• Anthony Wu

USD 3.5 Million Tang Dynasty Silver Bowl and Other Highlights from September Asia Week New York!

Updated: Jan 19


Hope everyone is enjoying the autumn season! I've been traveling a lot the past few weeks so have been a little late in posting my trip to the September 2019 edition of Asia Week New York.

If you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen some of the highlight objects I was examining during my auction house visits. I wasn't even CLOSE to posting everything I saw, so this blog features more examples of the Asian Art items I really liked.

As many of you know, Asia Week New York takes place twice a year - early September and mid-March. In addition to Asian Art sales at the major auction houses Christie's, Sotheby's and Bonhams, there were also numerous Asian Art themed offerings through the regional auction houses. In total there must've been over 4000 Asian works of art on the auction block over ten day period! These include objects from China, Japan, Korea, the Himalayan region, India and South East Asia.

Going into this sale season, many industry insiders were concerned about the Chinese Art market in particular. Not only does this category consist of the majority of the objects sold by volume, but also with respect to total sale value.

Some of the unease stems from the ongoing China/USA trade war, the slowing of the Chinese economy and the effects of the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. Nobody really knew what to expect.

Nonetheless, the overall sales still performed admirably with the total value of Asian Art being sold exceeding USD 60 million. These results set a really good vibe going into the rest of the Asian Art auction season from now until the middle of December.

Anyways, here are some of the highlights I really liked this trip to New York:

One of the most anticipated and impressive objects by far is this Highly Important and Large Silver and Parcel Gilt Bowl at Christie's in their sale of Masterpieces of Early Chinese Gold and Silver.

Dated to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), this bowl was estimated at USD 2-3 million and is by far the most spectacular and important piece of Chinese silver work I have ever handled. This silver bowl is a pinnacle example of the fine craftsmanship and sumptuous tastes of the Tang Court. Despite China’s strong history of using silver in ornaments and smaller vessels, it was not until the 6th Century that silver was considered one of the premier luxury materials.

The bowl was originally from the prestigious Swedish collection of Dr. Johan Carl Kempe (1884-1967) and sold at Sotheby's London in their sale of Masterpieces of Chinese Precious Metalwork: Early Gold and Silver (14 May 2008, lot 54) for GBP 1,140,500 (approximately USD 2.2 million). This time, the bowl sold for an incredible realised price of USD 3.495 million.

Examining the bowl is quite the experience! Not only was it much heavier than expected, but the overall level of details and fine craftsmanship is extraordinary. You can see how the sides and interior of the bowl are designed to emulate lotus petals outlined in silver, and filled in with gold.

Tang Silver and Gold Bowl

Here is a more detailed close-up of the bowl's exterior. You can see the precision of the gold and silver petals, and how each petal actually contain additional floral designs. Some petals even feature scenes with birds! Hard to imagine this bowl is over 1100 years old!

Other highlights at Christie's includes numerous pieces of Chinese porcelain. In their sale of Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art is this Famille Rose Millefleur Lantern Vase with Jiaqing Mark and of the Period (1796-1820).

The design is quite spectacular with its elegant proportions and densely-packed multicoloured florals throughout the body. The vase was estimated at USD 300-500,000 and ended up selling for USD 879,000.

Here is a detail of the vase's base with the mark daqing Jiaqing nianzhi (大清嘉慶年製), 'made during the Jiaqing reign of the Qing Dynasty'.

Many other highlights from Christie's were featured in their auction of Chinese Art from the Art Institute of Chicago. This sale contains 84 objects deaccessioned from the Art Institute of Chicago. For the most part, these objects are duplicates of existing pieces in their collection, or pieces with condition issues (ie cracks, chips, repairs, etc) - there is little chance these were going to be displayed in the future.

I showcased some Imperial 18th Century yellow glazed porcelain wares on my Instagram feed already, but I was also in love with this delicate Claire-de-Lune Glazed Bowl with Yongzheng Mark and of the Period (1723-1735). With an estimate of USD 40-60,000, this bowl sold for three times more at USD 150,000.

This bowl is a wonderful example of a rare 18th Century claire-de-lune 'moonlight' glaze. The Yongzheng Emperor's porcelain were renowned for their distinctive monochrome glazes including the present example, and also additional colours including lemon yellow, ruby red, lime green and sacrificial blue. This bowl was originally donated to the Art Institute by Kate Sturges Buckingham (1858–1937) prior to 1926 - she was a major benefactor to the museum.

Detail of the bowl's base with the mark daqing Yongzheng nianzhi (大清雍正年製), 'made during the Yongzheng reign of the Qing Dynasty'.

Also from the same sale is this elegant Jizhou Stencil-Decorated Pear-Shaped Bottle Vase from the Song to Yuan Dynasty (13th/14th Century). It was estimated at USD 20-30,000, and like the above bowl, also sold for USD 150,000.

The form of this vase was simple yet mesmerizing, and I was particularly fond of the subtle funnel rim. The vase's body also features a beautiful 'stencil' design that almost resembles a snowflake.

The vase was donated to the museum by Chinese and Korean Art collector Russell Tyson (1867-1963), a Shanghai-born Bostonian who settled in Chicago in 1893 to begin his career in the real estate firm Aldis & Company.

Detail of the bottle vase's base where the old museum inventory numbers are still visible.

There was also a fantastic grouping of Chinese porcelain at Sotheby's such as those in their sale of Important Chinese Art. One of the major highlights and most expensive items sold at Asia Week New York is this Large Blue and White 'Immortals' Vase with Qianlong Mark and of the Period (1736-1735).

The vase had an unusually large size and features unusually bold depictions of the 8 Daoist Immortals - thus making this example especially rare and desirable to collectors. It had a conservative estimate of USD 200-300,000 yet ended up realising USD 1.4 million.

Detail of the bowl's base with the mark daqing Qianlong nianzhi (大清乾隆年製), 'made during the Qianlong reign of the Qing Dynasty'.

Also from same collection is this Rare and Large Yellow Glazed Moulded Bowl with Yongzheng Mark and of the Period (1723-1735). The bowl has an extremely fine yellow glaze on the exterior which is further accentuated by a band of raised floral decorations. The interior is elegantly decorated with a double peach using famille rose enamels. The bowl was estimated at USD 100-150,000 and ended up selling for USD 350,000.

Interior view of the bowl with two peaches. Peaches are extremely auspicious in Chinese culture and symbolise longevity.

Detail of the bowl's base with the mark daqing Yongzheng nianzhi (大清雍正年製), 'made during the Yongzheng reign of the Qing Dynasty'.

Buddhist Art was also a focal category at Sotheby's. One of my favourites objects is a Gilt Bronze Figure of Buddha from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) in their sale Bodies of Infinite Light: Featuring an Important Collection of Buddhist Figures Formerly in the Collection of the Chang Foundation.

By far, this wasn't the most expensive object in the sale, with numerous pieces exceeding a selling price of USD 200,000. However, I really liked the elegance and simplicity off this seated Buddha. The sculpture still has remnants of gilding throughout. To the devoted view, the Buddha's right hand calls the earth to witness his enlightenment, and his right hand is in the pose of 'no fear'.

This figure originally came from the renowned Hungarian-Chicago businessman Stephen Junkunc III (d. 1978) who amassed one of the greatest (in terms of number and quality) collections of Chinese Art during the mid 20th Century. Estimated at USD 100-150,000, this Tang Buddha sold for USD 125,000.

Still on the subject of Buddhist Art, over at Bonhams I saw one of the most incredible Korean sculptures. This Rare and Important Korean Gilt Bronze Figure of Chijang Bosal (Ksitigarbha) is from the Goryeo Dynasty (13th/14th Century) and comes from the Korean and Japanese Art collection of Drs. Edmund and Julia Lewis.

With respect to its size, craftsmanship and subject matter, not only is it one of the most impressive Korean Buddhist examples to appear on the market in the past couple of years, but it is also one of the best examples currently in a North American private collection.

Ksitigarbha is a Buddhist bodhisattva, a Buddha who has achieved enlightenment, but chose to remain on the earth to ease the suffering of humankind. In particular, he is most often associated as being a protector of children, even those who are deceased.

This figure was featured in the major exhibition at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco 'Goryeo Dynasty: Korea's Age of Enlightenment' (2003) and published in the Orientations (the Hong Kong based Asian Art magazine I write for) article 'A Korean Gilt-Bronze Sculpture of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva' Stephen Little, 2003). It was estimated at USD 800/1,200,000 but unfortunately failed to sell.

And to conclude this edition of my blog is one of the most iconic images in art history, The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). This was the highlight object in the Bonhams

sale of Fine Japanese and Korean Art.

The Great Wave is the first print in Hokusai's famous '36 View of Mount Fuji', which depicts the sacred mountain from different vantage points. Viewers have been enthralled by the dynamism and beauty of the large 'rogue' wave for numerous generations.

Dated to circa 1830-1831, this particular print has inspired everything you can think of including posters, t-shirts, aprons, phone cases, puzzles, shower curtains, and socks! (Note: I actually did a quick Google search to find all the glorious kitsch associated with the Great Wave!)

There are said to be about 2000 examples of the Great Wave during its initial print run, with only 3-4 examples appearing at auction every year. A good condition example of this print would fetch approximately USD 500-800,000. This particular Great Wave had some condition issues but was still a choice example. It was estimated at USD 200-300,000 and realised USD 237,575.

That's it for this edition of my blog. Hope you enjoyed reading it and if you have questions or comments, please send me an email.

My next stop will be the Asia Week in London events in the beginning of November followed by my annual National Conference for the Appraisers Association of America. I'll be busy working (catching-up) on various appraisals and valuation projects in between.

#AsiaWeek #NewYork #Instagram #Christies #sotheb #Bonhams #ChineseArt #AsianArt #TangDynasty #silver #famillerose #Jiaqing #millefleur #ArtInstituteofChicago #Yongzheng #monochrome #jizhou #YuanDynasty #KoreanArt #Chicago #RubinMuseum #Qianlong #Daoist #GiltBronze #Buddha #BuddhistSculpture #StephenJunkunc #Ksitigarbha #JapaneseArt #Bodhisattva #Orientations #Hokusai #GreatWave

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