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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Wu

Asian Art in London 2022 - Chinese Porcelain and Jade Highlights!

Updated: Mar 23

I hope everyone is doing well as looking forward to the holiday season! My apologies for taking so long to put the finishing touches on my Asian Art in London blog. It's been quite busy with business traveling over the past few weeks.

Since the end of November, I've already made stops to New York, Chicago and Dallas. There's still a lot of Asian art appraisal and valuation work to be completed before the end of the calendar year!

I also wanted to wait for the final results of the Christie's Paris Art d' Asie auctions that took place in mid-December. Many of their highlight objects including the incredible Chinese Imperial jade carvings from the V. W. S. Collection were brought to the Christie's office during Asia Art in London. I was able to view most of them and you can see some of these fine jade examples towards the end of this blog.

Anyways, for those who have been reading my blogs for the past few weeks, I was in London from late October to early November for the Asian Art in London events. I posted some of my adventures already including visiting the latest exhibition at Eskenazi and a trip to Bristol to see the Chinese art collection at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

And what would Asian Art in London be without stops at the auction houses? In addition to the sales at Sothbey's and Bonhams, I also went to some of the regional houses including Woolley & Wallis and Dore & Rees.

So my first stop was Sotheby's! And they had so many highlights for their November Chinese art sales including an important collection of Chinese artwork from the the Dr Wou Kiuan Collection.

The London Dr Wou Collection is actually the third part of the collection being offered. The first part sold at Sotheby's New York last March (you can see some highlights in my Spring New York Asia Week blog), and the second part sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong in October.

Dr Wou Kiuan (1910-1997) was a renowned scholar and politician who served the Republic of China during the first part of the 20th Century. He received a doctorate of law in Paris, and because of the civil turmoil in China, ended up in England where he became mainly a collector and ambassador of Chinese history and culture.

Throughout the 1960's, Dr Wou Kiuan collected archaic bronzes, jade carvings, porcelain wares, lacquer and paintings. His collection became so significant that he became an important member of London's Oriental Ceramic Society. He later opened his own gallery in the English countryside called the Wou Lien-Pai Museum.

One of his MAJOR highlight pieces sold in the Sotheby's Hong Kong October 8 2023 sale. It was an extremely rare Chinese Imperial famille rose yangcai reticulated vase, with Qianlong mark and of the period (1736-1795).

Image 1. (photo credit Sotheby's Hong Hong). I wasn't in Hong Kong in October to view this piece in person since I was overseeing my online auction at Heffel during that time. IF I was in Hong Kong, I would have tried my best to examine and handle this incredible vase.

Described as 'possibly unique' in its title, this is one of the rarest Qianlong vases to appear on the market in the last few years. The style is very Baroque with its large florals and Western-style shading. The red ground is all incised with sgraffito lines, and the body is actually two fitted pieces that rotate around a central cylindrical core.

These yangcai (foreign colours) vases were made specifically for the Qianlong Emperor's private quarters by his kiln superintendent Tang Yin (1682-1756) between 1740-1744. The base features a six-character Qianlong reign mark in iron red.

The estimate for this rare vase was a 'reasonable' HKD 60/120 million (approximately CAD 13.8/20.7 million), and it ultimately sold for an amazing HKD 177.4 million (approximately CAD 30.7 million).

So this was kinda a long introduction about the Dr Wou Collection, and here are are some of the other Chinese highlights from his estate that I examined in London:

Image 2a. This jade boulder is from the Ming Dynasty and is carved to depict a luohan, who are Buddhist aesthetics.

In addition to the wonderful carving, what is unique about this piece is the imperially inscribed poem and mark of the Qianlong Emperor on the reverse.

This fine jade carving sold for GBP 151,200 (approximately CAD 241,000) against an estimate of GBP 70/90,000.

Image 2b. A view of the jade luohan's reverse with the Qianlong Emperor's poem venerating the monastic virtue of these Buddhist disciples.

Image 3a. Also at the Dr Wou sale was this extremely large and impressive crackle glazed moon flask with Yongzheng mark and of the period (1723-1735). The even crackle glaze paid homage to Ge-wares from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and the quatrefoil shape is a very distinct Yongzheng example.

Due to some of the condition issues, this impressive moonflask had a conservative estimate of GBP 100/150,000 and ultimately sold for (a still conservative) GBP 327,600 (approximately CAD 536,000).

Image 3b. The moonflask's base and the six-character reign mark 大清雍正年製, daqing Yongzheng nianzhi (made during the Yongzheng reign of the Qing Dynasty).

Image 3c. Here's a photo of me examining this large moonflask with my trusty (and old) iPhone XR at my side. I clearly had my porcelain 'game-face' on!

Also note the base had some significant losses in the enamelling and glazing. These condition issues would have really affected the final price.

Image 4a. At the Sotheby's Dr Wou sale of Chinese art was this elegant yellow chrysanthemum-form dish with Yongzheng mark and period (1723-1735). These pieces are extremely rare, but unfortunately it did have a large restoration to the edge.

The estimate I felt was still a bit high at GBP 60/80,000. This may be be one reason why the final price realised was GBP107,000 (approximately CAD 175,000). It's fair for this particular example because of the restoration, but an intact dish of this type should sell in the USD 300,000 to 500,000 range.

Image 4b. The dish's base and the six-character reign mark 大清雍正年製, daqing Yongzheng nianzhi (made during the Yongzheng reign of the Qing Dynasty).

Image 5a. And finally one of my favourite pieces from the London Dr Wou Collection is this wonderful famille rose dragonfly and hibiscus dish with Qianlong mark and of the period (1736-1795).

The painting of the florals are simply gorgeous, as is the liveliness of the dragonfly. The design of the floral leaves and stems are also continuous and travel to the reverse of the dish.

This attractive piece sold for GBP 190,000 (approximately CAD 313,000) against an estimate of GBP 60/80,000

Image 5b. The dish's base and the six-character reign mark 大清乾隆年製, daqing Qianlong nianzhi (made during the Qianlong reign of the Qing Dynasty). You can also see the continuous floral branches design.

Also at the London auction houses was the sale at Bonhams. Here they featured Chinese scholar brushpots from the collection of Sam Marsh, a retired dentist who was a major collector of Chinese scholar arts from the Late Ming to Early Ching Dynasty.

He's been a long time member of London's Oriental Ceramic Society and just recently had his collection published in a very useful book titled 'Brushpots: A Collector's View' (2021).

Image 6a. One of the many highlights from the collection included this rare blue and white '384 shou' bruspot with Kangxi mark and of the period (1664-1722).

The shape is typical for Kangxi period brushpots, but the sides are painted with 384 壽, shou, longevity characters.

This type of pattern is usually reserved for large imperial jars like this famous example that sold at Christie's Hong Kong in 2013 for HKD 64.5 million (approximately CAD 8.8 million).

The Marsh bruspot was much more reasonable, but still ended up fetching GBP 277,500 against an estimate of GBP 80/120,000.

Image 6b. The brushpot's base and the six-character reign mark 大清康熙年製, daqing Kangxi nianzhi (made during the Kangxi reign of the Qing Dynasty).

Image 7a. Another highlight at Bonhams was one of their cover lots (they had three Chinese art catalogues in total). This is a rare and large reverse blue and white floral dish with Xuande mark and of the period (1426-1435).

These large dishes are extremely hard to come by and feature amazing painting and slip design. The floral in the central area is a large peony, and the sprigs along the border are fruits including berries, pomegranates and lychee.

Unfortunately the large dish did not sell against an estimate of GBP 700,000/1,000,000, but I was told it got snapped up in an aftersale immediately afterwards.

Image 7b. The large dish's side and the six-character reign mark 大明宣德年製, daming Xuande nianzhi (made during the Xuande reign of the Ming Dynasty).

And here are some highlights from the regional auction houses I visited during Asian Art in London. A lot of these regional auction houses were from outside of London, but rented temporary spaces while all the London previews were happening.

Image 8a. At Woolley & Wallis (based out of Salisbury in southwest England) was this very rare pair of Chinese famille rose Tibetan-style ewers. They are are mark and period of the Jiaqing reign (1796-1820) and estimated at GBP 80/120,000.

These ewers are fantastic in their design with their yellow ground bodies and exceptional designs of Buddhist symbols, lotus blooms, and scrolling vines. The spouts of the ewers feature well-painted designs of markara beasts.

A makara is an ancient Sanskrit term to describe a dragon-like beast that protected gateways and rivers. Despite one of them being severely restored, they ended up selling for a realized price of GBP 256,250.

Image 8b. Detail of one of the fantastic markara beast heads.

Image 8c. The ewer's base and the six-character reign mark 大清嘉慶年製, daqing jiaqing nianzhi (made during the Jiaqing reign of the Qing Dynasty).

Image 8d. The second ewer's base with the same reign mark. You can see all the damages and restorations with this example.

Image 9a. Over at Dore & Rees (based out in Frome) was this elegant and compact famille rose moon flask. The body is decorated with a pair of confronting pink dragons, all around a central medallion of peaches and longevity bats.

This vase was estimated at a conservative estimate of GBP 60/80,000 because of two chips and an associated hairline crack, but in the end, it still sold for a very solid GBP 227,500 including buyer's premium.

Image 9b. The vase's base and the six-character reign mark 大清乾隆年製, daqing Qianlong nianzhi (made during the Qianlong reign of the Qing Dynasty).

And finally here are some of the incredible jade pieces that I saw in Asian Art in London!

These were all from a private French collection whose ancestors lived in the Beijing and Harbin during the turn of 1900. The original owner's son augmented the collection during the 2nd quarter of the 20th Century.

These were all offered in Christie's Paris on 13 December 2022 in a sale titled 'From Beijing to Versailles the V. W. S. Collection'. In addition to selling fine examples of Imperial jade carving, there were numerous mark and period porcelain objects and European decorative furniture and paintings.

Image 10a. The highlight of this sale was a rare white jade bowl and cover with lobed sides. The edges were carved with fine ruyi longevity borders, and the domed top also featured lingzhi fungus motifs. This jar was dated to the Qianlong Period (1736-1795) and estimated at EUR 300/500,000. After much intense bidding, it ended up realizing EUR 844,200.

Image 11a. Another exceptional jade vessel from the V. M. S. collection was this white jade marriage bowl. It is also from the Qianlong reign (1736-1795) and exceptionally carved.

Not only does it have a large size, but the bowl's tone is a pure white colour. The handle is carved as a 'double happiness' Chinese character attached to a chime. There are so many auspicious motifs to this object including the longevity fungus motifs throughout. This bowl ended up selling for EUR 491,400 against an estimate of EUR 300/500,000.

Image 11b. A view of the top of the wedding bowl with the carved 'double happiness' (喜喜) character as a handle attached to a chime.

Image 12. And finally a Qianlong camel! This unique yellow jade carving was one of the finest examples I have seen. Not only is it a very large size, but it is also well-modelled and very endearing in its look.

White jade has always been the pinnacle tone for Chinese jade carvings, but yellow jade examples are much rarer and have become the preferred jade tone for serious collectors.

This jade camel had a very reasonable estimate of EUR 60/80,000 but because of its provenance, dating and quality it ended up selling for a very high EUR 655,200.

Thank you for reading my final blog of 2022! I would like to wish everyone a Happy Holidays and a New Year! I can't wait for 2023 to start, and with the New Year comes more Asian art adventures around the world.

In January I will first be traveling to Vancouver for some Asian art appraisal work and to start sourcing items for my April online auction at Heffel. I will then be in Ottawa and Montreal at the end of January. Please follow me on my Instragram account for more updates @anthonywuart!

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