Lot 2801. A fine peachbloom-glazed seal paste box and cover, Kangxi six-character mark in underglaze blue and of the period (1662-1722); 2 7/8 in. (7.2 cm.) diam. Estimate HKD 300,000 - HKD 500,000. Price realised HKD 2,125,000 © Christie's Images Ltd 2017
Provenance: Frank Caro, successor to CT Loo, 1960s
DR. JAMES D. THORNTON — AN OLD-FASHIONED AMERICAN COLLECTOR
Dr. James D. Thornton (b. 1921) is amongst the last of a generation of serious American collectors of Chinese Qing dynasty imperial porcelains. He was born in 1921 in Hot Springs, Arkansas, the son of a rural physician, and received his college degree from Louisiana State University before going on to medical school at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. During World War II, his service in the U.S. Navy as a young medical officer brought him on station in Casablanca and Rabat, Morocco, where he oversaw the treatment of allied casualties during the North Africa campaign. Dr. Thornton returned from the war to practice medicine in Philadelphia and later in Chicago as a company physician for the Pennsylvania Railroad. It was during the 1960’s that he began his frequent trips to New York and visits to the Gallery of Frank Caro, successor to C.T. Loo in the U.S.A., where he was first exposed to the Qing treasures that he so ardently collected over a period of several decades. He enjoyed only one trip to China, in 1981, and there he was able to see collections in Beijing and Shanghai. In Chicago, he was a longtime member of the collector’s group “The Orientals” associated with the Art Institute of Chicago. For over 30 years he generously shared many of his best porcelains, including those offered in this sale, with the public while they were on long-term exhibition in the San Antonio Museum of Art in Texas. Now in his later years, he has been watching with fascination and incredulity the rapid growth of the Chinese art market, and especially the popularity of Qing enamelled and monochrome porcelains.
Exhibited: San Antonio Museum, San Antonio, Texas, 1984-2017
Note: Similar peachbloom seal-paste boxes are in various museum collections, including the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the Catalog of the Special Exhibition of K'ang-Hsi, Yung-Cheng and Ch'ien-Lung Porcelain Wares from the Ch'ing Dynasty in the National Palace Museum, 1986, no.11; Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Kangxi Yongzheng Qianlong, Hong Kong, 1989, p. 141, col. pl. 124; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, illustrated by S. Valenstein, A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, New York, 1975, pl. 138. Compare also one sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 29 May 2013, lot 2101.
A peachbloom-glazed seal-paste box and cover, yinse he, Kangxi six-character mark and of the period (1662-1722); 2 7/8 in. (7.3 cm.) diam. Lot sold HKD 3,630,000 at Christie’s Hong Kong, 29 May 2013, lot 2101. © Christie's Images Ltd 2011
Christie's. Important Chinese Ceramics from The Dr. James D. Thornton Collection, 29 November 2017, Hong Kong