As Christie’s New York celebrates Asian Art Week this month, a major sale of Chinese ceramics and artwork will be held September 22-23, featuring works from important private and institutions.
Leading the sale are a 14th-century Longquan octagonal celadon vase, a mid-17th-century massive famille verte scroll vase, and three porcelain pieces of Yongzheng’s mark and period: a large, hand-decorated celadon vase. the gold vase, a ge-type vase and a rare eel-skin glazed “narcissus bowl” – all of which have one thing in common: the green color palette.
This article is divided into two parts – the first deals with the three Yongzheng ceramics and can be accessed here; while this second concerns the other flagship lots.
Lot 927 | An octagonal vase in molded Longquan celadon and biscuit, meiping
Yuan dynasty, 14th century
- Chingwah Lee Collection (1901-1980), San Francisco
- Sotheby’s Los Angeles, June 8, 1981, lot 306
- Mr. and Mrs. Jack Chia Collection, Singapore
- An important private collection of Chinese celadons and other ceramics: Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 5 November 1996, lot 611
- Eskenazi, London
- A gentleman’s property; Christie’s New York, March 22, 1999, lot 271
Estimate: $600,000 to $800,000
The rare reserved bisque celadon octagonal vase previously belonged to the collection of San Francisco-born Chinese actor Chingwah Lee. Reputed to have played in The good ground (1937), Flower Drum Song (1961) and Thirty seconds over Tokyo (1944), little known to many, is that he was also an authority on Asian art in his hometown in the 1940s and 1950s.
Instilled with an appreciation for Chinese art and history from an early age, he had formed a large collection of Chinese art especially ceramics. When Lee died in 1980, his collection of antiquities went on sale at Sotheby’s Los Angeles the following year. The sale ultimately brought in over a million dollars – a significant sum at the time.
This is where Jack Chia, a wealthy Singaporean businessman, acquired the current lot. In the 1990s, the vase appeared twice at auction and was once owned by Eskenazi, one of the world’s most esteemed Chinese art dealers, known as the “godfather of Chinese antiquities”.
Chingwah Lee was a Chinese antique collector
Chingwah Lee (right) starred in The Good Ground (1937)
Longquan kilns, located in the city of Longquan in Zhejiang province, began to operate at the beginning of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). Prospered during the dynasties from the Southern Song to the Yuan (1127-1368), Longquan wares not only served as tributes to the royal court, but also the mainstay of overseas trade, where they were exported to Japan , the Philippines, Malaysia and further afield to Europe. Since the middle of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the kiln began its decline.
A decorating technique, in which parts of the decoration were left unglazed to contrast with the jade-like green glaze, took hold on high-quality wares made in Longquan kilns during the Yuan Dynasty. Due to very small amounts of iron oxide in the body material, when the wares were fired and oxygen was allowed to re-enter the kiln, the surface of the unglazed areas became reddish brown – as on the current batch.
The figures among the clouds in the central panels of this octagonal vase represent the Eight Daoist Immortals – which are relatively rare on Yuan dynasty ceramics. In international museums, several similar examples could be found, with two in the British Museum being the closest. Of these two octagonal Longquan celadon vases, one is decorated with the eight Taoist figures – as seen on this lot, the other is carved with Taoist immortals and four floral motifs.
A similar example in the British Museum, carved with eight Taoist immortals
Another similar example in the British Museum, carved with Taoist immortals and four floral designs
Lot 928 | A ‘Romance of Three Kingdom’ massive famille verte scroll vase
Kangxi period (1662 – 1722)
Provenance (modified by value):
- Sotheby’s London, February 27, 1973, lot 80
- Sotheby’s London, 7 November 2007, lot 329, sold for: £108,500
Estimate: $200,000 – $300,000
The imposing famille verte scroll vase was created in the mid-17th century, when the collapse of the Ming dynasty freed the potters of Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Provence – the “porcelain town” of China – from the influence imperial. Government restrictions on kilns have eased, giving artisans more freedom to experiment with creative new decorations using different color palettes, including blue and white, and the green family – known as ” five colors” in Chinese.
As the production of ceramics shifted to appeal to the literate class, decoration was especially popular with famous episodes from the lives of notable scholars and heroes in Chinese history or popular novels . Painted on the present scroll vase is a scene of generals and soldiers chasing a deer – a symbol of state power in Chinese culture. According to Christie’s, this hunting expedition is Romance of the Three Kingdomswhich is acclaimed as one of the four great classic novels.
Although many of the best famille verte ceramics of the Kangxi period were made in traditional kilns, their prices are not necessarily lower than those produced in imperial kilns. In 2018, a Kangxi famille verte scroll vase depicting the story of “investiture of the gods” sold for $1.57 million at Sotheby’s New York and surprised many collectors and connoisseurs.
Lot 764 | A pair of intricately carved green jade gu-shaped vases
Incised four-character Qianlong nian zhi brands and period (1736-1795)
- The Arthur Curtiss James (1867-1941) Collection, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, November 13-15, 1941, lot 154
- Christie’s New York, March 24, 2004, lot 56
Estimate: $180,000 – $250,000
This pair of green jade Qianlong vases once belonged to Arthur Curtiss James, a railroad industrialist who owned one-seventh of all the railroads in America and was one of the ten richest American men in the 1920s and 30.
After his death in 1941, his rich art collection, including the current lot, was offered for sale at Parke-Bernet Galleries – then America’s largest auction house and a favorite high-society destination. and Manhattan collectors – which was purchased by Sotheby’s in 1964. .
Based on gu – a wine vessel of a bronze prototype from the Shang and Zhou dynasties (c. 16th century BC – 221 BC), the shapes of these jade vessels reflect the Qianlong Emperor’s keen interest in antiquities .
On the globular central part of each vase is carved two sinuous five-clawed dargons pursuing flaming pearls. In many dynasties of Imperial China, the dragon – usually with five claws – had been a symbol of the emperor; while the flaming bead is the representation of a celestial luminary, the sun or the moon – together they constituted an auspicious motif commonly seen in various Chinese arts.
Other flagship lots:
Lot 787 | A pair of horseshoe back Huanghuali armchairs
17th – 18th century
97.6 x 64.7 x 60.4cm
- Grace Wu Bruce, Hong Kong, April 9, 1998
Estimate: $200,000 – $250,000
Lot 789 | A very rare twelve-panel coromandel lacquer screen
Dated to the Renshen year of Kangxi, corresponding to 1692, and to the period
Each panel: 300 x 58 x 2 cm
- The C. Ruxton and Audrey B. Love Collection: Important European Furniture and Asian Works of Art; Christie’s New York, October 19, 2004, lot 448.
Estimate: $150,000 – $200,000
Lot 997 | A vase enamelled with tea dust, fanghu
Qianlong and period incised six-character seal mark (1736-1795)
Estimate: $120,000 – $180,000
Lot 1006 | A flamed glaze vase, fanghu
Qianlong and period incised six-character seal mark (1736-1795)
- A private Japanese collection, acquired in the first half of the 20th century
- Christie’s Hong Kong, May 29, 2013, lot 2279
Estimate: $80,000 – $100,000
Auction house: Christie’s New York
Auction: Important Ceramics and Chinese Works of Art
Date: September 22 – 23, 2022
Number of batches: 344