Lot 907. The Ya Yi Fangding. A Highly Important and Rare Bronze Rectangular Ritual Food Vessel, late Shang Dynasty, Anyang, 13th-11th century BC, 11 in. (28.2 cm.) high. Estimate USD 2,000,000 - USD 3,000,000. Price realised USD 3,372,500. © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.
NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s announces Asian Art Week, a series of auctions, viewings, and events, from September 8-15. This season presents seven distinct sales featuring over 800 lots spanning all epochs and categories of Asian Art from archaic bronzes through contemporary Indian painting. In addition to the dedicated category sales, this season includes three special stand-alone auctions, featuring Marchant: Nine Decades in Chinese Art, honoring the Marchant family’s legacy of nearly 100 years in the trade, part-five of The Ruth and Carl Barron Collection of Fine Chinese Snuff Bottles, and a themed sale, Treasures of the Noble Path: Early Buddhist Art from Japanese Collections. Featured private collections within the Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art sale include The Nancy and Ed Rosenthal Collection, comprising Chinese furniture, as well as classic Chinese ceramics from The Scheinman Collection, and Qing porcelains from the The Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation. Included in the Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art sale are superb examples of Indian and Himalayan sculpture from The Alice M. Kaplan Collection and The Collection of Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza.
Highlights of the week include the Ya Yi Fangding, A Highly Important and Rare Bronze Rectangular Ritual Food Vessel from the late Shang Dynasty (estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000); a pair of dramatic hanging scrolls by Ding Yunpeng (1547-1628) and Sheng Maoye (active 1607-1638), Luohans (estimate: $200,000-400,000); fine examples of classical Chinese furniture, led by An Impressive Zitan Painting Desk from the 18th-19th century (estimate: $500,000-700,000); A large and important gilt bronze figure of Buddha, Nepal, 13th/14th century (estimate: $600,000-800,000) from The Collection of Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza; and a seminal painting by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde (1924-2001), Untitled, painted in 1996 (estimate: $2,800,000-3,500,000).
Additionally on view during Asian Art Week will be highlights from The Collection of Paul F. Walter, including Indian silver, court paintings, Chinese works of art, and more, which will be presented in two live auctions on 26 and 27 September, with a simultaneous online-only auction.
ASIAN ART WEEK | LIVE AUCTION OVERVIEW:
Fine Chinese Paintings
12 September | 10am | New York
Christie’s sale of Fine Chinese Paintings features over 100 lots of classical, modern, and contemporary works primarily from collections in the West. Highlighting the sale is a pair of dramatic hanging scrolls by Ding Yunpeng (1547-1628) and Sheng Maoye (active 1607-1638), Luohans (estimate: $200,000-400,000). Also featured is Dong Qichang (1555-1636), Living Along the Riverbank (estimate: $130,000-160,000), Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), Lady Holding a Cat ($90,000-180,000), and Pu Ru (1896-1963), Fisherman (estimate: $18,000-25,000).
The Ruth and Carl Barron Collection of Fine Chinese Snuff Bottles: Part V
13 September | 10am | New York
Part five of The Ruth and Carl Barron Collection of Fine Chinese Snuff Bottles features over 150 fine and rare snuff bottles in a wide range of materials, including glass, agate, porcelain, lacquer and jade. Following the success of the first four sales, Part V will be sold without reserve offering collecting opportunities to both emerging and experienced collectors.
A selection of Ruth and Carl Barron Collection of Fine Chinese Snuff Bottles. © Christie’s Images Limited 2017
South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art
13 September | 10am | New York
Christie’s sale of South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art presents 75 lots by modern masters and contemporary artists from the Indian Subcontinent. Leading the sale is a seminal painting by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde (1924-2001), Untitled, painted in 1996 (estimate: $2,800,000-3,500,000). Other highlights include Tyeb Mehta (1925-2009), Untitled (Falling Figure), painted in 1991 (estimate: $1,500,000-2,000,000), and a sculpture by Adi Davierwala (1922-1975), Galaxy, executed in 1966 (estimate: $40,000-60,000). The catalogue also includes important works by Maqbool Fida Husain, Francis Newton Souza, Syed Haider Raza, Akbar Padamsee, Jehangir Sabavala, Ganesh Pyne, Meera Mukherjee, and Somnath Hore.
Lot 414. Vasudeo S. Gaitonde (1924-2001), Untitled, signed and dated 'V.S. GAITONDE / 96', signed Hindi and dated '96' and bearing CIMA label (on the reverse), oil on canvas, 55 x 40 in. (139.7 x 101.6 cm). Painted in 1996. Estimate USD 2,800,000 - USD 3,500,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2017
Lot 435. Tyeb Mehta (1925-2009), Untitled (Falling Figure), signed and dated 'Tyeb 91' (on the reverse); bearing partial Gallery Chemould label (on the reverse), acrylic on canvas, 45 1/8 x 36 in. (114.6 x 91.4 cm). Painted in 1991. Estimate USD 1,500,000 - USD 2,000,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2017
Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art
13 September | 2pm | New York
Christie’s sale of Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art includes approximately 50 carefully chosen lots presenting an array of fine bronzes and sculptures from Gandhara, India, the Himalayas, and Southeast Asia. Featured in the sale are important works from The Collection of Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, including A large and important gilt bronze figure of Buddha, Nepal, 13th/14th century (estimate: $600,000-800,000) and A bronze figure of Sambandar, South India, Vijayanagara period, late 15th/early 16th century (estimate: $600,000-800,000).
Lot 620. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Buddha. A large and important gilt bronze figure of Buddha, Nepal, 13th-14th century, 19√ in. (50.5 cm.) high. Estimate: $600,000-800,000. Price realised USD 3,852,500. © Christie’s Images Limited 2017
Provenance: Sotheby’s New York, 1 December 1993, lot 23.
The Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection
Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, director and Vice President of the Board of Trustees of The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation, has long been devoted to the cultural preservation of the arts. Her father, an industrial engineer and businessman, was also an accomplished painter and collector of Catalan paintings. From the time she was a child, her family cultivated the Baroness’s love of the arts. Internationally educated and well-traveled, the Baroness was exposed to a vast array of cultures with distinct artistic traditions, fostering her love of art from all corners of the world.
In 1985 the Baroness married Baron Hans Heinrich von Thyssen-Bornemisza, a businessman and devoted art collector, reigniting her childhood passion and catalyzing an even deeper commitment to the arts. The marriage of the Baron and Baroness not only merged two families, but also joined their two distinctive collections into a comprehensive group of more than 1,200 works, including paintings by renowned artists such as Titian, Van Gogh and Picasso.
The Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza hailed from an important collecting legacy founded by his grandfather, August Thyssen in the early 20th century. August, an industrial magnate, is known to have commissioned Rodin to create six sculptures for his budding collection. August’s son, Heinrich, continued his father’s legacy with a focus on both classical and modern painting. August’s grandson, the Baron Hans Heinrich, carried the collecting torch, reassembling his father’s collection after it was dispersed among his siblings following his death in 1947. The cohesive collection includes such famous works as Ghirlandaio’s Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni formerly in the J.P. Morgan Collection. With a passion for German Expressionism, Baron Heinrich continued to collect modern and contemporary works throughout his life.
With her husband at her side, the Baroness elegantly stepped into the role as co-caretaker of the Thyssen-Bornemisza family collection, focusing mainly on nineteenth and twentieth century North American and European painting, including select works of Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Expressionism. Together they continued to build what was to become one of the most revered art collections in Europe. As the collection grew, so did the couple’s belief that the works should be made accessible to a larger audience. By the late 1980s, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection had grown too large to remain in the family gallery space in Lugano, Switzerland. The Baron and Baroness began to entertain proposals from art institutions around the world looking to house and care for this illustrious collection. Determined to keep the collection together, in 1988 they entrusted it to the Spanish government with the assurance that it would be cared for and managed according to their vision. Housed in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid since 1992, the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection boasts Western art works spanning from the thirteenth to the twentieth centuries, as well as works from Asia and beyond.
The Baroness has a special fondness for Asian works of art and furniture, which fill her home. The three exceptional works entrusted to Christie’s (Lots 620, 621, 622) from the Baroness' private collection, illustrate her keen eye for Asian art and her commitment to collecting at the highest level in every field. Until recently, these select works remained in pride of place in her home alongside other works from her personal collection. Christie’s is honored to offer these works at auction.
Literature: Himalayan Art Resource (himalayanart.org), item no. 24326
Note: This impressively large and finely cast figure of Buddha is seated in dhyanasana with his right hand in bhumisparshamudra, as he calls the earth to bear witness to his meditation. There are numerous indications of his divinity, including the lotuses on his palms and soles, his pierced earlobes surmounted by diminutive lotuses, his elongated eyes with the pupils gazing inward, the raised urna centering his forehead, and his tightly curled hair rising over the ushnisha, which is topped by a conical finial. He is dressed in a sheer sanghati with richly incised hems bordered by beads cast in high relief, with one pleated end elegantly draped over his left shoulder. The bottom of the robe fans out in thick pleats below his crossed ankles. This work is lavishly gilt overall and retains much of its consecration material, visible from the underside.
Elegantly modeled, this large figure of Buddha is comparable to a seated figure from the same period (see U. von Schroeder, Buddhist Sculpture in Tibet Vol. 1: India and Nepal, 2001, pp.522-523, cat.no.170c). Compare the robust chest, covered in a simple sanghatigathered in fine undulating folds at his shoulder and bordered by an incised scroll border with beaded rims. The arms are rounded and elongated and the legs gracefully folded in padmasana. The faces are square-shaped with elongated eyes centered by an urna. Each ear is decorated with a single flower and the hair is neatly arranged in tight curls rising to a domed ushnisha. While von Schroeder notes that the comparable sculpture “was either imported from Nepal or is the work of Newar craftsmen in Tibet,” the single flower above each ear suggests the influence of eleventh-century Kashmiri prototypes from Western Tibet (ibid., pp.152-166, cat.no.40B-47B). The adaptation of these early features illustrates the cross-pollination of artistic styles that spanned centuries. The present sculpture exemplifies the ability of the Newar artist to translate these earlier features into a distinctly Newar style, while the size suggests it was an important commission.
Compare with a another Nepalese gilt bronze figure of Buddha sold at Christie’s New York on 18 March 2015 (lot 4018 for $425,000), which is three-quarters the size of the present figure. Almost identical in terms of the iconographic details, the present work exhibits a greater refinement in the overall casting of the figure. The proportions of the body and head, the hands and feet and especially the facial features, which are meticulously rendered, give the Buddha a quintessentially Newari appearance. The present figure represents the peak of sophistication for early Nepalese bronze work, particularly for a sculpture of such large size and fine state of preservation.
An important gilt bronze figure of Buddha, Nepal, 13th century, 14 in. (35.6 cm.) high. Sold for USD 425,000 at Christie's New York, 18 March 2015, lot 4018 © Christie’s Images Limited 2015
Lot 62. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Sambandar. A rare and important bronze figure of Sambandar, South India, Vijayanagara period, late 15th-early 16th century, 29 ½ in. (75 cm.) high. Estimate: $600,000-800,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2017
Provenance: Sotheby’s New York, 1 December 1993, lot 104.
Note: Sambandar is one of the sixty-three Shaiva saints known as Nayanmars worshipped in South India. The historical figure of this saint appears to have lived in the second half of the seventh century. According to Tamil poetry, Sambandar was born of Brahmin parents and frequently accompanied his father to the temple. One day, at the age of three, his father left him on the steps of the sacred tank as he entered to take his ritual bath. The child began to cry from hunger, and when his father returned, he found Sambandar playing contentedly with a golden cup while trickles of milk ran down his chin. In response to his father's concerned questions about the source of the milk, Sambandar burst into song and dance praising Shiva and Parvati while raising his hand and pointed toward their image, thus earning his saintly status.
This impressively large and very finely cast figure shows Sambandar in his iconic pose, with one hand holding a cup and the other with his forefinger slightly extended, gesturing to Shiva and Parvati above. He is nude save for a simple torque, two bracelets and a sacred thread around his hips, as befitting a Brahmin child. His sainthood is indicated by an elaborate headdress, the topknot echoing the form of a lingam and therefore referencing his Shaivite association. He stands on a lotus over a tiered plinth, the bottom step incised with further lotus petals, and is surrounded by a flaming aureole issuing from the mouths of makaras and incised with a diamond stippled pattern. The surface retains a rich red-brown patina overall, and its large size indicates it was part of an important commission.
For a closely related example of a seventeenth-century Sambandar, see P.R. Srinivasan, Bulletin of the Madras Government Museum: Bronzes of South India, 1963, p.347 and plate CLXXXIV, fig.309. Both figures have gently sloped shoulders, softly modeled bellies, rounded knees and stand in nearly identical posture. The later example has broader shoulders, a protruding belly and a stiffer stance, echoed by the heavy ornamentation that seems to stand apart from the body’s curves. In contrast, the present example is simply adorned, allowing greater visual clarity and appreciation of the expertly modeled smooth contours.
There are few published examples of Vijayanagara-period works which approach the size and mastery with which the artist has cast this work. Two works from the period have been sold in recent years, including a large figure of Dancing Krishna (20 March 2014, lot 1626) and a figure of Shiva Chandrashekhara from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection (17 March 2015, lot 34).
A large and important bronze fgure of the dancing Krishna, South India, Vijayanagara Period, 16th century, 27 in. (68.5 cms.) high. Sold for USD 425,000 at Christie’s New York, 20 March 2014, lot 1626. © Christie’s Images Limited 2014
An important bronze fgure of Shiva Chandrashekhara, South India, Tamil Nadu, Vijayanagara Period, 15th century, 34 ½ in. (85.6 cm.) high. Sold for USD 665,000 at Christie’s New York, 17 March 2015, lot 34. © Christie’s Images Limited 2014
Marchant: Nine Decades in Chinese Art
14 September | 10am | New York
On September 14, Christie’s will offer a single-owner sale Marchant: Nine Decades in Chinese Art honoring the legacy of Richard Marchant and celebrating his family’s history of nearly 100 years in the trade. The London gallery was established in 1925 and is currently on the fourth generation. The sale includes a selection of works representing the collecting categories that earned the Marchant name international recognition, including Imperial porcelain, jades, later bronze works, and celadon wares dating to the Yuan and Ming dynasty.
Treasures of the Noble Path: Early Buddhist Art from Japanese Collections
14 September | 11:30am | New York
Treasures of the Noble Path: Early Buddhist Art from Japanese Collections brings together a carefully selected group of 40 bronzes and stone sculpture from Japanese collections spanning from the 4th century A.D. through 10th century. Highlights include A Grey Stone Seated Figure of Buddha, Tang Dynasty (estimate: $80,000-120,000), A Dated Gilt-Bronze Figure of Guanyin, Northern Wei Dynasty (estimate: $60,000-80,000), and A Rare and Important Gilt-Bronze Standing Figure of Buddha, from Korea, United Silla Period (AD 668-935), probably 8th century, (estimate: $80,000-120,000).
Lot 833. A Grey Stone Seated Figure of Buddha, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), dated by inscription to the 1st year of Chuigong (AD 685), 21 ¼ in. (54 cm.) high. Estimate USD 80,000 - USD 120,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2017
The finely carved Buddha is depicted with a full-cheeked face below the hair and ushnisha dressed in waves surrounding whorl motifs, and shown seated in dhyanasana, with the left hand resting on his left knee. He wears layered robes that fall in crisp folds around the body before cascading over the edge of the stepped, pedestal base, which is carved around the sides of the faceted, rectangular mid-section: with a cintamani (the jewel that 'grants wishes or satisfies all desires') raised on a waisted lotus support on the front; a standing guardian figure on each narrow side; and on the back with two further standing guardian figures, each holding a staff. At each front corner is the remains of a kneeling donor figure, all above an inscription dated to the 1st year of Chuigong (AD 685).
Provenance: Private collection, Japan, acquired prior to 1930.
Exhibited: Osaka, The Grand Exhibition of the Ancient Art of the World, October, 1938, no. 106.
Note: The current figure is quite similar to a larger (125 cm. high) grey limestone figure of Buddha, dated by inscription to AD 711, in the Shodo Hokubutsukan, illustrated by Matsubara Subaro in Chugoku Bukkyo Chokokushi ron (The Path of Chinese Buddhist Sculpture), Tokyo, 1995, pl. 674, and also in Comprehensive IIlustrated Catalogue of Chinese Buddhist Statues in Overseas Collections, vol. 5, Beijing, 2005, pl. 1019. The pose, face, treatment of the hair, type of layered robes and manner in which the cloth drapes in crisp, elegant folds over the edge of the throne, are very similar. The mid-section of the published example is also faceted, but not decorated, and rises from octagonal tiers above a taller, lower, square section carved with a lengthy dated inscription flanked by small niches of repeated kneeling figures.
Both of these figures are missing the right hand, which was most likely raised in abhayamudra, the gesture of "do not fear", indicating that the Buddha is teaching. Each figure has the left hand resting on the knee, possibly in a variation of varadamudra, the gift-giving gesture, which is also associated with preaching. The combination of these two mudras would help to identify both of these figures as either the Historical Buddha Shakyamuni or Amitabha, the Buddha of Boundless Light.
The face of the current figure and that of the Shodo Hokubutsukan Buddha is carved with a small mouth above a small, dimpled chin set within the full-cheeked, fleshy face. Both figures have folds in the flesh of the neck. These features can also be seen in two other dated Tang dynasty stone sculptures of Buddha illustrated op. cit., Comprehensive Illustrated Catalogue of Chinese Buddhist Statues in Overseas Collections, vol. 5, one a marble sculpture (55 cm. high) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, dated to AD 680, pl. 1016, the other a limestone figure (76.6 cm. high) in the Eisei-Bunko Musuem, Japan, dated to AD 705, pl. 1017. These latter figures also wear robes that are very similar, with the under-robe tied around the torso.
Lot 807. A Dated Gilt-Bronze Figure of Guanyin, Northern Wei Dynasty (AD 386-534), dated by inscription to the 5th year of Zhengguang (AD 524), 7 in. (17.8 cm.) high. Estimate USD 60,000 - USD 80,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2017
The bodhisattva is shown standing on a lotus base raised on a bracket stand inscribed on two sides with a dated inscription. The figure holds a lotus stem in the raised right hand and in the left hand the end of the scarf draped around the shoulders and arms, and wears a long incised robe gathered at the waist that falls to the tops of the bare feet, a bead necklace and a tall crown hung with trailing ribbons. The figure is backed by a flame-shaped aureole with flame border and the head by a double nimbus of lotus petals.
Literature: Osaka City Museum, Chinese Buddhist Sculptures, Osaka, 1984, p. 60, no. 88.
Kuboso Museum of Art, Gilt Bronze Buddhist Figures from Six Dynasty Period, Osaka, 1991, p. 59, no. 59.
Museum Yamato Bunkakan, Chinese Gilt Bronze Buddhist Figures, Nara, 1992, p. 60, no. 28.
Jin Shen, Zhongguo lidai jinian foxiang tudian (Illustrated Chinese Buddha Images Through the Ages), Beijing, 1995, p. 170, no. 119.
Matsubara Saburo, Chugoku Bukkyou Chokokushi ron (The Path of Chinese Buddhist Sculpture), vol. 1, Tokyo, 1995, pl. 167-c.
Exhibited: Osaka, Osaka City Museum, Chinese Buddhist Sculptures, 1984, no. 88.
Osaka, Kuboso Museum of Art, Gilt bronze Buddhist Figures from Six Dynasty Period, 1991, no. 59.
Nara, Museum Yamato Bunkakan, Chinese Gilt Bronze Buddhist Figures, 2 October - 8 November, 1992, no. 28.
Note: The inscription may be read, 'Hu Pan's wife made this figure of Guanyin, praying for the safety of her family', and is dated 17th day, 12th month, 5th year of Zhengguang (AD 524).
The figure and the aureole of this votive shrine are very similar to another Northern Wei example, similarly inscribed on two sides of the base with a dated inscription, corresponding to AD 513, sold at Christie's New York, 20 March 2014, lot 1603. As with the current example, the figure also holds a lotus stem in the right hand, but rather than holding one end of the scarf in the left hand, the bodhisattva holds a pendent kundika. Also unlike the current figure, the reverse of the aureole is cast with five images of Buddha seated on a lotus, all beneath a large canopy. Stylistically, these two votive shrines correspond to others of Northern Wei date, also with flame-shaped aureole, and with the figure often, but not always, holding a lotus stem in one hand, but more usually with the other hand holding either the scarf or holding the hand in varada mudra. Two slightly earlier examples of this type of gilt-bronze shrine, depicting the bodhisattva holding a lotus stem as well as an end of the scarf, are illustrated by H. Munsterberg, Chinese Buddhist Bronzes, Vermont/Tokyo, 1967, pls. 40 and 41, the first, in the British Museum, is dated to AD 471, the second, in the Seattle Art Museum, is dated to AD 485. Bodhisattvas holding a lotus stem are also identified as Padmapani, the lotus-bearing manifestation of 'Avalokiteshvara'.
Fig. 1. An extremly rare dated gilt-bronze fgure of Guanyin, Northern Wei dynasty (AD 386-534), dated by inscription to 513 CE, 7 in. (18 cm.) high, sold for USD 245,000 at Christie’s New York, 20 March 2014, lot 1603. © Christie’s Images Limited 2014.
Lot 835. A Rare and Important Gilt-Bronze Standing Figure of Buddha, Korea, United Silla Period (AD 668-935), probably 8th century, 7 in. (17.8 cm.) high. Estimate USD 80,000 - USD 120,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.
Likely representing the Medicine Buddha, Yaka Yeorae, the figure is finely cast standing on a waisted lotus base raised on an integral octagonal plinth with open sides, with right hand raised in abhayamudra and the lowered left hand holding a flattened globular object, likely representing a medicine bowl or jar, and wearing a long diaphanous robe that falls in pronounced U-shaped folds down the front of the body from where it is draped below the neck and over the left shoulder. The hair is dressed in small curls that also cover the ushnisha. There is an opening in the back of the head and another oval opening in the back of the body.
Literature: Government-General of Chosen, Chosen Koseki Zufu (Relic of Joseon Peninsula) vol. 5, March, 1917.
Matsubara Saburo, Kankoku kondobutsu Kenkyu (Study of Korean gilt bronze Buddhist figures), 1985, p. 96 a and b.
Nara National Museum, Imperial Envoys to Tang China: Early Japanese Encounters with Continental Culture, Nara, 2010, pl. 215.
Exhibited: Nara, Nara National Museum, Imperial Envoys to Tang China: Early Japanese Encounters with Continental Culture, 2010.
14 September | 2pm | 15 September | 10am & 2pm
Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art will be held on September 14-15 and comprises approximately 330 lots, representing works from a variety of collecting categories, including early bronzes, zitan and huanghuali furniture, ceramics, jades, lacquer, and works of art. Featured in the sale are renowned private collections including The Nancy and Ed Rosenthal Collection comprising of Chinese furniture and classic Chinese ceramics from The Scheinman Collection. Sale highlights include the Ya Yi Fangding, A Highly Important and Rare Bronze Rectangular Ritual Food Vessel from the late Shang Dynasty (estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000); An Impressive Zitan Painting Desk from the 18th-19th century (estimate: $500,000-700,000); and A Highly Important Imperial Spinach-Green Jade Book Set from the Qianlong Period (estimate: $200,000-300,000).
Lot 907. The Ya Yi Fangding. A Highly Important and Rare Bronze Rectangular Ritual Food Vessel, late Shang Dynasty, Anyang, 13th-11th century BC, 11 in. (28.2 cm.) high. Estimate USD 2,000,000 - USD 3,000,000. Price realised USD 3,372,500. © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.
The vessel is raised on four columnar legs surmounted by animal masks centered by flanges positioned beneath the flanges at the corners of the vessel above. Each side of the rectangular body is well cast with a large taotie mask below a band of confronted birds, all centered by vertical flanges and reserved on a leiwen ground. A two-character inscription, Ya yi, is cast on an interior wall below the pair of handles that rise from the rim. The bronze has a mottled pale green patina.
Provenance: Collection of Han Kejun (1766-1840).
Collection of Wu Shifen (1796-1856).
Neiraku Museum, Nara, prior to 1961.
Christie's Paris, 26 Nov 2002, lot 200.
Gisèle Croës, Brussels, 2003.
Property from a Private American Collection.
Literature: Wu Rongguang, Yunqingguan jinwen (Bronze Inscriptions in the Yunqingguan studio), 1842, vol. 4, pp. 9-10.
Wu Shifen, Meigu lu jinwen (The Record of Pursuing Antiquity: Archaic Bronze Inscriptions), 1895, vol. 1.1, p. 20.
Wu Shifen, Meigu lu (The Record of Pursuing Antiquity), vol. 1, p. 7.
Zhu Shanqi, Jingwuxinshi yiqi kuanzhi (Archaic Bronze Inscriptions in the Jingwuxinshi Studio), 1908, vol. 1, p. 36.
Fang Junyi, Zhuiyizhai yiqikuanzhi kaoshi (Interpretations of inscriptions from archaic bronzes in the Zhuiyizhai studio), 1935, vol. 5, p. 30.
Liu Tizhi, Xiaojiaojinge jinwen taben (Rubbings of Archaic Bronze Inscriptions at the Xiaojiaojingge Studio), 1935, vol. 2, p. 6.
Wang Chen, Xu Yinwencun (Continuation of the Surviving Writings from the Yin Dynasty), 1935, vol. 1, p. 5.
Luo Zhenyu, Sandai jijin wencun (Surviving Writings from the Xia, Shang, and Zhou Dynasties), 1937, vol. 2, p. 7.
Zeng Yigong, Shandong jinwen jicun (Bronze Inscriptions from Shandong), 1940, p. 7.
Sueji Umehara, Nihon shucho shina kodo seika (Selected Relics of Ancient Chinese Bronzes from Collections in Japan), vol. 3, Osaka, Yamanaka & Co., 1961, no. 195.
Noel Barnard and Cheung Kwong-Yue, Rubbings and Hand Copies of Bronze Inscriptions in Chinese, Japanese, European, American, and Australasian Collections, Taipei, 1978, no. 1035.
Yan Yiping, Jinwen Zongji (Corpus of Bronze Inscriptions), Taipei, 1983, no. 162.
Yinzhou jinwen jicheng (Compendium of Yin and Zhou Bronze Inscriptions), The Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, 1984, no. 1432.
Orientations, March 2003, p. 107.
The International Asian Art Fair, CANS Chinese Art News, March 2003, no. 63, p. 46.
Wang Xiantang, Guoshi jinshi zhigao (A Record of Bronze and Stone Inscriptions in Chinese History), Qingdao, 2004, no. 1903.
Shandong Provincial Museum, Shandong jinwen jicheng(Compendium of Bronze Inscriptions from Shandong), Jinan, 2007, no. 114.
Wu Zhenfeng, Shangzhou qingtongqi mingwen ji tuxiang jicheng(Compendium of Inscriptions and Images of Bronzes from the Shang and Zhou Dynasties), Shanghai, 2012, vol. 1, p. 445, no. 562.
Ink rubbing of the inscription on the present fangding as published by Zhu Shanqi in Jingwuxinshi yiqi kuanzhi (Archaic Bronze Inscriptions in the Jingwuxinshi Studio), 1908, vol. 1, p. 36.
Ink rubbing of the inscription on the present fangding. Rubbing by Li Zhi.
Exhibited: New York, Gisèle Croës, Outstanding Bronze from Dian Kingdom and Early Chinese Vessels, 24 March-2 April 2003.
Note: Symbolizing royal power, fangding vessels had great significance for Shang ruling elites. The largest extant Shang bronze ritual vessel is the Si Mu Wu fangding, measuring 133 cm. high and weighing 875 kilograms, found in Wuguan village, Anyang city, in 1939, and now in the National Museum of China (See Zhongguo qingtongqi quanji: Shang 2 [Complete Collection of Chinese Bronzes: Shang], vol. 2, Beijing, 1997, p. 48, no. 47). While the massive fangding vessels were made exclusively for the kings and queens, fangding of regular size were reserved for high-ranking aristocrats only. The present Ya Yi fangding is a superbly cast tour de force. There appears to be a few published examples that may be cited as parallels. A late Shang fangding (27 cm. high) of similar form and decoration, but with an additional small taotie mask between the confronted kui dragons on each of the broad sides, was formerly in the Cull Collection, and is illustrated by W. Yetts in The Cull Chinese Bronzes, London, 1939, no. I. Another similar late Shang fangding (27.6 cm. high) is in the Meiyintang Collection, and is illustrated by C. Deydier in Chinese Bronzes from the Meiyintang Collection, vol. 1, Annexe, Hong Kong, 2013, no. 46. Compare, also, an early Western Zhou fangding (25.5 cm. high) with a twenty one-character inscription sold at Sotheby’s London, 13 May 2015, lot 103.
The patron of this magnificent bronze vessel did indeed belong to a very powerful and significant clan, the Ya Yi clan. The clan mark Ya Yi comprises a ya cruciform shape and the name Yi. In the Shang dynasty, clans with the ya added to their clan mark are believed to be those that were conferred with the title of Marquis. Epigraphist Wang Xiantang (1896-1960) pointed out that there is a royal diviner by the name of Yi during the Shang Kings Zugeng's and Zujia’s reigns, who probably earned the title of ya and therefore established the Ya Yi clan (Cao Shuqin and Yin Weizhang, Ya Yi tongqi jiqi xiangguan wenti, Beijing, 1986, p. 6). The Ya Yi clan flourished during the late Shang and early Western Zhou dynasties as demonstrated by more than two hundred extant ritual bronzes bearing the Ya Yi clan mark. Archaeologists Cao Shuqin and Yin Weizhang divided Ya Yi bronzes into three groups. The earliest group can be dated to the late second phase of the Yinxu period, circa 1200 BC, contemporaneous with the tomb of Fuhao. This group was discovered in the early 20th century, reputedly from a massive tomb in Houjiazhuang village, Anyang city, and the most remarkable pieces in this group include a massive covered pou in the Nezu Museum, Tokyo (62.5 cm. high), illustrated in Catalogue of Selected Masterpieces from the Nezu Collections: Decorative Art, Tokyo, 2001, no. 1; a pair of massive jia vessels, one in the Nezu Museum, Tokyo (74.6 cm. high) illustrated ibid, no. 2, the other in the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco (75.3 cm. high), illustrated in Zhongguo qingtongqi quanji [The Complete Collection of Chinese Bronzes], Beijing, 1997, vol. 3, no. 46; a massive zun in the Nezu Museum, Tokyo (53.9 cm. high), illustrated in Nezu Collections: Decorative Art, op. cit., no. 7; and a unique egg-shaped tripod vessel in the Fujii Yurinkan Museum, Kyoto, illustrated in Zhongguo qingtongqi quanji [The Complete Collection of Chinese Bronzes], Beijing, 1997, vol. 2, no. 64. (Fig. 1) Between 1934 and 1935, archaeologists from Academia Sinica systematically surveyed and excavated the Houjiazhuang and Wuguan villages and confirmed that this area was the Shang royal cemetery. The fact that Ya Yi bronzes were found in the Shang royal cemetery demonstrates the close relationship between the Ya Yi clan and the Shang royal family. The second Ya Yi group is comprised of bronzes that were handed down since the 18th century including the present fangding; a gui in the Idemitsu Collection, illustrated in Ancient Chinese Arts in the Idemitsu Collection, Tokyo, 1989, no. 15, rubbing no. 13; and a fanglei formerly in the Qing imperial collection, now missing its cover, in the Kurokawa Institute of Ancient Culture, Ashiya, illustrated in Sueji Umehara, Nihon shucho shina kodo seika (Selected Relics of Ancient Chinese Bronzes from Collections in Japan), vol. 1, Osaka, Yamanaka & Co., 1959, no. 20. Besides the Ya Yi clan sign, the Kurokawa fanglei also bears an inscription, xuanniao fu. Fu is the title of female members of the Shang royal family and xuanniao may be translated as 'black bird'. The origin myth of the Shang recorded in the Shi jin (Book of Songs) and states: “heaven commissioned the xuanniao to descend and give birth to the Shang” (see Shi jin [Book of Songs], Shang song [Eulogies of Shang], xuanniao). Therefore, Xuanniao Fu must have been an important member of the Shang royal family. The coexistence between this royal inscription and the Ya Yi clan mark again confirms the high status of the Ya Yi clan and its close relation with Shang kings. In the late Yinxu to early Western Zhou period, the Ya Yi clan was still very prominent, as demonstrated by the third Ya Yi bronze group that includes the Xiaochen Yi Jia, dated by its inscription to the 6th year of the reign of the last Shang king, now in the Saint Louis Art Museum, illustrated in Zhongguo qingtongqi quanji, vol. 3, op. cit., no. 53; and an early Western Zhou zun vessel bearing a Ya Qi Yi clan mark sold at Sotheby’s New York, 17 September 2013, lot 5. It is important to note that Qi or Qi hou (Marquis of Qi) is probably a new title conferred on the Ya Yi clan during this period.
Fig. 1. Ya Yi bronzes reputedly from Houjiazhuang village, Anyang, now in various Japanese museums. After Zhongguo qingtongqi quanji (The Complete Collection of Chinese Bronzes), Beijing, 1997, vol. 2, p. 24, fg. 4.
In the 22nd year of Daoguang (1842), the inscription of the Ya Yi fangding was first published by Wu Rongguang (1773-1843) in his Yunqingguan jinwen, where he stated that the owner of this fangding was Han Kejun. (Fig. 2) Han Kejun (1766-1840), whose courtesy name is Yunfang, was a native of Fenyang, Shanxi province. He served as provincial governor of Guizhou, Yunnan, and Fujian consecutively during the Jiaqing (1796-1820) and Daoguang (1821-1850) eras. He is renowned for peacefully resolving disputes between a local tribe and the Burmese in Yunnan and constructing a walled city in Danshui, Taiwan. The Ya Yi fangding consequently entered the collection of Wu Shifen (1796-1856). (Fig. 3) Wu Shifen was an epigraphist, calligrapher and Secretary of the Cabinet at the court of the Daoguang Emperor (1821-1850) and was one of the great collectors of his generation. A descendant of a renowned Shandong family, Wu was also related through marriage to another prominent Shandong collector, Chen Jieqi (1813-1884).
Fig. 2. The first publication of the inscription on the present fangding by Wu Rongguang in Yunqingguan jinwen (Bronze Inscriptions in the Yunqingguan studio), 1842, vol. 4, pp. 9-10.
Fig. 3 The Wu Shifen provenance of the present fangding as stated in Meigu lu (The Record of Pursuing Antiquity), 1895, vol. 1, p. 7.
Nineteenth-century ink rubbing of the present fangding from the Wu Shifen suocang jinshi tapian (Ink Rubbings of Bronzes and Stelea in Wu Shifen’s Collection). Courtesy of the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica.
Lot 970. An Impressive Zitan Painting Desk, 18th-19th century, 31 ¼ in. (79.4 cm.) high, 69 ½ in. (176.6 cm.) long, 31 ½ in. (80 cm.) deep. Estimate USD 500,000 - USD 700,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.
The paneled top is set within a rectangular frame above three finely beaded drawers on the long sides. Each drawer front is finely carved with a single ruyi and further carved with ruyi-form spandrels at the corners. The whole is raised on square-form legs terminating in scroll-form feet.
Provenance: General Xiang Han Ping (1890-1978) Collection.
Lai Loy, Hong Kong, 1985.
Note: General Xiang Hanping (1890-1978) was a native of Hepu, Guangdong province, and was an accomplished military officer, political figure, calligrapher and painter. He was a rare combination of skilled military tactician and learned scholar and artist. Serving with the KMT during the Second Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945), he fought in many notable battles, including the Battle of Shanghai and the Battle of Xuzhou and served in the armed forces until his retirement in 1946. While serving in the military, he befriended prominent literary figures such as Hu Shi, Lin Yutang, Guo Moruo and Liang Shiqian. After his retirement, he was chosen to represent Guangdong province in the National Assembly in 1948. With the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, General Xiang moved to Hong Kong where he led a reclusive life until his death in 1978. He focused the remainder of his life to his other passion, collecting art and the practice of calligraphy. In 1966, he published Xiang Hanping jiangjun caoshu chuji (First volume of calligraphy works in cursive style by General Xiang Hanping).
Painting desks combine the broad surface area of a recessed-leg painting table with the convenience of accessible drawer storage, and belongs to a group which includes an eight-drawer zitan painting desk decorated with carvings of the Masters’ calligraphy and painting illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum – Furniture of the Ming and Qing Dynasty (II), Hong Kong, 2002, pp. 140-41, pl. 125, where it is dated to the Middle Qing dynasty. Like the present desk, the example in the Qing Court Collection features drawers on the long side, which have been cleverly incorporated into the overall design of the desk and appear almost seamless when viewed head on or at an oblique angle. See, also, a zitan painting desk, though without drawers, illustrated by My Humble House, Zitan, the Most Noble Hardwood, Taiwan, 1996, pp. 94-5, where it is dated to the 18th century.
Large tables are often erroneously labeled painting tables, but to be considered a true painting table, such as the present table, which measures an extraordinary 31 ½ in. (80 cm.) deep, the surface must be broad enough to accommodate a large painting and the accoutrements associated with painting or calligraphy, such as ink, ink stones, brushes, and washers, etc. With its generous surface, it is likely that General Xiang used the present desk to practice calligraphy, view and study paintings, or host scholarly gatherings.
Lot 1025. An Important Imperial Spinach-Green Jade Book Set, Qianlong Period (1736-1795), 4 3/8 x 7 ¼ in. (11.2 x 18.3 cm.), each plaque. Estimate USD 200,000 - USD 300,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.
The book comprises eight rectangular plaques, beginning with the cover incised and painted in two tones of gilt with the nine-character title, yu zhi shi quan lao ren zhi bao shuo between a pair of descending dragons above waves, the reverse and continuing twelve sides with inscriptions written in lishu (clerical script), recording the entire text of the Qianlong Emperor's essay Shiquan laoren zhibao shuo(Disquisition on the Seal of an Old Man of Perfect Completion). The back of the last plaque is further decorated with a front-faced dragon chasing a flaming pearl above crested waves and amidst cloud swirls, huali box.
Provenance: Gump’s Inc., San Francisco, 18 June 1955.
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. William D. Gibbs, and thence by descent within the family.
Note: Jade books were highly sumptuous items made only for the most important rituals or investitures of emperors. During the Qianlong period, however, jade books were also made for the pleasure of the Qianlong Emperor, in part due to his fascination with jade, and in part due to the increase in supply of the material following the pacification of the Xinjiang area in 1759. This group of Qianlong jade books bear inscriptions of primarily three different categories. The first is the conferment of special titles to imperial members, such as a celadon jade book documenting the conferment of the title Empress Dowager Chongqing to the Qianlong Emperor's mother in 1771, in the Beijing Palace Museum Collection and illustrated in Life in the Forbidden City of Qing Dynasty, Beijing, 2007, no. 19. The second type of jade book is inscribed with Buddhist sutras and texts, such as a jade sutra book with aloeswood covers, mounted in yellow brocade frames and fitted in a folding hard-board brocade box, incised and gilt with the Foshuo shi jixiang jing sutra. This example, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in The Imperial Packing Art of Qing Dynasty, Beijing, 2007, pp. 132-33. The third type, like the current book, records essays or poems by the Qianlong Emperor himself, sometimes to express his views on certain subjects or to commemorate his glorious achievements.
The present book, which records the Qianlong Emperor's essay Shiquan laoren zhibao shuo (Disquisition on the Seal of An Old Man of Perfect Completion), is particularly important among all jade books. In the 57th year of the Qianlong reign (1792), the Qing army led by general Fu Kangan repelled the Gurkhas’ second invasion of Tibet. This great victory concluded Qianlong’s glorious military career, which he counted as shiquan wugong (ten complete military accomplishments) and which included two campaigns against the Dzungars; the pacification of the revolt of the Muslim tribes; two battles against tribal people in Jinchuan; pacification of Taiwan; a campaign in Burma; a campaign in Vietnam; and twice accepting surrender of the Gurkhas (See Qing Gaozong yuzhi shiwen quanji [An Anthology of Imperial Poetry and Prose Composed by Gaozong of the Qing Period], the third collection, vol. 8, p. 7). Soon thereafter he began calling himself shiquan laoren (The Old Man with Ten Accomplishments). In the same year, Qianlong ordered the imperial workshops to carve the shiquan laoren zhibao seal (Fig. 1) and composed the Shiquan laoren zhibao shuo (Disquisition on the Seal of the Old Man of Perfect Completion). In this essay, the Qianlong Emperor elaborated on the profound meaning of the phrase shiquan. He stated at the beginning that “the term shiquan originally refers to the ten military accomplishments but the words contain a far deeper significance...... The military exploit is but one aspect of the duty of the sovereign.” The character shi, besides its literal meaning of 'ten', also means 'perfect', and the character quanmeans 'all completion'. By calling himself shiquan laoren, Qianlong not only celebrated his ten military accomplishments but also expressed his ambition of becoming an emperor of perfect completion. Thereafter, the imperial workshops recorded this essay in various medium such as kesi and jade books. In the first year of Jiaqing (1796), after abdicating the throne to his son Yongyan (Jiaqing Emperor), Qianlong announced in an edict that “the Shiquan laoren zhibao shuojade books will become the precious book conferring him the title of Emperor emeritus.
Fig. 1. Imperial spinach-green jade seal, Shiquan laoren zhibao (Seal of an Old Man of Perfect Completion), inscribed on four sides with the shiquan laoren zhibao shuo (Disquisition on the Seal of an Old Man of Perfect Completion), Qianlong period (1736-1795). Courtesy of the Palace Museum, Beijing. Photograph by 趙山 Zhao Shan
According to Guo Fuxiang of the Palace Museum, Beijing, there are more than twenty Shiquan laoren zhibao shuo (Disquisition on the Seal of the Old Man of Perfect Completion) jade books in various materials and sizes made during the late Qianlong period. One set made of greyish-white jade and mounted in folding hardwood frames is in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, are illustrated in The All Complete Qianlong: the Aesthetic Tastes of the Qing Emperor Gaozong, Taipei, 2013, pp. 34-45, no. I-1.2.
This present jade book entered the collection of Mr. and Mrs. William D. Gibbs in 1955. Eleanor Gibbs and her husband William developed a deep interest in Chinese culture and art in the 1930s and 1940s. Their profound understanding of Chinese culture made their collection, which had an emphasis on inscription-related works of art such as seals and this jade book, distinct among their fellow collectors. Mrs. Gibbs even had her name carved in Chinese on a soap stone seal. (Fig. 2) Their passion and dedication influenced their acquisition of this highly important jade book from Gump’s in San Francisco in 1955. (Fig. 3) Established during California’s Gold Rush era, Gump’s was a major source of fine Chinese works of art in the early twentieth century.
Fig. 2. Soapstone seal of Mrs. Eleanor Gibbs and its seal impression showing Mrs. Gibbs’ name in Chinese.
Fig. 3. Letter from Gump’s to Mr. and Mrs. William D. Gibbs congratulating them on their purchase of the present jade book set, dated 18 June 1955.
ASIAN ART WEEK | ONLINE SALE:
The Art of China: Online Autumn Sale
20 – 27 September | Online
Following the successful summer online auction, Christie’s is delighted to present this next instalment in The Art of China series, featuring a selection of around 100 lots of fine ceramics, jade carvings, snuff bottles, paintings, bronze statues and censers from the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Art of China-Autumn Online Sale offers the opportunity for collectors of all interests and tastes to acquire desirable works at affordable price levels.