Lot 187. A magnificent rare parcel-gilt silver lobed bowl and cover, Tang dynasty (618-907). Estimate GBP 400,000 - GBP 600,000. Price realised GBP 1,105,250 © Christie's Images Ltd 2011
The bowl divided into five lobes by raised ridges, each lobe superbly engraved and gilt with floral and fruit clusters amidst luscious foliage, the interior with a central medallion enclosing large blooms and fruit surrounded by feathery leaves, the gently everted rim engraved and gilt with a band of overlapping petals, the exterior mirroring the decoration to the interior, the gently domed cover with a central medallion enclosing flowering and fruiting clusters enveloped by feathery leaves, all encircled by five further clusters of flowering and fruiting branches, the rim finely detailed with floral scrolls. The bowl 9½ in. (24.2 cm.) diam., the cover 9 7/8 in. (24.9 cm.) diam., total weight 1206g.
Provenance: By repute, acquired in Stockholm, Sweden, directly from Mr. Orvar Karlbeck between 1928-1930.
Literature: Orvar Karlbeck, Karlbeck-Konsortiet, Stockholm, Sweden, 1930-1931, Vol. I, p. 27, no. 146.
Note: Karlbeck-Konsortiet were not widely spread publications, consisting of typed or mimeographed pages with photographs that were trimmed and pasted in next to the descriptions of the items. Such publications were compiled by Mr. Orvar Karlbeck, an engineer by profession, resident in China between 1906 and 1927. Mr Karlbeck had an excellent eye for the art and antiquities of China and was trusted by museums and private collectors back in his native Sweden and across Europe to source items that would be of interest to them.
In 1927 Mr. Ovar Karlbeck returned to Sweden as political stability in China started to deteriorate. Nevertheless, between 1928 and 1934 Karlbeck conducted three 'collecting' expeditions to China in order to buy objects for museums and private collectors. His first expedition in 1928 was conducted on behalf of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm and directed by J.G. Andersson. The two subsequent trips were conducted on behalf of the Karlbeck Syndicate, a consortium of museums and prominent private collectors which included the British Museum, the Berlin State Museum, H.M. King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden and George Eumorfopolous.
See Bo Gyllensvard, Chinese Gold, Silver and Porcelain, The Kempe Collection, The Asia Society, New York, 1971, p. 80, no. 56, where the author states: 'The piece (a bowl and cover virtually identical to lot 187) comes from one of three tombs found near Palin in Eastern Mongolia. From two of these, in 1930, Mr. O. Karlbeck obtained eight silver bowls, four similar to the present lot piece and four without covers'. The author also mentions that 'similar bowls are also in the M. Mansson Collection, Stockholm', which refers to the current lot.
Such magnificent partial-gilt silver bowls and covers are amongst the finest works of art produced during the Tang Period and there are a number of extant examples in public collections.
Two similar bowls with covers are in the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, published by Paul Singer in Early Chinese Gold and Silver, China Institute, New York, 1971, no. 85. Two further bowls and covers are in the Pennsylvania University Museum, Philadelphia and published by Bo Gyllensvard, T'ang Gold Silver, B.M.F.E.A., Vol. 29, Stockholm, 1957, plate 21.
Lidded Bowl, Tang dynasty (618-907). Silver, Gold. Purchased from Ralph Chait, 1938, 38-20-1A, 38-20-1B © Penn Museum 2017
Lidded Bowl, Tang dynasty (618-907). Silver, Gold. Purchased from Ralph Chait, 1938, 38-20-2A, 38-20-1B © Penn Museum 2017
For another bowl and cover, formerly in the Carl Kempe Collection, see Bo Gyllensvard, Chinese Gold and Silver in the Carl Kempe Collection, Stockholm, 1953, pl. 115; the bowl and cover was subsequently sold at Sotheby's London, Masterpieces of Chinese Precious Metalwork: Early Chinese Gold and Silver, 14 May 2008, lot 74.
A fine and very rare parcel-gilt silver bowl, Tang dynasty, 8th-9th century, 24.2 cm., 9 1/2 in. Sold for 446,100 GBP at Sotheby's London, Masterpieces of Chinese Precious Metalwork: Early Chinese Gold and Silver, 14 May 2008, lot 74. Photo: Sotheby's.
See also a bowl but without the cover and lacking the footring, in the City Art Gallery, Bristol, formerly from the collection of Robert C. Bruce and sold at Sotheby's London, The Well-known Collection of Important Chinese Ceramics, Jades and Bronzes, The Property of Robert C. Bruce, Esq., 12 May 1953, lot 21, where it was purchased by Lord Dulverton and presented to the current institution.
Christie's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, 10 May 2011, London, King Street