And that's a wrap for this Fall edition of Asia Week New York! The September Asia Week tends be smaller scaled than the March Asia Week events, but there were still numerous exciting previews at the international and regional auction houses.
I was in Asia Week for six days to check out the auctions at Sotheby's, Christie's and Bonhams. Over twenty Asian art themed auctions were featured! Even though the focus is still primarily Chinese art, there were many other sales showcasing objects from India, the Himalayan region, Japan and Korea. And despite the global economic situation, there were still numerous stellar prices!
Sotheby's had numerous highlights in their Chinese works of art auction including mark and period porcelain, ancient bronze vessels, classical furniture and Buddhist art.
Image 1a. One of my favourite porcelain pieces from the Important Chinese Art sale at Sotheby's was this extremely rare doucai 'birthday' dish with Yongzheng mark and period (1723-1735).
This dish had an exceptionally beautiful palette and details that are more often seen in earlier Kangxi Period (1664-1722) examples. It's called a birthday dish because the design features objects that promote a long life for the owner. These include the longevity crane, peaches, ruyi 如意 fungus heads, and shou 壽 (longevity) medallions.
The dish once belonged to the famed Hong Kong businessman, Chinese art collector and philanthropist T. T. Tsui 徐展堂 (1941-1910) and was formerly on display at his museum, the Tsui Museum of Art - which sadly closed down in the mid 1990s.
Judging by all the greasy fingerprints on this dish (including mine!) this was an really popular object during the previews. The dish was estimated at USD 40/60,000 and realized USD 139,700 (approximately CAD 186,000)!
Image 1b. A photo of the dish's base and the six-character Yongzheng reign mark 大清雍正年製 (made during the Yongzheng reign of the Qing Dynasty).
Image 2a. Another wonderful object at Sotheby's was their cover lot, this blue and white Ming-style moon flask, with Qianlong mark and period (1736-1795).
The moon flask was found in a Connecticut Estate and can be traced back to descendants of the Rockefeller family. As many of you know, the Rockefellers were major Asian art collectors, starting from the early 20th Century. The incredible Asian art collection of John D. Rockefeller III (1906-1978) is now housed in the Asia Society of New York.
The moon flask is quite attractive with its graceful shape and bold cobalt blues. The design of the large lotus blooms and leafy vines pay homage to early Ming examples from the Yongle (1403-1425) and Xuande (1426-1435) reigns. In turn, those were inspired by designs from Central Asia and the Middle East which were transmitted to China through the Silk Road.
This beautiful moonflask was estimated at USD 1/1.5 million and sold for a strong price of USD 1.754 million (approximately CAD 2.33 million).
Image 2b. Here is a photo of me carefully examining the moon flask!
Image 2c. And a photo of the moonflask's base and its six-character Qianlong reign mark 大清乾隆年製 (made during the Qianlong reign of the Qing Dynasty).
Image 3a. There were just too many highlights at the Sotheby's sale of Important Chinese Art to showcase in this blog, but I wanted to share this famille rose yellow ground 'magpie and prunus' cup, with Tongzhi mark and period (1862-1874).
This cup came from the collection of Barbara Jean Levy, an American lady who specialized in collecting Late Qing porcelain. In her collection was a significant amount of objects from the Xianfeng (1851-1861), Tongzhi (1862-1874) and Guangxu (1875-1908) reigns. She also has a highly prized selection of famille rose porcelain made specifically for the Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908) called Dayazhai wares.
This cup was part of the wedding service for Cixi's son, the Tongzhi Emperor. Up until his reign, the Tongzhi Emperor was the only Ming or Qing emperor to actually get married after taking the throne.
For me personally, it was amazing to finally see this cup in person. It has been highly published and was one of the feature items in one of my most read books 'Imperial Porcelain of Late Qing from the Kwan Collection' (1983), published by the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
This book was one of the first exhibitions that focused on later Qing porcelain and is an essential reading material. Many later copies of this type of cup was actually based on this exact version! (I'll probably do a more formal book review on this book in a future blog post, but if you enjoy Chinese art reference books, you can read about the ones I studied during the boring months of Covid here).
Anyways, this rare Tongzhi wedding cup was only estimated at a low USD 5/7,000 which made it very attractive even for MY modest budget. But in the end, as expected, it sold for a strong USD 38,100 (approximately CAD 55,000).
Image 3b. A photo of the cup's base and its four-character Tongzhi reign mark 大清同治年製 (made during the Tongzhi reign of the Qing Dynasty).
Image 4a. Also at Sotheby's was one of the rarest and most sought-after Korean porcelain pieces I have ever seen. This Korean white glaze 'moon' jar was made in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897) during the 17th/18th Century for the Imperial family.
Moon jars of this large size are exceptionally rare, and it is still mostly intact. The white glaze and round body resembles the moon, hence how these jars received their namesake.
This jar has a great provenance as well. It was in various Japanese collections since 1964, and published and exhibited during the 1980's in Japan. This jar had an 'Estimate Upon Request' and ended up selling for USD 3.569 million (approximately CAD 4.75 million).
Image 4b. A view of the moon jar's base! This is such a rare opportunity to examine the bottom section of these types of jars!
Image 5. In the Himalayan section at Sotheby's New York was this amazing Tibetan 14th/15th Century gilt bronze standing figure of Padmapani, the Buddhist deity of compassion.
The figure stands at a very tall 55.7 cm high and has various hardstone and silver inlays throughout. The figure also stands in a graceful counterbalanced pose on top of a raised lotus pedestal base.
This sculpture was estimated at a conservative USD 300/400,000 and sold for USD 1.754 million (approximately CAD 2.33 million). This seems like a substantial price for the figure, but just five years ago at Bonhams Hong Kong on 2 October 2018, this same object sold for HKD 19.3 million (approximately USD 2.47 million or CAD 3.29 million). The lower price was possibly one of the casualties of the economic downturn.
Image 6. Over at Christie's New York were some wonderful Chinese art highlights as well. I was so impressed by this large Imperial white jade rhyton from the Qianlong Period (1736-1795) offered by the American LJZ Collection.
The stone is of the finest quality with its relief-carved archaistic design of birds throughout the body. The cup also features a very beautiful russet inclusion highlighting some of the bird's feathers.
The provenance was outstanding too in that the rhyton was once sold through the important dealers Eskenazi London and Anthony Carter, and also exhibited at the San Antonio Museum of Art from 1 October 2011 to 19 February 2012.
The estimate of USD 800,000/1.2 million may have been slightly on the high side, but this Imperial white jade cup still fetched a final price of USD 756,000 (approximately CAD 1 million).
Image 7a. Also at Christie's was a special themed sale of Ming Dynasty porcelain from the prestigious London Chinese art dealer Marchant. Here they offered 'Eight Treasures for the Wanli Emperor' and showcased some of the best pieces from this late Ming reign.
The highlight of the sale (in my opinion) was this rare blue and white 'sea creatures' stem cup with Wanli mark and period (1573-1620).
The exterior contains numerous mythical beasts soaring over an ocean ground. The blue is very well-painted, especially considering cruder Late Ming Dynasty porcelain examples. The interior depicts Tibetan script suggesting this cup might have been used for ceremonial offerings.
This Wanli cup was estimated at USD 300/500,000 and ended up realizing USD 352,000 (approximately CAD 468,000).
Image 7b. The interior of the step cup with its Tibetan script.
Image 7c. The base of the stem cup and its six-character Wanli reign mark 大明萬曆年製 (made during the Wanli reign of the Ming Dynasty).
Image 8a. I referred to Ming Dynasty blue and white porcelain pieces a lot during this blog and I absolutely love this one I am now showcasing from Christie's New York.
This is an early Ming Dynasty blue and white barbed rim dish from the Yongle Period (1403-1424) and comes from the collection of Jerry Chu and Lillian Zhou. They were part of a wealthy Shanghai banking family that eventually settled in Palo Alto, CA.
The size is rare for this type of dish because they are typically much larger. So the size is quite unique. The quality of the painting with the floral medallion and scrolling vine is also extremely beautiful. The 'heaping and piling' of the cobalt blue is simply stunning.
This dish realized USD 504,000 (approximately CAD 670,000) against an estimate of USD 200/400,000.
Image 8b. A view of the dish's reverse. Yongle dishes are renowned for the fine polish on the base.
Image 9a. And the last object I want to go through in this blog is this very unusual garlic head bottle vase at Bonhams New York, with Yongzheng mark and period (1723-1735).
The proportions of this vase is stunning and the body features an elegant glaze that is in between a robin's egg glaze and a phosphatic imitation jun glaze. The auction house called the glaze 'blue-speckled' and they attributed its design to the famed Chinese Imperial kiln superintendent Tang Ying (1682-1756).
One of the few comparables to this vase is in the Beijing Palace Museum at the Forbidden City. This Yongzheng garlic head vase sold for USD 279,000 (approximately CAD 370,000) against an estimate of USD 60/80,000.
Image 9b. The bottle vase's base and the rare incised four-character Yongzheng reign mark 雍正年製 (made during the Yongzheng reign).
Thank you for reading my latest blog! By the time you read this, I will be on my next trip to Vancouver. I'll be there for approximately ten days to prepare for my October Asian art online sale at Heffel. More news to come!