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An  important and extremely rare Ru guanyao brush washer, Northern Song dynasty from the Le Cong Tang collection, “…today it is very difficult to obtain…” Zhou Hui, 3rd year of the Shaoxi period, Southern Song Dynasty (corresponding to 1192), estimated to fetch in excess of HK$100 million / US$13 million. Courtesy Sotheby's.

HONG KONGThis autumn, Sotheby’s Hong Kong Chinese Works of Art Autumn Sales 2017 will be held on 3 October at Hall 1, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The sale will be led by a highly important and extremely rare Ru guanyao brush washer from the Le Cong Tang collection, which dates back to the Northern Song Dynasty, one of only four known heirloom Ru wares in private hands. Other major highlights include an exceptional Xuande-marked porcelain jar painted in rich tones of cobalt-blue with a pair of makaras which was part of the 1968 Oriental Ceramics Society Exhibition, an extremely fine and rare blue and white ‘bajixiang’ bowl which has not been seen in the market for thirty years and an important documentary Tibetan gilt-inscribed jade river pebble ‘kapala’ box which marked the occasion in 1783 when the Eighth Dalai Lama was presented with an imperial jade edict by the Qianlong Emperor. A total of six sales this season offer more than 230 lots estimated in excess of HK$600 million / US$77 million.

Nicolas Chow, Deputy Chairman, Sotheby’s Asia, International Head and Chairman, Chinese Works of Art, states, “This October we are proud to present several extraordinary collections of Chinese art encompassing understated ceramics from the Song dynasty, refined objects for the scholar’s studio, and porcelain and works of art destined for the palaces of the Ming and Qing emperors. There will be a unique opportunity to acquire a near perfect and ravishing small brush washer from the Northern Song dynasty Ru kilns, the most celebrated and forged ceramic type throughout Chinese history. It is the finest example extant among all four heirloom pieces in private hands.”

SALE HIGHLIGHTS

SONG – IMPORTANT CHINESE CERAMICS FROM THE LE CONG TANG COLLECTION

This selection of remarkable ceramics from the Le Cong Tang collection comprises one of the greatest assemblages of Song ceramics ever to be offered at auction. Formerly in the collection of the Chang Foundation, Taipei, these exquisite ceramics underpin the artistry and pre-eminence of the Song dynasty.

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A highly important and extremely rare Ru guanyao brush washer, Northern Song dynasty (960-1126), Diameter 13 cm. Expected to fetch in excess of HK$100 million - US$13 millionCourtesy Sotheby's.

Ru guanyao, the court ware of the late Northern Song (960-1127), was commissioned by the imperial court and is the most revered of the Five Great Kilns. Its quasi mythical status over the millennium can be attributed to its short-lived production period, generally believed to not have exceeded twenty years.

With its glowing, intense blue-green glaze, its luminous, complex interlaced ‘ice crackle’ pattern, its classic, excellently proportioned shape, and its three fine ‘sesame seed’ spur marks, the present brush washer, formerly in the collection of the Chang Foundation in the Hongxi Museum, Taipei, is a pre-eminent example of Ru guanyao and incarnates to perfection the ware’s revered qualities. While seemingly small and unobtrusive, these understated aesthetics reflect the calibre and meticulousness of its craftsmanship, a quiet metaphor of Chinese philosophy celebrated by erudite connoisseurs and scholars throughout time. The present washer is one of only four known heirloom Ru wares in private hands.

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An exceptional and rare 'Ding' lobed brown-splashed black-glazed dish, Northern Song dynasty (960-1126), Diameter 19.7 cm. Estimate HK$6,000,000 - 8,000,000 / US$770,000 – 1,000,000Courtesy Sotheby's.

Also categorised under the Five Great Kilns, Ding ware was produced up until the mid-14th century, with the Northern Song dynasty marking their finest period in Chinese history. This stunning black Ding dish boasts a surface splashed with brown speckles and a noteworthy provenance from the Mr and Mrs Alfred Clark collection.

WATER, PINE AND STONE RETREAT COLLECTION – TREASURES

The eighth installment of the Water, Pine and Stone Retreat Collection - Treasures is the most tightly curated of the series, consisting of ten exceptional works of art of superlative quality. Highlights of the sale include two extremely rare works of art inscribed by order of the Qianlong Emperor.

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An important documentary Tibetan gilt-inscribed jade river pebble ‘kapala’ box and cover, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795), Length 14.6 cm. Est. HK$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 / US$260,000 – 380,000Courtesy Sotheby's.

This extraordinary artefact, a natural jade pebble skilfully worked into a box and cover of ritual ‘kapala’ form, and intricately inscribed in gilt in Tibetan text, is an object of superlative historical importance. It was bestowed by the Qianlong Emperor to the Eighth Dalai Lama of Tibet at the peak of China’s golden age, at the height of its wealth and territorial power, together with a jade seal and set of jade album leaves. The album leaves, comprising a certificate of appointment inscribed in Han, Tibetan, Manchu and Mongolian with precisely the same inscription as on the current lot, are recorded as having been conferred in 1783. Originally in the collection of the Potala Palace, the seal and album leaves are now preserved in the Tibet Museum, Lhasa. All three jade artefacts were recorded in the biography of the Eighth Dalai Lama, written in Tibetan by the tutor of the Ninth Dalai Lama and regent of Tibet, where the current lot is described as a ‘a golden decree having the outward appearance of a precious gem’.

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An extremely rare imperial carved and inscribed boxwood 'Manjushri and lion' group, Seal mark and period of Qianlong (dated in accordance with 1761), Height 10 cm. Estimate HK$8,000,000 - 10,000,000 / US$ 1,000,000 – 1,300,000.

A devoted pilgrim and patron to Buddhist Temples, the Qianlong Emperor commissioned a large quantity of Buddhist figures in his life
time. Apart from patronising and directly supervising the production of Buddhist images, the Qianlong Emperor had also written extensively on these religious artefacts. It is recorded that the Qianlong Emperor adhered to rigorous standards and would constantly impose adjustments in the production of Buddhist figures.

Exquisitely carved to the smallest details, the present boxwood figure is modelled as a bodhisattva with a serene face and compassionate gaze, seated in rajalilasana and dressed in a robe draped over one shoulder. The lion, with alert eyes and sharp fangs, is caparisoned with a lotus-adorned saddle and decorated further with tasselled harness. Standing by the side guiding the lion is a foreigner with curly hair, with his long-sleeved shirt buttoned up and the lower robe hanging. The base is further decorated with fluent scrolls, creating the illusion of the bodhisattva on a lion back elevated by sacred clouds. The finely carved Buddhist figure is inscribed with a long poetic inscription in clerical script, dated and concluded with a seal.

THE EDWARD T. CHOW ‘BAJIXIANG’ BOWL

This outstanding Xuande covered bowl, superbly painted in vivid cobalt blue with the Buddhist emblems bajixiang and lotus blooms, was formerly in two of the most remarkable collections of Chinese ceramics, those of Edward T. Chow (1910-1980) and T.Y. Chao (1912-1999). Only one other example of this form with a cover, but decorated with a different motif, is preserved in private hands. Following the successful sale of the exceptional Xuande barbed bowl last season, the reappearance of this bajixiang covered bowl on the market after thirty years is a moment of celebration.

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An Extremely Fine and Rare Blue and White 'Bajixiang' Bowl and Cover, Marks and Period of Xuande (1426-1435); Overall height 10.7 cm. Estimate HK$35,000,000 - 55,000,000 / US$4,500,000 – 7,000,000 Courtesy Sotheby's.

THREE MASTERPIECES FROM THE COLLECTION OF AN ENGLISH LADY

The sale consists of three outstanding masterpieces of Chinese art from the Ming and Qing dynasties acquired from the 60s to 80s, all with extensive provenance: an exceptional Xuande-marked porcelain jar painted in rich tones of cobalt-blue with a pair of makaras, included in the 1968 Oriental Ceramics Society exhibition, a magnificent Yongzheng period cloisonné enamel tianqiuping decorated with a three-clawed dragon, and a superb Qianlong period zitan box carved with dragons and phoenix.

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An Exceptional Blue and White 'Makara' Jar, Mark and Period of Xuande (1426-1435); Height 19 cm. Estimate HK$30,000,000 - 40,000,000 / US$3,800,000 – 5,100,000Courtesy Sotheby's.

IMPORTANT CHINESE ART

The Important Chinese Art auction is a tightly curated assemblage of fine and rare porcelain and works of art with a particular focus on the Ming and Qing dynasties. Highlights of the sale include two treasures of the Qianlong period from a private collection: a superb white jade teapot skillfully adorned with a cloisonné enamel handle, together with an exquisite doucai and famille-rose moonflask painted with autumn blooms and inscribed with a corresponding poem. 

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A Rare and Important White Jade and Cloisonne Enamel Ram-Head Teapot and Cover, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period; Overall height 18.5 cm Estimate HK$20,000,000 - 30,000,000 / US$2,600,000 – 3,800,000Courtesy Sotheby's.