NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s autumnal offerings of Asian Art collate in Asia Week, 9-17 September 2016. The auctions will kick off in New York on Tuesday, 13 September 2016 with Chinese Art Through the Eye of Sakamoto Gorō: Early Chinese Art followed by four sessions of Important Chinese Art. On Wednesday, 14 September 2016 at 6:30pm, the Chinese Classical Paintings department will host its first evening sale – 122 lots from The Roy and Marilyn Papp Collection of Chinese Paintings. Chinese Paintings will continue their sales through Thursday, 15 September 2016. The Asia Week series will conclude on 17 September 2016 with Saturday at Sotheby’s: Asian Art, taking place at 10am and 2pm. 

Chinese Art Through the Eye of Sakamoto Gorō: Early Chinese Art celebrates the beauty of works created in the Shang to Tang Dynasties. Particularly well represented are archaic bronzes and pottery: the Rare Bronze Double-Owl-Form Ritual Vessel is formed by conjoining two owls back to back, creating a ‘you’ vessel (estimate $400/600,000). Like the one in the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., this complex work from the Shang Dynasty, 1300-1046 BC, combines form and function. The collection of pottery is led by a Magnificent Sancai-Glazed Ewer, which encapsulates the international spirit and opulent atmosphere at the Chinese court in the first half of the Tang Dynasty (estimate $500/700,000). 

A rare bronze double-owl-form ritual vessel (you), Shang Dynasty

Lot 13. A rare bronze double-owl-form ritual vessel (you), Shang Dynasty. Estimate 400,000 — 600,000 USD. Photo: Sotheby's

(Cf. my post of 12 august 2016 http://www.alaintruong.com/archives/2016/08/11/34181456.html)

A magnificent sancai-glazed ewer, Tang dynasty

Lot 6. A magnificent sancai-glazed ewer, Tang dynasty. Estimate 500,000 — 700,000 USD. Photo: Sotheby's 

(Cf. my post of 11 august 2016 http://www.alaintruong.com/archives/2016/08/11/34181160.html)

Immediately following Chinese Art Through the Eye of Sakamoto Gorō: Early Chinese Art will be four sessions of Important Chinese Art, over two days, 13-14 September. The highlight of the sale is a Qianlong Seal Mark and Period Rare Turquoise-Ground Famille-Rose 'Hui Mountain Retreat' Teapot and Cover (estimate $300/500,000). Celebrating the Qianlong Emperor’s adoration of tea, the beautiful porcelain teapot features a figure, possibly the Qianlong Emperor himself, being served tea by an acolyte while admiring an open handscroll. This delicate outdoor scene is accompanied by an imperial poem, entitled Jihiuquan peng zhulu ge (Brewing Tea by Hui Spring), included in the Siku quanshu [The Complete Library in Four Sections], Yuzhishi erji [Imperial Poems, vol. 2], juan 24, p. 4, written by the Emperor himself following a visit to the Hui Spring, a stop along his Southern Inspection Tour. 

A Rare Turquoise-Ground Famille-Rose 'Hui Mountain Retreat' Teapot and Cover, Qianlong Seal Mark and Period (1736-1795)

A Rare Turquoise-Ground Famille-Rose 'Hui Mountain Retreat' Teapot and Cover, Qianlong Seal Mark and Period (1736-1795)





Lot 261. Rare Turquoise-Ground Famille-Rose 'Hui Mountain Retreat' Teapot and Cover, Qianlong Seal Mark and Period (1736-1795). Estimate 300,000— 500,000 USD. Photo: Sotheby's

the finely potted globular body on one side with a short angled upright spout, opposed by an elegant ear-shaped loop handle, brightly painted to the exterior with a gilt-bordered rectangular panel enclosing a garden scene of a scholar seated at a low stone table admiring a scroll, an aged pine and rocky outcrop concealing part of a pavilion in the background, with an attendant serving tea while another brews it on a stove set amid rocks in the foreground, a bridge leading over a canal to a walled garden on one side, the reverse with a similarly shaped panel framing an imperial poem by the Qianlong emperor, Jihuiquan peng zhulu ge (Brewing Tea by Hui Spring), followed by two seals reading Qian and Long, all against a pale turquoise ground with a dense penciled pattern of curled feathery leaves, with swooping and ascending bats grasping beribboned wansymbols amid leafy foliate scrolls, the stepped cover similarly decorated around a slightly raised yellow-ground floral disc supporting a spherical knop painted with finely shaded lotus flower on a gilded ground, the interior and base enameled in turquoise, six-character seal mark in underglaze blue reserved in a square (2) - Length 6 7/8  in., 17.5 cm

Provenance: Collection of Mrs. Murrell R. Werth (1923-2014)


The Qianlong emperor was a fervent tea lover and is said to have composed more than two hundred poems on the subject of tea. He expressed his appreciation of tea culture in his writings and many of his poems make reference to the plucking, processing and preparing of tea. The Chonghua Dian (Hall of Double Glory) within the Forbidden City was the palace hall where the Emperor’s annual tea parties were held in the first lunar month, and where he invited his Grand Secretaries, ministers and members of the Imperial Academy to accompany him in drinking tea, writing poetry and pursuing other leisurely interests.

The idyllic outdoor scene on this vessel depicts a scholar seated in his garden at a stone table before an open handscroll, an attendant serving him tea brewed by a second assistant some distance away.  Inscribed on the reverse is an imperial poem, entitled Jihuiquan peng zhulu ge (Brewing Tea by Hui Spring), which is included in the Siku quanshu [The Complete Library in Four Sections], Yuzhishi erji [Imperial Poems, vol. 2], juan 24, p. 4 (fig. 1).


fig. 1. Imperial poem, Jihuiquan peng zhulu ge (Brewing Tea by Hui Spring) Siku quanshu [The Complete Library in Four Sections], Yuzhishi erji [Imperial Poems, vol. 2], juan 24, p. 4

The painting and the poem celebrate the Qianlong emperor’s fondness for the Hui Spring in Wuxi, Jiangsu province and the legendary bamboo brazier which was used to prepare tea using water from the spring, both of which had been treasured by scholars for hundreds of years. The pure natural spring water from the Hui Mountain, appreciated by scholars since the Tang dynasty (618-907), was recorded in Chajing [The Classic of Tea] by Lu Yu (733-804), the highly respected ‘Sage of Tea’, who ranked it second among all natural springs. During the Ming dynasty, a well-known monk named Pu Zhen, zi Xinghai from the Hui Mountain Temple, commissioned artisans from Huzhou, Zhejiang province, to make a bamboo brazier, and served his guests tea made with water from the Hui Spring boiled using this unique brazier. Over many years it became a tradition for scholars to gather on the Hui Mountain to liberate their literati spirit through drinking tea, writing poems, or painting landscapes. The paintings and writings left by these scholars were later compiled into several scrolls and were given the name Zhulu tuyong [Compendium of the ‘Bamboo Brazier’]. These scrolls, together with the bamboo brazier, were regarded as the two treasures of the Hui Mountain Temple. During the Qing dynasty, the Qianlong emperor learned about the Hui Spring and the treasures of the Hui Mountain and visited during his Southern Inspection Tours. He was served tea prepared on the bamboo brazier whilst admiring the handscrolls, and later composed the poem inscribed on this teapot to commemorate his visit. Upon returning from the south, the emperor ordered a replica of the Hui Mountain retreat to be built in Yuquan Mountain near the Forbidden City and instructed his workshops to produce a copy of the original Ming dynasty bamboo brazier with an imperial poem (dated 1751) inscribed to the base. This now resides in the Palace Museum, Beijing.

The original Compendium of the Bamboo Brazier was destroyed by fire in 1779. The following year the Qianlong emperor commanded court painters to repaint the scrolls under his supervision. Upon completion, the emperor gave the newCompendium of the Bamboo Brazier back to the Hui Mountain Temple and ordered that it be stored in a special room. In addition he had the paintings and poems transferred onto a series of steles, also to be kept in the temple. In 1860 the Hui Mountain Temple was destroyed by fire, resulting in the loss of all the scrolls. Fortunately some of the stele survived, including one engraved with a painting by the Qianlong emperor, Zhulu zhucha tu [Brewing Tea in a Retreat]. The remaining stele are now preserved inside the Hui Park in Wuxi City. Given the Qianlong emperor’s attachment to the Hui Mountain retreat, it seems likely that the scholar depicted in the painting on the present teapot is intended to represent the emperor himself.  

A teapot closely related to the present example was sold twice in our Hong Kong rooms, 27th October 1992, lot 156, and again, 2nd May 2000, lot 646, now in the Alan Chuang collection, illustrated in Julian Thompson, The Alan Chuang Collection of Chinese Porcelain, Hong Kong, 2009, pl. 113 (fig. 2). 

A turquoise-ground famille-rose teapot and cover, Qianlong mark and period

fig. 2. A turquoise-ground famille-rose teapot and cover, Qianlong mark and period Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 27th October 1992, lot 156, and 2nd May 2000, lot 646.

A third teapot of this type, but with the outdoor pavilion scene and inscription panels surrounded by feathery iron-red scrolls and scattered flower heads, from the Qing Court collection and still in Beijing, is published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum.Porcelains with Cloisonné Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 108 (fig. 3). A distinguishing element of these three teapots is the knop, which is decorated on all three examples with a lotus in iron-red and gilding. 

A famille-rose teapot and cover, Qianlong mark and period © Palace Museum, Beijing

fig. 3. famille-rose teapot and cover, Qianlong mark and period  © Palace Museum, Beijing

Another Qianlong imperial teapot of this form, painted with figures drinking tea in a garden pavilion on one side and an imperial poem on the other, the two panels against a flower scroll-decorated yellow ground that continues onto the knop of the cover, sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 31st October 1974, lot 316, and subsequently in the K.S. Lo collection, is illustrated in Hugh Moss, By Imperial Command, Hong Kong, 1976, pl. 86. Moss notes that the distinctive nature and quality of this teapot suggest that it was clearly made for the court and possibly for the emperor’s own use illustrating the shift of imperial patronage from the Palace workshops in Beijing to the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen during the reign of Qianlong. He further notes that it may have been inspired by the artistic genius of Tang Ying, Superintendent of the Imperial Kilns at Jingdezhen (see p. 85). Compare also a teapot of domed form with flared neck, similarly decorated with a tea preparation scene and inscription on the reverse against a yellow ground adorned with flower scrolls, from the collection of Hong and David Cho, sold in these rooms, 22nd March 2000, lot 135, and again in our Hong Kong rooms, 9th October 2007, lot 1212.

Murrell Rickards Bowden Werth (1923-2014) of Norfolk, Virginia was an avid art enthusiast and collector. After having worked during World War II for the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as the Counterintelligence Department at the Pentagon, she moved to Neuilly, Paris in the 1950s, where she studied art, befriending the exiled Prince Michael Petrovic-Njegos of Montenegro (1908-1986). Werth returned to the United States, settling in New York City in 1958, where she studied painting with William Kasso, later moving to Venezuela, where she studied with the artist Pierre Desenne. During her lifetime, Merth was a benefactor of many cultural and charitable organizations, including The Chrysler Museum, Physicians for Peace, Church of the Good Shepherd and many more.

Another highlight is a Large Ruby-Ground Famille-Rose 'Eight Daoist Immortals' Vase, Qianlong Seal Mark and Period (Estimate $300/500,000). 

A Large Ruby-Ground Famille-Rose 'Eight Daoist Immortals' Vase, Qianlong Seal Mark and Period (1736-1795)

A Large Ruby-Ground Famille-Rose 'Eight Daoist Immortals' Vase, Qianlong Seal Mark and Period (1736-1795)


Lot 262. A Large Ruby-Ground Famille-Rose 'Eight Daoist Immortals' Vase, Qianlong Seal Mark and Period (1736-1795). Estimate $300,000-500,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

the tall ovoid lantern-shaped body superbly painted with a continuous scene depicting the 'Eight Daoist Immortals' and attendants gathered in a fantastical landscape setting to celebrate the birthday of Xiwangmu, Queen Mother of the West, who arrives seated astride a phoenix, each Immortal holding an identifying attribute, with the attendants bearing baskets of peaches and other tributes, all finely detailed in famille-roseenamels with gilt details, the scene framed within ruyi-head borders outlined in blue and yellow enamels and decorated with scrolling lotus and bats suspending ribboned wanzi, reserved on a rich ruby-red ground, all below a gilt rim, the interior and base enameled in turquoise, the six-character seal mark in iron-red reserved in a square - Height 14 1/4  in., 36.1 cm

ProvenanceCollection of Léon Bartholin (1871-1918), Officer of the National Order of the Legion of Honour, France, acquired in China circa 1900.


This vase is exceptional for its elaborate design painted in a brilliant palette depicting Immortals celebrating the birthday of Xiwangmu, Queen Mother of the West. A sense of naturalism is successfully achieved through the carefully observed details, from the rendering of deer’s fur to the differing textures of the rocks and the numerous patterns adorning the clothing of the Immortals. The overall design was executed to perfectly complement the cylindrical shape of the vessel and be viewed like a painting on an unrolled handscroll.

The ‘Peach Festival’ is a popular Daoist theme associated with the birthday celebration of Xiwangmu, who has the sole authority to grant Peaches of Eternal Life and bestow the celebrant of the festival with great fortune. Xiwangmu is depicted seated gracefully on her phoenix, which carries her from her home in the Kunlun Mountains to observe the preparations for her Peach Banquet. She wears her characteristic phoenix headdress and is followed by a female assistant. In the landscape below, her entourage gather together large peaches of immortality for the Queen Mother’s inspection, while Immortals gather to greet her. The peaches, which are believed to bestow immortality on those who eat them, come from Xiwangmu’s orchard of 3600 trees. According to legend, each one of these trees was planted by the goddess herself. The fruit on the trees ripen once every 3000 years. While consuming a three thousand year peach will make you an immortal, eating a six thousand year peach, will give you everlasting life, and having a nine thousand year peach will give you a life span equal to that of heaven and earth. On the rare occasion of the peaches ripening, the Queen Mother invites all the immortals to a Peach Banquet, the Pantaohui, so that they can feast on peaches and assure their immortality.

Xiwangmu is the earliest recorded goddess in the Chinese pantheon. The first mention of her appears in Shang dynasty oracle bone inscriptions dating to the fifteenth century BC, that record sacrifices to Dongmu, Eastern Mother, and Ximu, Western Mother.  It is unclear if this Ximu is the same Queen Mother of the West, but certainly by the Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) Xiwangmu had emerged as a goddess worshipped not only by the Han imperial family and the upper classes, but also by the common people.

In the mythological classic Shanhai Jing, 'Classic of Mountains and Seas', compiled between the Early Warring States period and the Early Han dynasty (475 BC- 9 AD) Xiwangmu is described as a ferocious half-human, half-animal, with the teeth of a tiger and the tail of a leopard, who sends pestilence down upon the world. During the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-589 AD) the religious Daoists with their belief in opposing and complimentary forces, adopted her as the counterpoint to Dongwanggong (The King Father of the East).  By this time she had shed her animal form, become the embodiment of femininity, the personification of the yin principle, and as a mother goddess, she was responsible for allocating the lifespans of humans.  As a result, she became associated with dispensing longevity, hence depictions of her are frequently found on birthday gifts.

A slightly smaller version of this vase, but set between turquoise ground bands, also with a Qianlong reign mark and of the period, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1989, p. 350, pl. 31 (fig. 1).  

A turquoise-ground famille-rose ‘Eight Immortals’ vase, Qianlong mark and period

fig. 1. A turquoise-ground famille-rose ‘Eight Immortals’ vase, Qianlong mark and period © Palace Museum, Beijing

Compare also an ovoid lantern-shaped vase depicting the Eight Immortals as they cross the rough seas after attending the peach festival of Xiwangmu, painted between pink-ground bands, also from the collection of Léon Bartholin (1871-1918), sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 6th April 2016, lot 3611 (fig. 2); and a pair of jars and covers, sold twice at Christie’s Hong Kong in 1992 and 1995, and again in these rooms, 17th March 2009, lot 124, from the collection of Gordon Getty.

A pink-ground famille-rose ‘Eight Immortals’ vase, Qianlong mark and period

fig. 2. A pink-ground famille-rose ‘Eight Immortals’ vase, Qianlong mark and period Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 6th April 2016, lot 3611

With its combination of a continuous figural scene with formal scrollwork on a colored ground, this vase represents a somewhat later stage of porcelain decoration of the Qianlong reign. Although the individual elements of both shape and decoration are well-known from this reign, close counterparts are difficult to find as the Qianlong potters were masters at combining their many style elements in myriad ways to create ever new designs. The ruby-red ground neck and foot with formal flower scrolls are simulating the work characteristic of yangcai porcelains, which were probably inspired by brocade designs.

Qianlong mark and period vases of related form were typically decorated with figural scenes between colored borders; see a slightly smaller example with a cover, decorated with children at play between ruby-ground borders, but with a short straight neck, included in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Porcelains with Cloisonné Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 128; another with turquoise-ground borders, illustrated in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, op. cit., p. 353, pl. 34, together with larger examples, pls. 29 and 30, decorated with a landscape scene and children at play respectively; and a green-ground version in the Nanjing Museum, published in The Official Kiln Porcelain of the Chinese Qing Dynasty, Shanghai, 2003, p. 320.

Important Chinese Art also includes The Richard Lehman Gray Collection of Dehua Porcelain: ‘Divine Figures and Elegant Vessels’, an assemblage of 40 Blanc de Chine figures and wares. Purchased from notable figures in the field including Patrick Donnelly, the foremost collector of Dehua, and dealers such as Ralph Chait, John Ayers, Warren Cox, Alan Hartman and Roger Keverne over the course of four decades, Richard Lehman Gray’s collection has been exhibited in prominent locales around the United States. The group is led by a ‘Dehua’ Figure of a Seated Guanyin from the Qing Dynasty. Featured in the China Institute exhibition, Blanc de Chine: Divine Images in Porcelain, this beautifully sculpted figure bears a Lin Xiaozong yin seal mark on its back (estimate $30/50,000). 


A ‘Dehua’ Figure of a Seated Guanyin, Qing Dynasty, late 17th century-early 18th century




Lot 283. ‘Dehua’ Figure of a Seated Guanyin, Qing Dynasty, late 17th century-early 18th century. Estimate $30,000-50,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

the deity with arms clasped around the raised right leg, wearing long robes open at the chest to reveal a simple necklace, the face with a meditative expression and the neatly combed hair falling in two knotted plaits around the shoulders, all raised on a furled lotus leaf with rolling waves beneath, the back impressed with a square Lin Xiaozong yin seal mark - Height 9 1/4  in., 23.5 cm

ExhibitedBlanc de Chine: Divine Images in Porcelain, China Institute Gallery, New York, 2002, cat. no. 29.

Note: Compare other figures bearing Lin Xiaozong's seal mark, illustrated in P.J. Donnelly, Blanc de Chine, London, 1969, pl. 142A-C.

The final sale of Asia Week is the fourth edition of Saturday at Sotheby’s, with an exhibition curated by Jarret Yoshida, an interior designer trained at the Corcoran Gallery School, Parsons, FIT and École des Beaux Arts et Décoratifs. This season’s auction is made up of approximately 300 works of art and 100 paintings from China, Japan and Korea. From large works of art, including Four Carved Cinnabar Lacquer Panels from the Late Qing Dynasty (estimate $30/50,000) to smaller decorative objects such as a Pair of Large ‘Kakiemon’ Vases from late 17th century Japan (estimate $25/35,000), collectors are invited to explore works of all sizes, dynasties and countries in the Asian continent. For those interested in Chinese Paintings, the majority of the offerings in Saturday at Sotheby’s are classical in nature, including seventeen works from the collection of Sakamoto Gorō. 


Lot 957. Four Carved Cinnabar Lacquer Panels, Late Qing DynastyEstimate $30,000-50,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

each rectangular panel with a central section carved in high relief with a sweeping landscape, set between a shaped floral cartouche at the top and a rectangular panel enclosing a writhing dragon amidst clouds below, all against varying geometric diaper grounds and a floral border (4) - Height 65 3/4  in., 267 cm; Width 19 7/8  in., 50.5 cm



Lot 1194. Pair of Large ‘Kakiemon’ Vases, Japan, late 17th century. Estimate $25,000-35,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

each of ovoid form decorated in overglazed blue, green, yellow, and iron red depicting a mountainous landscape (2) - Height 11 in., 27.9 cm

Provenance: Collection of Placido de Sangro, Duca di Martina (1829-1881), Naples, Italy.
Collection of Placido de Sangro, Conte dei Marsi, nephew of Placido de Sangro, Duca di Martina, Naples, Italy, inherited in 1891.
Collection of Duchess Laura Avati di S. Pietro, niece of Placido de Sangro, Naples, Italy, inherited circa 1911, and thence by decent.

Note: Enameled wares decorated in the simple, bold style of the present piece are documented as appearing in European collections during the 1660-80 period. Whist generally ascribed the description 'early Kakiemon' or 'Kakiemon-style' it has not been possible to firmly attribute this group to a specific kiln. For a further discussion of the style of enameling see Eva Ströber, 'La maladie de porcelaine'; East Asian Porcelain from the Collection of Augustus the Strong, Leipzig, 2001, p. 166, where the author illustrates a vase of similar form to the present example, decorated with flowers, with its original cover. For a vase painted with willow tree and rockwork see the example in the Toguri Museum of Art, illustrated in Old Imari Ware, Tokyo, 1991, p. 81, pl. 173