

  • HKGHongkong (S.A.R. Kina)
  • 2012-10-09
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