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Lot 138. A Magnificent and Extremely Rare Large Carved Cinnabar Lacquer Dish, Late Yuan-Early Ming Dynasty, 44.5cm. Est. £400,000-600,000 / HK$3,860,000-5,790,000. Sold for £1,568,750 / US$2,035,453 / HK$15,876,533. Photo: Sotheby's

LONDON.- Sotheby’s May series of Chinese art sales in London concluded today having realised a combined total of £6,537,125 / US$8,481,920 / HK$66,158,976 – a sum in excess of the pre-sale estimate of £3.4-5 million. A selection of ceramics and works of art across the disciplines of imperial porcelain, lacquer, jade and Buddhist sculpture were presented across two auctions comprising almost 300 lots: Important Chinese Art and Menagerie, An English Private Collection of Chinese Animal Carvings. Key pieces in the Important Chinese Art sale had been unseen on the market in over 40 years and this factor, combined with their rarity, sparked intense interest from collectors. Returning to Sotheby’s London for the fourth time in its illustrious history, an extremely rare large carved cinnabar lacquer dish soared to £1.57 million, a sum almost one thousand times the price it achieved when last offered at auction in 1972. At that time, when early carved lacquer was still much of a mystery, the dish fetched £1,600. 

Robert Bradlow, Senior Director, Chinese Works of Art, Sotheby’s London, said: “Over the last several days, our exhibition spaces have seen a steady influx of Asian collectors, many of whom made the special trip to London to inspect and enjoy the rich and broad spectrum of works on display. One of the biggest draws was undoubtedly the carved lacquer dish, which had emerged from a private collection after almost half a century. Interest in the piece translated into determined bids this afternoon, in a sale that also saw strong prices for Qing imperial ceramics and good quality jade.” 

Important Chinese Art: 
Skilfully crafted and spanning China’s long and rich history, the ceramics and works of art in the Important Chinese Art sale offered a glimpse into the evolving tastes of the imperial court of China and the innovations made at the highest level in the imperial workshops. The sale brought a total of £5,429,500 / US$7,044,776 / HK$54,696,244 (est. £2,825,100-4,108,800). 

Representing one of the finest examples from the period when lacquer carving in China experienced its absolute peak, a Magnificent and Extremely Rare Large Carved Cinnabar Lacquer Dish from the late Yuan/early Ming period sold for £1,568,750 / US$2,035,453 / HK$15,876,533 (est. £400,000-600,000). With only two extant comparable examples – one in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, the other in a Japanese private collection – bidders seized the opportunity to acquire this 600-year-old piece, distinguished by the sensitive, naturalistic rendering of the flowers, the complexity and yet harmony of the luxuriant interwoven flower design, the impeccable craftsmanship of the carving, and the monumental dimensions (44.5cm). The dish was consigned from an Important Asian Private Collection, having successively formed part of three important collections, including that of Sir Percival and Lady David. 

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Lot 138. A Magnificent and Extremely Rare Large Carved Cinnabar Lacquer Dish, Late Yuan-Early Ming Dynasty, 44.5cm. Est. £400,000-600,000 / HK$3,860,000-5,790,000. Sold for £1,568,750 / US$2,035,453 / HK$15,876,533Photo: Sotheby's.

(Cf. my post 600-year-old rare lacquer dish leads Sotheby's Chinese Art Sales in London)

A White Jade Ruyi Sceptre, Qing Dynasty, 18th/19th Century, notable for the quality and translucency of the stone and its delicate low-relief decoration, achieved the second highest price, selling for £452,750 / US$587,443 / HK$4,582,055, far exceeding a pre-sale estimate of £40,000-60,000, while A Rare Pale Celadon Mottled Jade Horse, Qing Dynasty, Yongzheng/Qianlong Period, skilfully fashioned in the round and sensitively rendered, sold for £116,250 / US$150,834 / HK$1,176,505. 

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Lot 137. A White Jade Ruyi Sceptre, Qing Dynasty, 18th-19th Century, 35 cm. Est. £40,000-60,000 / HK$386,000-580,000. Sold for £452,750 / US$587,443 / HK$4,582,055Photo: Sotheby's.

(Cf. my post 600-year-old rare lacquer dish leads Sotheby's Chinese Art Sales in London)

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Lot 277. A Rare Pale Celadon Mottled Jade Horse, Qing Dynasty, Yongzheng-Qianlong Period; 12.5 cm, 4 15/16  in. Estimate £30,000 — 50,000. Sold for £116,250 / US$150,834 / HK$1,176,505Photo: Sotheby's.

skilfully worked in the form of a recumbent horse turning its head sharply to rest on its rounded back, with the front left leg raised and its hind hooves tucked beneath its body, the tail and mane finely detailed with incisions, the tail rendered swept to the side, the polished stone of a pale celadon colour accentuated with russet patches cleverly worked as its dappled coat 

Provenance: Collection of Vernon Wethered (1865-1952). 
Thence by decent to the present owner.

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Vernon Wethered

Note: Skilfully fashioned in the round, this charming jade horse is notable for the portrait-quality in which it has been sensitively rendered. Its gentle smiling features and full rounded body has been endowed with a certain individuality through the jade stone from which it has been fashioned. The natural patches of brown that run through the celadon stone have been cleverly utilised to create a dappled effect that is reminiscent of one of the breeds in the imperial stables, the piebold horse that was depicted in several imperial paintings such as the seminal work by the Jesuit missionary and court artist Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), One Hundred Horses (1728), in the National Palace Museum, Taipei (fig. 1). This grand painting, which depicts horses of various breeds and in lively poses brought to pasture in a beautiful mountainous landscape, took five years to complete and highlights the Yongzheng and Qianlong Emperor’s enthusiasm for their fine steeds. The meticulousness of the horses depicted in this painting also suggests that these are portraits of actual horses from the imperial stables, and the placement of the piebold horse in the centre of the scroll indicates its position of importance.

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Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), One Hundred Horses, ink and colour on silk, handscroll, Qing Dynasty (1728). Courtesy of the National Palace Museum.

A larger horse fashioned from a mottled jade and carved in a similar style, from the collection of Sir John Woolf, was included in the exhibition The Woolf Collection of Chinese Jade, Sotheby’s, London, 2013, cat. no. 102, together with a pair of larger pale celadon examples, cat. no. 101; another in the British Museum, London is illustrated in Jessica Rawson, Chinese Jade. From the Neolithic to the Qing, London, 1995, pl. 16:20; a third from the H. Tutein Nolthenius collection, was included in the exhibition Oosterse Schatten – 4000 Jaar Aziatische Kunst, The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1954, cat. no. 84; and a further horse was sold in these rooms, 31st March 1961, lot 171. See also a much larger example in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, illustrated in James C.S. Lin, The Immortal Stone. Chinese Jades from the Neolithic Period to the Twentieth Century, London, 2009, pl. 39.

Vernon Wethered was a founding member of the Oriental Ceramic Society in 1921 and was a client of Bluett's from 1912. His collection of Chinese ceramics and works of art was sold in these rooms on 6th May 1936.

A Fine Pair of Doucai ‘Ming-Style’ Jars, Qing Dynasty, Kangxi Period achieved £206,250 / US$267,609 / HK$$2,087,350, ten times the pre-sale estimate of £20,000-30,000. 

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Lot 222. A fine pair of doucai 'Ming-style' jars, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722), 13 cm, 5 1/8 in. Estimate 20,000 — 30,000 GBP. Sold for £206,250 / US$267,609 / HK$$2,087,350. Photo: Sotheby's.

(Cf. my post A fine pair of doucai 'Ming-style' jars, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722)

Menagerie 
An English Private Collection of Chinese Animal Carvings:
 
Menagerie, a delightful English private collection of animals, birds and sea creatures carved and modelled from a variety of materials, including jade and bronze, brought together 100 lots, each brimming with auspicious associations and reflective of Chinese culture through the ages. The sale realised an above-estimate total of £1,132,625 / US$1,469,581 USD / HK$11,462,732 HKD (est. £602,500-887,000) and was led by an exquisite white jade carving of two boys clambering playfully on an elephant, which achieved £81,250 / US$105,422 / HK$822,292 (est. £40,000-60,000). A white jade ‘Pig’ plaque sold for £68,750 / US$89,203 / HK$695,783, soaring above its pre-sale estimate of £5,000-8,000.

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Lot 5. A White Jade ‘Elephant and Boys’ Group, Qing Dynasty, 18th Century, 11cm. Est. £40,000-60,000 / HK$386,000-580,000. Sold for £81,250 / US$105,422 / HK$822,292. Photo: Sotheby's. 

(Cf. my post 600-year-old rare lacquer dish leads Sotheby's Chinese Art Sales in London)

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Lot 43. A White Jade ‘Pig’ Plaque, Qing Dynasty, 18th Century 8.5cm Est. £5,000-8,000 / HK$48,300-77,500. Sold for £68,750 / US$89,203 / HK$695,783. Photo: Sotheby's.

(Cf. my post 600-year-old rare lacquer dish leads Sotheby's Chinese Art Sales in London)