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HONG KONG.- On May 28, Christie's will present Through Connoisseurs’ Eyes – Works of Art for the Emperor, a sale of 22 imperial works sourced and curated in collaboration with Coobie Chui and Milton Man, two well-known connoisseurs in the field of Chinese art. Highlights include a magnificent Qianlong gilt-bronze vase inlaid with multi-coloured paste glass and a cloisonné enamel rectangular panel inscribed with an imperial poem. 

At a very young age, Coobie and Milton were fascinated with the world of Chinese works of art. Through extensive research, traveling, and friendships, they opened their business, Qiankuntang in Hong Kong. They are recognized as the younger generation of collectors and became well-respected among their peers. Almost thirty years later, Coobie and Milton are offering works from their personal collection, as well as a selection of works from collector-friends, resulting in an immersion of knowledge in antiques and art. This sale is comprehensive and comprises an interesting selection of metalworks, wood, bamboo and jade carvings from the Ming and Qing dynasties. “We are very honored to be collaborating with Christie's and our colleagues in facilitating this sale. Together, our group effort will hopefully contribute a little towards the continuation of our cultural heritage. I hope our precious "teachers and friends‟ will find even better homes, so that more collectors can love, appreciate and pass them down. This is our greatest wish,” said Coobie Chui. 

Leading the collection is a magnificent and rare imperial paste-inset gilt-bronze vase and cover, Qianlong Period (1736-1795) (Lot 3011, Estimate: HK$5,000,000-7,000,000 / US$625,000-875,000). This dazzling gilt-bronze vase is inlaid with multi-coloured paste glass, a decorative technique that was inspired by European automation clocks that so enchanted the Qianlong Emperor. Although the technique is western, the style of the vase and its decorative theme is undoubtedly Chinese. The use of two bats as handles is very auspicious, as bat, fu, is homophone to fortune. Coupled with the character ji, auspicious, as a central roundel on the main band, it is not difficult to guess the good intentions hidden in the choice of motifs. The well-meaning wishes conveyed by this vase points to the possibility that it may have been commissioned as a birthday gift for the Qianlong Emperor. This vase is a great example of how western techniques and aesthetics were adapted by Chinese artist for the palace. 

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A magnificent and rare imperial paste-inset gilt-bronze vase and cover, Qianlong Period (1736-1795). Estimate: HK$5,000,000-7,000,000 / US$625,000-875,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2014.

The vase is of baluster form, applied on both sides with a pair of bat-shaped handles from which loose rings are suspended, delightfully embellished with multi-coloured glass paste against a chased gilt ground comprising dense keyfrets and lappet borders. The shoulders are adorned with two Shou roundels in red and green paste flanked by blue keyfrets, below a band of ruyi-heads in green and red and an archaistic scroll in blue on the neck, and above alternating stylised bats in red and ruyi clouds in blue near the foot. The dome-shaped cover is further decorated with four red bats, below a bud finial inset with red and white paste. 12 3/4 in. (32.4 cm.) high 

Provenance: Anne and Gordon Getty Collection, FA#1981-1463
Sold at Sotheby's New York, 18 September 2007, lot 151

Literature: M & C Gallery, Seeking Antiques-Studying Treasures, Hong Kong, 2009, pp88-95 

Notes: This dazzling gilt-bronze vase is inlaid with multi-coloured paste glass, a decorative technique that was inspired by European automaton clocks that so enchanted the Qianlong Emperor. Although the technique is western, the style of the vase and its decorative theme is undoubtedly Chinese. The use of two bats as handles is very auspicious, as bat, fu, is a homophone for fortune. Coupled with the character ji, auspicious, as a central roundel on the main band makes the auspicious wishes clear. The wishes conveyed by this vase points to the possibility that it may have been commissioned as a birthday gift for the Qianlong Emperor. The casting of the bronze is also extremely fine on this vase, as one can see from this band of rococo style leaves. This vase is a great example of how Western techniques and aesthetics were adapted by Chinese artist for the Palace. For a range of Guangzhou-made clocks similarly inset with multi-coloured paste stones and melding Chinese and European decorative patterns in the Beijing Palace Museum, refer to Timepieces Collected By Qing Emperors in the Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 1995, pp. 51-80.

The sale also includes an imperial inscribed cloisonné enamel rectangular panel, Qianlong Guisi cyclical date, corresponding to 1773 and of the period (Illustrated right, Lot 3015, Estimate: HK$2,000,000-3,000,000 / US$250,000-375,000). This finely enameled panel is decorated with a pair of pheasants standing on blue rocks surrounded by a variety of flowers all below a gilt poem by the Qianlong Emperor alluding to the scene, followed by the cyclical Guisi date. The poem on the panel, composed by the emperor, is recorded in Yuzhi Shiji, Compilation of Imperial Poems, vol. 4, juan 9, dated 1773. The original title of the poem as recorded in Yuzhi Shizi suggests that the panel is based on a painting by Yang Dazhang, an esteemed court painter during the Qianlong reign and the poem is after the style of Wen Tingyun, a celebrated poet from the late Tang dynasty who was highly regarded by the Qianlong Emperor.

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An imperial inscribed cloisonné enamel rectangular panel, Qianlong Guisi cyclical date, corresponding to 1773 and of the period. Estimate: HK$2,000,000-3,000,000 / US$250,000-375,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2014.

The panel is finely enamelled with a pair of pheasants standing on blue rocks surrounded by narcissus in the foreground and camellias, wintersweet prunus, nandina and podocarpus rising from behind, all below a gilt poem by the Qianlong Emperor alluding to the scene, followed by the cyclical Guisi date, the two characters Yu ti (Imperial Poem), an inscription signed by Wang Jihua (Respectfully inscribed by your servant Wang Jihua), and two seals chen Hua and jing shu. 24 1/8 x 20 7/8 in. (76.5 x 53 cm.) with frame 

Provenance: Sold at Christie's New York, 29 March 2006, lot 295

Literature: M & C Gallery, Seeking Antiquities-Studying Treasures, Hong Kong, 2007, pp. 50-53

Exhibited: Beijing International Chinese Antiques Fair, 1-4 December 2007

Notes: The poem on the present panel, composed by the Qianlong Emperor, is recorded in Yuzhi Shiji, Compilation of Imperial Poems, vol. 4, juan 9, dated 1773. The original title of the poem as recorded in Yuzhi Shiji can be read as 'On Yang Dazhang's bird and flower (painting), appropriating Wen Tingyun's style', suggesting the scene depicted on the panel is based on a painting by Yang Dazhang, while the poem above is after the style of Wen Tingyun. Yang Dazhang (act. 18th century) was an esteemed court painter during the Qianlong reign specialising in the landscape and bird and flower genres. Wen Tingyun (812-870) was a celebrated poet from the late Tang dynasty and was highly regarded by the Qianlong Emperor.

The inscription following the poem includes the name Wang Jihua (1717-1776), a native of Xiantang (present day Hangzhou in Zhejiang province), who served as a high official at the court of the Qianlong Emperor. Wang managed the Wuying Hall in the Forbidden City, a storehouse for various rare books and archives. In 1770, the Qianlong Emperor commissioned him to transcribe all seven volumes of the Lotus Sutra. Upon his death at the age of 60, Wang was given the posthumous title Wenzhuang. See Zhongguo meishujia renming cidian, Shanghai, 1981, p. 124.

An inlaid lacquer screen bearing a Yu zhi mark and an inscription including the name Wang Jihua and the same two seals was sold at Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 5 November 1996, lot 1002.