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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Wu

$97,000 for a Chinese Qianlong Dragon Jar @Heffel!!!

Updated: Jan 13

I can't believe I just completed my 6th Asian art online sale at Heffel! I'm now approaching my third year anniversary collaborating with Canada's national (and largest) auction house, and the humble Asian art department we developed has grown substantially.


As many of you know, Heffel has been Canada's auction leader in Canadian art for over the past twenty years, with a focus on paintings by the Group of Seven, Emily Carr and the Automatistes. In 2022 alone, the total sales for artwork sold was approximately CAD 52 million.


Heffel also features some of the most expensive Canadian artworks ever offered at auction like Canadian world-record 'Mountain Forms' (1926) by Lawren Harris (1885-1970) that sold for CAD 11,210,000 (estimate CAD 3/5 million) and 'Vent du Nord' (1952) by Jean-Paul Riopelle (1923-2002) that sold for CAD 7,438,750 (estimate CAD 1/1.5 million).


When I started working with Heffel in January of 2021, I was tasked with building the Asian art department from scratch. Heffel had sold 20th Century Chinese paintings in the past including works by the masters Zao Wou-Ki (1920-2013), Xu Beihong (1895-1953) and Lin Fengmian (1900-1991). However, these were included in sales with International artwork and not within a specific Asian auction.


I do cover 20th Century Chinese paintings, but my focus is more on traditional Asian art like porcelain, jade carvings, scroll paintings, religious sculpture and woodblock prints. This has been my staple while working at two of Toronto's most well-known regional auctions houses for the first eleven years of my career, and then as an independent Asian art consultant and appraiser for the past eight.


My first few weeks at Heffel involved putting the Asian art 'landing page' together, then working on building an extensive mailing list of consignors, buyers, and collectors in Canada, the USA, Asia and Europe.


Two-and-a-half years later, Heffel and I have worked on numerous important Asian art collections across Canada, and we have been a destination for collectors and admirers of this vast category across the country. I try my best to only take in higher quality pieces that are attractive, rare and feature strong provenance.


Some of the Heffel highlights in our twice-yearly Asian art auctions include the sale of Hokusai's 'The Great Wave Off Kanagwa' for CAD 691,250, a pair of Chinese famille rose porcelain panels by Wang Qi for CAD 193,250, and a Chinese white jade ruyi sceptre for CAD 181,250.


This past sale in the Fall of 2023 took place from Oct 5 to Oct 26 and featured over 130 objects spread over four sessions. The items originated mostly from China, Japan, and Korea, and were on view at the Heffel galleries in Vancouver and Toronto. In total, we sold just over CAD 750,000 worth of Asian art!


Ming Dynasty landscape painting by Wang Hui at Heffel Toronto

Image 1a. One of the best Chinese paintings I have ever dealt with in my career sold for CAD 103,250 during the past Heffel sale. Lot 106 was painted by Wang Hui 王翬 (1623-1717) in 1708, a renowned art theorist and painter of the Late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It depicts a landscape with cloudy mountains, tranquil river, wood boats and a small village. There are numerous inscriptions, seals and a colophon featured in this work.


This painting came from the Estate of Gloria Wong Ying-Nin 黃應年 (1929-2023), a celebrated piano teacher from Hong Kong. In 1963, her family was given this piece by the esteemed painting collector Luo Jialun 羅家倫 (1897-1963), who has a large part of his calligraphy and paintings donated to the University of Michigan Museum of Art in 2022.


My Heffel colleague April Yin was featured in a video providing more insight to this Wang Hui painting which you can view by clicking here.


Detail of Ming Dynasty landscape painting by Wang Hui at Heffel Toronto

Image 1b. The artist Wang Hui's inscription and dating of the work, along with other seals and assessments.


Detail of Ming Dynasty landscape painting by Wang Hui at Heffel Toronto

Image 1c. A colophon with a description of the work by Luo Jialun.


Chinese green enamelled dragon jar from the Qianlong Period at Heffel Toronto

Image 2a. Another highlight from the October Heffel Asian art online auction was lot 205, a Chinese green enamelled porcelain dragon jar with Qianlong mark and period (1736-1795).


This is an exquisite piece with its fine painting of a fierce dragon, and the subtle blue outlines around the forms. This jar originally came from the collection of the well-known Armenian dealer Dikran Garabed Kelekian (1868-1951), and was then sold at Sotheby's New York in 11 September 2012, lot 267. It has been in a private Toronto collection ever since.


Top Chinese porcelain has seen very high prices over the past fifteen years and this was no exception, selling for CAD 97,250.


Anthony Wu examining Chinese green enamelled dragon jar from the Qianlong Period at Heffel Toronto

Image 2b. A photo of me at the Toronto Heffel gallery at 13 Hazelton Ave in Yorkville carefully examining this Chinese dragon jar.


Base reign mark of Chinese green enamelled dragon jar from the Qianlong Period at Heffel Toronto

Image 2c. A photo of the jar's base and its six-character reign mark 大清乾隆年製 which translates to 'made in the Qianlong reign of the Qing Dynasty'.


Four jade carvings from the Estate of K. S. Tom at Heffel Toronto

Image 3. Also at the Heffel Asian art online auction was a collection of Chinese jade carvings from the Estate of K. S. Tom. Tom Man-loong (1908-1973) went by K. S. Tom and was the founder of Tom Construction Co., one of the leading construction firms in Hong Kong after WWII.


He was an avid collector of Chinese jade carvings and actively exhibited his pieces at the City Museum & Art Gallery at the Hong Kong City Hall, the precursor to the Hong Kong Museum of Art. K. S. Tom also joined Hong Kong's prestigious Min Chiu Society as one of the earlier members in 1970. The group consisted of collectors that held monthly meetings to discuss the connoisseurship of Chinese art.


We were honoured to be able to sell K. S. Tom's jade carvings through his descendants who currently reside in Toronto. These pieces haven't been seen by the public since the mid-1970's.


This entire section of the sale featured many strong prices, including lot 008, a group of four jade carvings that sold for CAD 43,250 against an estimate of CAD 1,500/2,000!


Group of Nine Chinese Western Zhou Dynasty Jade Carved Fish Pendants at Heffel from the Estate of K. S. Tom

Image 4. Here is lot 002 from the Estate of K. S. Tom, showcasing nine carved jade fish-form pendants, mostly from the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th to 8th Century BCE). This lot sold for CAD 31,250.


Chinese White Jade Pendant at Heffel from the Estate of K. S. Tom

Image 5. And even though most of the jade carvings from the Estate of K. S. Tom were archaic (or archaistic) in nature, there were some examples from the Ming and Qing Dynasty. Lot 034 featured this particular white jade pendant from the 17th/18th Century of the early Qing Dynasty. It had a fine design of archaistic dragons and the interior ring can actually spin around. This jade carving sold for CAD 11,250.


Japanese Yabu Meizan Satsuma Landscape Jar at Heffel

Image 6a. The Heffel Asian art online sale also showcased a wonderful selection of Circa 1900 Japanese Satsuma porcelain from the Yabu Meizan Studio. They all came from an important Montreal collector who acquired the pieces from the 1960's.


The market for Japanese pieces have dropped significantly since its peak in the mid-1990's (this is actually a phrase I have to use a couple of times a week when it comes to Japanese art valuation and appraisal inquiries), but top pieces still perform quite well in the auction market.


The Japanese pieces that tend to do much better in the current market include well-known woodblock prints by Hokusai, Hiroshige and Utamaro, along with shin hanga works by Kawase Hasui. For decorative artwork, Meiji Period (1868-1912) objects like cloisonné enamel vessel by Sōsuke Namikawa (1847-1910), mixed-metalwork by Eisuke Miyao (active late 19th Century) and Satsuma by Yabu Meizan (1853-1934) mostly maintained their respective values over the years.


In this photo we see lot 352 from the sale, a Satsuma 'landscape' vase by the aforementioned artist. In addition to the attractive shape, there is just so much details in the boat, figures and houses. The sky consists of a stippled ground of gold paint, and the shoulder contains attractive millefleurs patterns. This small vase sold for CAD 6,250.


Base of Japanese Yabu Meizan Satsuma Landscape Jar at Heffel

Image 6b. The base of the vase with the easily recognizable gold-painted Yabu Meizan mark within a double square.


Japanese Yabu Meizan Satsuma Monkey Bowl at Heffel

Image 7a. Another favourite piece of Yabu Meizan Satsuma porcelain from this Montreal collection was lot 356 a 'monkey' bowl. In my cataloguing, I described the bowl as depicting 'whimsical Japanese snow monkeys dressed as humans and participating in activities including gathering from a large fruit basket, wrestling, reading books, massaging and examining a mirror'.


This was such an endearing scene and putting it into this blog was another way for me to remember it.


This very well-painted bowl sold for CAD 6,875.


Base of Japanese Yabu Meizan Satsuma Monkey Bowl at Heffel

Image 7b. The base of the dish with the Yabu Meizan mark.


Large Korean Eight Panel Painted Screen with Chinese Scholars at Heffel

Image 8a. And finally at the Heffel October Asian online sale was lot 347, a large Korean eight-panel painted screen (seen behind me!). This was one of the more popular items in the sale, and once the auction was uploaded, numerous inquiries came in from all over the world.


The screen came from an important West Coast collection and was acquired during the early 1980's in Vancouver. Because of the Chinese writing in the upper left corner, which actually contains a poem by the Chinese Song Dynasty poet and calligrapher Mifu (1051-1107), the screen was thought to have originated from China. The scene itself contains various scenes of Chinese scholars and attendants going about their scholarly pursuits such as calligraphy, painting, and reading.

But after reviewing the screen in person, I was able to conclude that this was a Korean screen from the 19th Century of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897). I had to compare the quality of the colours, design and composition to both Chinese and Korean screens.


I estimated this Korean screen at a conservative CAD 3/5,000 and it ended up selling for CAD 61,250!


Detail of Large Korean Eight Panel Painted Screen with Chinese Scholars at Heffel

Image 8b. Detail of the Korean screen with scholars watching over a calligraphy session.


Detail of Large Korean Eight Panel Painted Screen with Chinese Scholars at Heffel

Image 8c. Another scene of scholars preparing for some calligraphy.


Detail of Large Korean Eight Panel Painted Screen with Chinese Scholars at Heffel

Image 8d. A scene of a scholar receiving teachings from a Buddhist ascetic.


Detail of Large Korean Eight Panel Painted Screen with Chinese Scholars at Heffel

Image 8e. Thee screen had a group of deer with large eyes that look very Korean in their composition.


Thank you for reading this blog and hope you enjoyed learning more about my October Asian art online sale at Heffel. I'm currently in London for Asian Art in London. I'll be here for a couple of days before heading back to Toronto to assist in their major November Canadian art auction. Once that is over, I'll be heading off to Hong Kong to check out the Chinese art auctions at Bonhams, Christie's, and Sotheby's.


You can follow my Asian art adventures through Instagram by clicking here and I'll keep everyone posted about my next sale at Heffel which is scheduled for April 2024.

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