NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s announces Asian Art Week, a series of auctions, viewings, and events, from March 14-26. This season presents nine auctions featuring over 1,000 objects from all epochs and categories of Asian art spanning Chinese archaic bronzes through Japanese and Korean art to contemporary Indian painting. The week is headlined by the landmark collection of Florence and Herbert Irving, the namesakes of the Asian Art Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and celebrated philanthropists of New York. The sales are titled Lacquer • Jade • Bronze • Ink: The Irving Collection, in celebration of the materials the Irvings spent their lives studying and collecting. The week also welcomes the return of Japanese and Korean Art (March 19) to the schedule alongside the category sales for Fine Chinese Paintings (March 19), Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art (March 20), South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art (March 20), Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art (March 22), as well as a single-owner sale Power and Prestige: Important Early Chinese Ritual Bronzes from a Distinguished European Collection (March 22). All works will be presented in a public exhibition from March 14-20 at Christie’s New York. Additionally, on view will be a non-selling exhibition of Chinese painting and calligraphy from the Shuishi Xuan Collection (March 14-22), titled Zhu Qizhan (1892-1996): Following My Own Truth.
Lacquer • Jade • Bronze • Ink: The Irving Collection features over 400 treasured objects and paintings which the renowned collectors lived with in their New York City apartment, including gilt bronzes, jades, lacquers, ceramics and paintings from across Asia, as well as European decorative arts. The collection will be sold across an Evening Sale (March 20) and a Day Sale (March 21), with a complementary online auction Contemporary Clay: Yixing Pottery from the Irving Collection (March 19 to 26). Collection highlights include an extremely rare gilt-bronze figure of a multi-armed Guanyin ($4,000,000-6,000,000); an important Imperially inscribed greenish-white jade ‘Twin Fish’ washer ($1,000,000-1,500,000); lacquer pieces by Shibata Zeshin (1807-1891) including a tray of autumn grasses and moon ($60,000-80,000); and Lithe Like A Crane, Leisurely Like A Seagull, by Fu Baoshi (1904-1965) ($800,000-1,200,000).
Highlights from the Fine Chinese Paintings sale (March 19) include a long handscroll of Fourteen Poems on Planting Bamboo ($800,000-1,200,000) by the scholar-official Li Dongyang (1447-1516) and Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), Splashed Ink Landscape ($200,000-300,000). Japanese and Korean Art (March 19) returns to Asian Art Week with an impressive sale featuring a strong selection of Japanese woodblock prints by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), including the “Great Wave” ($200,000-300,000) and “Red Fuji” ($90,000-100,000). Featured Korean works include a gilt wood sculpture of a seated Bodhisattva ($60,000-80,000) from Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) and a slip-inlaid celadon stoneware maebyong ($300,000-400,000) from the Goryeo dynasty.
The South Asian ModerN + Contemporary sale (March 20) features paintings by the seminal Progressive Artists’ Group and their associates, as well as important works by other pioneers of modern South Asian art. Highlights include Maqbool Fida Husain (1913-2011), Untitled (Horses) ($700,000-900,000) and Akbar Padamsee (B. 1928), Jeune femme aux cheveux noirs, la tête inclinée ($300,000-500,000). The sale of Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art is led by a rare black ground painting of Mahakala Panjarnata, Tibet, 18th century ($250,000-350,000) and a curated selection of Himalayan bronzes and Indian paintings from the Estate of Baroness Eva Bessenyey.
This season’s sale of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art (March 22) features rare masterpiece objects, including an exceptional 'numbered' Jun jardinière ($2,500,000-3,500,000); a magnificent Xuande ‘Fruit Spray’ bowl ($2,000,000-3,000,000); a rare Northern Qi gilded grey stone figure of Buddha ($1,200,000-1,800,000), and a magnificent and very rare huanghuali painting table, jiatousun hua’an, 17th century ($800,000-1,200,000).
The Shao Fangding ($1,000,000-1,500,000) is a highlight of the dedicated single-owner sale of Chinese archaic bronzes, Power and Prestige (March 22).
ASIAN ART WEEK | LIVE AUCTION OVERVIEW
Fine Chinese Paintings
19 March | 10am | New York
Christie’s sale of Fine Chinese Paintings features over 90 lots of landscapes, calligraphy, figures and floral compositions across classical, modern and contemporary ink paintings from the Ming dynasty to present day. Leading the sale is a long handscroll of Fourteen Poems on Planting Bamboo ($800,000-1,200,000) by the scholar-official Li Dongyang (1447-1516). Additional highlights include Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), Splashed Ink Landscape ($200,000-300,000); Wen Shu (1595-1634), Flowers and Butterflies ($50,000-100,000); and Lu Yanshao (1909-1993), Poetic Images of the Tang Dynasty ($60,000-100,000). Additionally, on view will be a non-selling exhibition of painting and calligraphy from the Shuishi Xuan Collection (March 14-22), titled Zhu Qizhan (1892-1996): Following My Own Truth.
Lot 10. Li Dongyang (1447-1516), Fourteen Poems on Planting Bamboo. Inscribed and signed, with three seals of the artist. Dated eighth day, second month, bingzi year of the Zhengde reign (1516) Eighteen collectors’ seals. Colophons by Hong Chu (1605-1672) with two seals. Colophons by Weng Fanggang (1733-1818) with three seals. Inscribed on the mounting by Weng Fanggang (1733-1818) with one seal. Handscroll, ink on paper, 10 3/4 x 511 x 3/4 in. (27.5 x 1300 cm). Estimate USD 800,000 - USD 1,200,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Provenance: From the collection of Wang Nan-p’ing (1924-1985).
Literature: An Qi, compiled by Wu Chongyao and Tan Ying, Moyuan huiguan lu, in Yueyatang congshu (Yueyatang Collectanea), 1852, vol. 2.
Yale University Art Gallery, The Jade Studio: Masterpieces of Ming and Qing Painting and Calligraphy from the Wong Nan-p’ing Collection, New Haven, 1994, pp. 81-85, pl. 7.
Zhu Jiajin, “Li Xiya Zishushi Juan Shou Zhuanji”, Shoucang Jia, January 2000, pp. 39-43.
Exhibited: The Jade Studio: Masterpieces of Ming and Qing Painting and Calligraphy from the Wong Nan-p’ing Collection. Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, April 9, 1993-July 31, 1994; University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, September 10-November 19, 1994; Art Gallery, Chinese University of Hong Kong, December 16, 1994-February 25, 1995; Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, Kansas, April 9-June 18, 1995.
Note: Li Dongyang, whose sobriquet was Binzhi and style name Xiya, was awarded the jinshi degree in 1464 of the Tianshun era. He served in the court for nearly fifty years and was regarded as a virtuous and wise prime minister. As a child, he displayed special a talent in calligraphy. He initially learned calligraphy by emulating the great master Yan Zhenqing (709-785). While he firmly grasped the essence of Yan’s hand, he also developed a style of his own and excelled in large cursive and seal scripts. His contemporaries praised his work as “unparalleled.” Furthermore, he was also a master in authentication and connoisseurship of paintings. No one else in the middle Ming dynasty succeeded in becoming as accomplished in so many fields as he did.
Measuring ten meters in length, Poems on Planting Bamboo consists of fourteen poems and essays written in standard, running, cursive, and seal scripts. Li Dongyang completed it in 1516 for his nephew by marriage Zhang Ruji. Both the artist and the recipient were very fond of bamboo and often planted them together.
The provenance of this work can be traced back to the late Ming so that its history spans nearly four hundred years and includes many important collectors virtually without interruption. Among the earliest are the collector seals of the famed Qing dynasty collector An Qi (1683-?). One of his seals appears on each of the six paper seams and the handscroll was recorded in An Qi’s treatise on paintings, Moyuan huiguan. It is particularly rare for such a long handscroll to be well preserved for over five hundred years without suffering damage or cutting, with only four characters in the frontispiece and a poem of Weng Luxu missing. The main reason for its present excellent condition is that most of the time this work was in the careful possession of experienced connoisseurs: from Weng Fanggang (1733-1818) to Ye Zhishen (1779-1863), as well as his son Ye Mingfeng (1811-1858). All of them were erudite literati interested in antiques and skilled in calligraphy. The Ye family had a strong relationship with Weng Fanggang and a great number of Weng’s treasures went into their collection. This handscroll was later owned by the Qing imperial family member and court official Aixin Jueluo Bao Xi (1871-1942) and by the great 20-century painter Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), whose seals can be found on the work. Zhang Daqian further inscribed his response, calling this “the most divine work as it contains authentic poems and calligraphy by Li Dongyang.” His admiration for and attachment to this handscroll is evident as one of his seals reads “whichever direction I go, there is only taking this piece with me and no possibility of separation.” Only a truly important work of art could have compelled a great master such as Zhang Daqian to express such a strong sentiment.
Lot 66. Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), Splashed Ink Landscape. Inscribed and signed, with one seal of the artist. Dated gengxu year (1970). Entitled by the artist on the reverse. Scroll, mounted and framed, ink and color on Japanese gold board, 23 5/8 x 17 ¾ in. (58.4 x 43.2 cm). Estimate USD 200,000 - USD 300,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Provenance: Acquired directly from the artist in Sao Paolo, Brazil.
Note: This painting was acquired by the owner’s family in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Their relationship with the artist began when Zhang Daqian and the present owner’s grandfather became personal friends.
In the 1950s, Zhang began to move beyond traditional Chinese landscapes, experimenting with the splashed-ink technique that can be traced back more than a millennium to the Tang dynasty-era artist Wang Qia and Gu Kuang. His time abroad exposed him to a much wider range of artistic styles that than were not available in China, and the experiences of new cultures and geographies no doubt became a great source of inspiration, influencing his free and expressive splashed ink style. In the early 1960s, he further built on this technique and began adding splashes of color to his works. Though he looked towards the past and consciously engaged with China’s artistic traditions, he also broke away from it. Zhang once wrote, “My way of painting mountains amidst clouds is different from that of Mi Fu, Mi Youren, Gao Kegong, or Fang Congyi. I forge my own path.”
At once both rooted in tradition and modern in its abstraction, Mountain Living in Autumn is composed of both simple silhouettes of houses minimally outlined with simple brushstrokes, as well as fluid and amorphous forms built up by swathes of ink splashes of rich vegetation. Composed of vibrant washes of seafoam green and rich azure, the painting is further dotted with crimson details and highlighted by pale mist and clouds against the luminous gold paper.
Painted in 1970, Mountain Living in Autumn stands as a culmination of his astonishing career. His years of dedication and training led to his splashed ink technique in which he depicts magnificent landscapes of extraordinary grace and grandeur, by employing the controlled and uncontrollable distribution and absorption of ink on his canvases, a visual effect which has since become iconic, cementing his status as one of the most important Chinese artists of all time.
Lot 15. Wen Shu (1595-1634), Flowers and Butterflies. Inscribed and signed, with two seals of the artist. Eight collectors’ seals, including three of Emperor Qianlong (1711- 1799), one of Zhang Ruo’ai (1713-1746), one of Zhang Keyuan (late Qing dynasty), and one of Ceng Yu (1759-1830). Dated summer, renshen year (1632). Scroll, mounted for framing, ink and color on paper, 34 x 17 in. (86.4 x 43.2 cm.). Estimate USD 50,000 - USD 100,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Provenance: Acquired in Japan in the mid-1940s and thence by descent.
Note: As one of the most important female painters in Chinese art history, Wen Shu’s (1595-1634) prestigious family lineage further elevates her above her peers. For generations, the Wen family were active participants and sometimes leaders in the arts, literature, collecting, and connoisseurship in their home town Suzhou, the cultural capital of China at the time. She was a descendant of the famed calligrapher Wen Lin (1445-1499), whose wife was known for her bamboo paintings. They were the parents of arguably the most influential artist in the early sixteenth century, Wen Zhengming (1470-1559). Her father Wen Congjian (1574-1648) enjoyed modest fame for his landscapes; and her brother Wen Ran (1596-1667) was also a landscape painter and calligrapher. Her status was further enhanced when she married Zhao Jun, a scion of the Song dynasty (960-1279) imperial family and a progeny of the most famous painter and statesman of the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368)—Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322).
However, Wen Shu’s own artistic talent has earned her respect and recognition beyond being merely a well-born, well-married lady. As her husband’s family fortunes declined with the passing of her father-in-law, she apparently became a prolific painter and sold her works to help the troubled family finances. Most of her works bear no dedication or inscription, indicating that they were most likely produced for commercial purpose. Judging from her oeuvre, she clearly favored flowers, butterflies, and rocks as subjects. She was known to depict the rare flora and insects native to Hanshan, an area of natural beauty where her husband’s family estate was located. In addition, Wen Shu also studied and copied the one thousand botanical specimens pictured in the Bencao meteria medica, and ancient illustrated pharmacopoeia which was revised and expanded by Li Shizhen (1518-1593). Under the title Bencao gangmu, this version was initially published in 1596 and had eight subsequent reprintings in the seventeenth century due to its popularity. As Wen Shu became established as a prominent painter, she developed a following of married ladies and young women who sought her out as a painting instructor.
In addition to Wen Shu’s two seals, this work also bears three of Emperor Qianlong’s (r. 1735-1796) collector’s seals and three of Qing dynasty (1644-1911) collectors’. Indeed, in the Qing dynasty imperial painting catalogue commissioned by Emperor Qianlong and detailing the imperial collection of paintings and calligraphy, Shiqu baoji, there is an entry of Wen Shu’s work. However, it only states that “A ‘sketching-from-nature’ painting by an elegant lady of the Ming dynasty, Zhao Wen Shu,” with no description nor dimension. It should be noted that Emperor Qianlong continued to acquire works of art after this first edition of Shiqu baoji in 1745, thus not every work in his collection was included in this catalogue. While it is impossible to know which one of Wen Shu’s paintings belonged to Emperor Qianlong’s collection, it is certain that he did collect her work and held her in high esteem as she is called “an elegant lady of the Ming dynasty.”
A fine exemplar of Wen Shu’s signature approach to painting, Flowers and Butterflies is composed of motifs delineated with either an outline-and-color technique, or a method of application of color without outline called mogu (“boneless”). Aiming for verisimilitude, Wen Shu meticulously executed each stroke of the brush to achieve realistic shapes, proportions, hues, and movements. Influence of bird-and-flower paintings of the Song dynasty academy as well as the illustrations in Bencao gangmu can be detected, as the objects appear with a high degree of accuracy but also somewhat flat and lacking volume. Overall, Wen Shu displayed an extraordinary sensitivity to natural forms and a firm grasp of brush techniques, achieving a polished, elegant composition that is pleasing even to the most discerning eye.
Lot 20. Lu Yanshao (1909-1993), Poetic Images of the Tang Dynasty. Each leaf inscribed and signed, with a total of twenty-one seals of the artist. Album of eight double leaves, ink and color on paper. Each leaf measures 8 1/4 x 11 in. (21 x 28 cm). Estimate USD 60,000 - USD 100,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Japanese and Korean Art
19 March | 10am | New York
Christie’s sale of Japanese Art and Korean Art features 161 lots of classical, modern, and contemporary works. Highlighting the Japanese section is a superb offering of prints by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806), and Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), including the “Great Wave” ($200,000-300,000) and “Red Fuji” ($90,000-100,000). Other Japanese highlights include a pair of screens by Unkoku Toeki (1591-1644), Horses in a Mountain Meadow ($100,000-200,000) and a silver kettle wrapped in iron ($100,000-150,000) by Yamada Sobi (1871-1916). Featured Korean works include a gilt wood sculpture of a seated Bodhisattva ($60,000-80,000) from Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) and a slip-inlaid celadon stoneware maebyong ($300,000-400,000) from the Goryeo dynasty.
Lot 246. Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), Kanagawa oki nami ura (Under the well of the Great Wave off Kanagawa) [“Great Wave”]. Woodblock print, signed Hokusai aratame Iitsu hitsu (drawn by Iitsu, changed from Hokusai), from the series Fugaku sanjurokkei (Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji), published by Nishimuraya Yohachi (Eijudo), 10 1/8 x 15 in. (25.7 x 38.1 cm). Estimate USD 200,000 - USD 300,000. Price realised USD 471,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Provenance: Drs. Seymour and Sylvia Fried, Englewood.
Note: In the Well of the Wave off Kanagawa has been making waves since it was introduced to Europe in the mid-nineteenth century––a glorious history that needs no introduction here. Exhibitions devoted to Hokusai attract record-breaking crowds on the strength of this one image among the thousands he produced. See also, “Katsushika Hokusai: The Great Wave,” series 3, episode 6 of “Private Life of a Masterpiece,” broadcast by the BBC in March 2009 and a thorough introduction to this print by a team of scholars; Hokusai is the sole non-European (Whistler counting as British) artist in the company of da Vinci, Picasso, Goya etc.
Introduced as a playful element on a beauty print he designed in his teens, waves pervade Hokusai’s repertoire, and antecedents for Wave off Kanagawa appear in several of his prints from the early 1800s, thirty years before this one came out around 1831. Hokusai was then in his seventies and in need of financial and artistic sustenance; his wife had died and he and his daughter–collaborator, Oi, were forced out of their home by the impecunious habits of Hokusai’s grandson. “No money, no clothes, barely enough to eat,” wrote Hokusai. The Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, in which the publisher Nishimuraya Yohachi (Eijudo) saw commercial potential, proved so successful that several editions were printed, which accounts for the variety of coloration one encounters in the blue water and sky and the black gradation above the horizon of the “Great Wave.”
The season is early spring, when the crest of Mount Fuji is saturated with snow. The time is dawn. The “waves that are claws” that Van Gogh saw in this image is, as wave scientists have now explained, a series of cresting waves that end in hooks, known as fractal waves. The astonishing aspect of Hokusai’s treatment is how closely it resembles the actual wave. Experts are divided as to whether he saw one of these rogue waves or heard about one from fisherman. An essay of interest to anyone engaged with this print is accessible online: Julyan H. E. Cartwright and Nakamura Hisami, “What Kind of a Wave is Hokusai’s Great Wave Off Kanagawa,” Notes and Records of The Royal Society 63 (2009): 119–35. They, and others, pinpoint the scene as outside the mouth of Tokyo Bay in seas known for rough water. Mount Fuji is visible from this position as Hokusai has it: far away, so it looks small. The boats are heading away from Edo (Tokyo), speeding to meet fishermen with fresh catches of bonito, a springtime delicacy that sold for high prices in the capital. There are eight boatmen to skull the boats, rather than the more usual four, suggesting that they intend a round trip. Whether they manage, hunkered down over their oars, to slice through the wave like surfers or be pummeled by it is, of course, the captivating mystery of the drama.
Lot 235. Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), Gaifu kaisei (Fine wind, clear weather) [“Red Fuji”]. Woodblock print, from the series Fugaku sanjurokkei (Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji), signed Hokusai aratame Iitsu hitsu (drawn by Iitsu, changed from Hokusai), published by Nishimuraya Yohachi (Eijudo), 14 7/8 x 10 in. (37.8 x 25.4 cm.. Estimate USD 90,000 - USD 120,000. Price realised USD 507,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Note: Despite the omnipotence of the “Great Wave” (see lots 242 and 246), the Japanese, and most connoisseurs, find “Red Fuji” the centerpiece of Hokusai’s Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. It, like its variant “Fuji over lightning,” is the only design without human element in a set otherwise devoted to activities in familiar places, presided over by the sacred mountain. The scene here is late summer or early autumn on the eastern side of the volcano. Dawn is breaking over the Pacific Ocean, flushing the slopes, here printed in brick red and brownish saturations at the crown. The fine wind of the title is blowing from the south, penetrating cumulus clouds that the Japanese liken to a shoal of small fish. The great off-center triangle of the mountain reduces the tree line to a peppering of blue dots. Unusual in Japanese depictions of sky, the air is a wide swath of Berlin blue pigment, a novelty import in the 1830s, that gradually darkens to the top. In this impression, the printer has gone for dramatic effect with measured fuss, using the natural grain of the wood block for contour and contrast.
With utmost simplicity of shapes and palette, Hokusai delivers not verisimilitude but a sensation of the majesty and supernatural power that inspired his personal devotion to Mount Fuji, as is obvious from his countless drawings of it that culminate in his 1834 book One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji. Unlike other prints in the series in which he uses perspective to link the foreground human scene to the background theme, Mount Fuji, his emphasis on two-dimensionality is deliberate: it accentuates both the symbolic aspect and the visual drama. Much has been said about the influence of this design on Western painters a few generations later, in particular the parallel between Cézanne/Mont Sainte Victoire and Hokusai/Fuji. Both artists revered a m
ountain for its cultural and physical significance. While they invented unique combinations of form to express it, the mode is abstraction that defies age. For the astonishing variety of printings of “Red Fuji,” one is commended to comparably fine impressions in museum collections accessible online.
Lot 294. Unkoku Toeki (1591-1644), Horses in a Mountain Meadow. Sealed Unkoku and Toeki. Pair of six-panel screens; ink, color and gold leaf on paper, 58 ¾ x 138 ¼ in. (149.2 x 351.2 cm). Estimate USD 100,000 - USD 200,000. Price realised USD 125,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Provenance: Marquis Maeda Toshinari (1885–1942), Tokyo
Collins & Moffatt, Seattle
Marian Willard Johnson (1904–1985), New York.
Literature: “Works of Old Masters,” Bijutsu Gaho (November 20, 1904), Plate 2.
Shoga Taikan (Compilation of calligraphy and painting). Tokyo: Shoga Taikan Kankokai, 1917, Plate 8 and pp. 111–12
Japanese 16th–18th Century Screens; 12th–14th Century Paintings, New York: Willard Gallery, 1960, cat. no. 2
Yamamoto Hideo, “Unkoku Togan hitsu Gunmazu byobu” (Screens depicting a herd of horses by Unkoku Togan), Kokka 1141 (1990), fig. 7, p. 25.
Unkoku Toeki / Unkoku Toeki and followers of Sesshu in the first half of the 17th century, edited by Watada Minoru. Yamaguchi City: Yamaguchi Prefectural Museum of Art, 2001, fig. 7, p. 105 [listed as Maeda Collection]
Note: Until now, the location of these screens has been a mystery. As recently as 2001, Japanese scholars listed the owner as Maeda Collection. In 1904, and again in 1917, when the screens were first published as rare masterpieces worthy of attention, they were in the collection of a famous, old daimyo family in Tokyo, Marquis Maeda Toshinari (1885–1942). Maeda commanded Japanese forces in Borneo during World War II and died there in a plane crash.
At some point, presumably after Maeda’s death, works from the Maeda Collection—probably including this pair of screens—were acquired by Mayuyama Jun’kichi (1913–1999), the preeminent Tokyo dealer in Asian art during the second half of the twentieth century. He documented his successful postwar interaction with foreign clients when he published his Japanese Art in the West in 1966.
Marian Willard Johnson (1904–1985), who opened her first gallery in New York in the 1930s, had no background in things Japanese, but she had featured Northwest Coast artists such as Mark Tobey and Morris Graves who were inspired by Japanese art and philosophy. In 1952, she mounted the first exhibition of prints by Munakata held outside Japan, including loans from Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd, at Willard Gallery, 23 West 56th Street. Yanagi Soetsu and William S. Lieberman contributed the text for the brochure. In 1955, 1956 and 1960, she mounted sale exhibitions at her gallery of Japanese paintings from the collection of Seattle dealers Collins & Moffat, who were well acquainted with Morris Graves. Willard was working with her friend, the handsome, Harvard-educated novelist and art dealer Bertrand (“Bertie”) Collins (1893–1964), and his younger partner, David Moffat. Collins was the wealthy son of a former mayor of Seattle. Both Moffatt and Collins had been to Japan many times in the early 1950s on buying trips.
In January 1957, Collins wrote to Willard asking whether she would take this pair of horse screens on consignment. He knew they were something special:
I don’t know if [Moffat] told you of a pair of screens—Horses against a gold background—which we are acquiring. They were painted for the palace of one of the Tokugawa shoguns and [are] said to be magnificent. . . .
I was wondering if, when they arrive, they appear to be. . . outstanding, you would be willing for us to send them on to you; to hold in reserve for certain clients you might have in mind. There is no sale for anything like that out here. As a matter o’ fact, we don’t even attempt to sell anything here in Seattle. With that snobbery peculiar to the provinces, people will refuse to pay $1,000 here for something they will pay, and gladly, $1,750 in New York.
Willard included the screens, without attribution (the seals were unread at that time), in her December 1960 exhibition with an estimate of $4,500 and Maeda Collection provenance. In 1975, she had the screens appraised by the New York dealer Roland Koscherak. They never sold and remained in her personal collection, resurfacing only now, nearly sixty years later.
In a September 1960 letter to Willard, Collins explains that he acquired many screens—including a few intended for the December exhibition—in Tokyo directly from Mayuyama, who was disposing of some of the Maeda Collection that had accumulated in his shop. Collins describes in some detail the crafty method Mayuyama had concocted for exporting great works of art in such a way as to evade scrutiny by the Agency for Cultural Affairs (Bunkacho).
We know that Mayuyama had a long-standing relationship with Richard E. Fuller (1897–1976), a collector of Asian art and philanthropist who founded the Seattle Art Museum, and served as its president and unofficial director in the early days, and with the museum’s curator of Asian art in the late 1940s, Sherman E. Lee (1918–2008). Mayuyama also sold directly to Fay Frederick (1891–1959), widow of Donald E. Frederick, who founded the Seattle-based department store Frederick and Nelson’s. Among the treasures she acquired from Mayuyama is the famous Deer Scroll by Hon’ami Koetsu and Tawaraya Sotatsu, now the centerpiece of the museum’s Asian collection (1951.127). In 1960, Frederick’s daughter, Fay Padelford, sold some of her mother’s screens, originally acquired from Collins & Moffat, through Willard Gallery.
The screens offered here invoke a Chinese-style landscape teeming with wild horses against a gold-leaf ground. They were painted by Toeki, the second son of Unkoku Togan (1547–1618), heir to the artistic legacy and patrons of Sesshû Toyo (1420–?1506) in western Japan. Regional schools like the Unkoku workshop were patronized by powerful local daimyo—in this instance, the Mori in Suo and Hagi—who brought Kyoto-trained artists to their strongholds in the provinces to underscore their cultural and military authority. The Unkoku style was characterized by a strong, tensile ink line, a composition based on a balance of wash and large unpainted areas, and a shallow spatial representation. Horses were prized possessions of the feudal aristocracy and Togan painted several screens of horses in a landscape destined for the inner chambers of the castle of a powerful daimyo. One pair from about 1600, with a herd of mysteriously pale, almost ethereal wild horses, is in the collection of the Kyoto National Museum.
Toeki is here following in his father’s footsteps but we may well say that he surpassed his father. There are two other horse screens by Toeki, one in the Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art and another—current location unknown—formerly in the Baron Takahashi Collection. His horses are usually in the so-called hakubyo or “white-line-style,” like those of Togan, but here he uses more color. The horses seem posed to record every possible attitude and angle from which they might be viewed, from the bony sleeping nag in the fifth panel from the right on the right screen to the graceful pair galloping in tandem on the left screen.
Of course, the landscape features are close in style to Togan, as might be expected in an artist’s early work. The square seal on the screen here is one Toeki used only early in his career. It appears, for example, on his painting of Daruma in Chion-ji, Kyoto, with an inscription by a monk who died in 1617. What sets these screens apart is the use of a gold leaf ground, which would not appear in the work of Togan and is used in only one other pair of screens by Toeki. They are a very important example of Toeki’s early work, strongly influenced by both Togan and the spirit of late Momoyama painting.
Last but not least, in his description of the Toeki screens in the Willard catalogue, Bertrand Collins astutely notes that the drawing of the horses is reminiscent of Chinese Tang-dynasty models. Japanese scholars such as Yamamoto Hideo have noted a Chinese connection when discussing Unkoku Togan’s horse screens. In particular, we should call attention to works such as the Yuan-dynasty painting of a bony old nag in a handscroll by Gong Kai (circa 1304) in the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts (see fig. 1)
Lot 339. A silver kettle wrapped in iron, Meiji period (late 19th century), sealed Sobi (Yamada Sobi; 1871-1916): 6 5/8 in. (16.8 cm.) wide. Estimate USD 100,000 - USD 150,000. Unsold. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
The compressed globular form with a spout, the body and lid finely hammered and wrapped in iron, applied with hammered iron handle, the lid set with a round finial partially applied with gold and silver, signature on body. With wood box titled yuto (kettle) on top, signed Sobi zo and sealed Yamada Sobi on the reverse side.
Note: Yamada Sobi was the son of Yamada Munemitsu (?-1908), a ninth-generation armorer who learned metal-hammering in a Myochin-school studio. He was particularly skilled at the technique of tetsu uchidashi(hammered iron) for producing three-dimensional, sculptural works from a single ingot of iron. He participated in many exhibitions and received thirty-five prizes at national and international expositions, including the 1904 St. Louis Exposition, 1905 Belgium World Exposition and 1909 Seattle World Exposition.
He was under consideration as Artist to the Imperial Household (Teishitsu gigeiin) but he died before the announcement of those honors. His works are in the collection of major museums including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Walter's Art Gallery, Baltimore and the Museum of the Imperial Collections, Sannomaru Shozokan, Tokyo.
Sobi was highly skilled at creating objects from a thin iron sheet by hammering and this is a rare example of a silver kettle wrapped in iron. Wrapping silver in iron is exceptionally difficult due to the different density of the two materials. In order to avoid damage or dent on the silver body, the thin iron sheet needs to be delicately hammered and applied.
Lot 363. A gilt wood sculpture of a seated Bodhisattva, Joseon dynasty (1392-1910), probably second half 17th century; 31 ½ in. (80 cm.) high. Estimate USD 60,000 - USD 80,000. Price realised USD 75,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
The gilt sculpture of a bodhisattva seated on a low pedestal, the figure holding its hands in a ritual gesture, the hair arranged in a high top knot painted in black, some traces of pigments on the lips, a circular hole on base revealing the interior of hollow body.
Provenance: Private collection, Japan
Lot 351. A slip-inlaid celadon stoneware maebyong, Goryeo dynasty, 12th century; 12 ½ in. (31.8 cm.) high. Estimate USD 300,000 - USD 400,000. Price realised USD 375,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
The elegant s-shaped profile with round shoulders and tapering body, inlaid in white and iron slip with three cranes flying amongst white-slip clouds, the mouth and foot rims designed with a narrow band of fretwork, finished with a glossy greenish glaze, four spur marks on base. With lacquered storage box.
Literature: Rhee Byung-chang, Korai toji / Koryo Ceramics, in Kankoku bijutsu shusen / Masterpieces of Korean Art (Tokyo: privately published, 1978), no. 167.
Korai meipin ten / Exhibition of Mei-ping Vase, Koryo Dynasty, Korea, exh. cat. (Osaka: Museum of Oriental Ceramics, 1985), no. 8.
Exhibited: The Nezu Museum, Tokyo (Date unknown)
Museum of Oriental Ceramics, "Exhibition of Mei-ping Vase, Koryo Dynasty, Korea," 1985.4.23-8.31.
South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art
20 March | 10am | New York
Christie’s sale of South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art presents over 80 lots by members of the seminal Progressive Artists’ Group and their associates, as well as important works by other pioneers of modern South Asian art such as Hemendranath Mazumdar, Allah Bux and M.V. Dhurandhar. Leading the sale is Maqbool Fida Husain (1913-2011), Untitled (Horses) ($700,000-900,000). Also featured is an impressive selection by celebrated living artists including Akbar Padamsee (B. 1928), Jeune femme aux cheveux noirs, la tête inclinée ($300,000-500,000); Arpita Singh (B. 1937), Ashvamedha ($250,000-350,000); and Rameshwar Broota (B. 1941), The Other Space ($200,000-300,000). The auction additionally includes pieces by Francis Newton Souza, Syed Haider Raza, and Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, along with a section of contemporary works by artists such as Ranjani Shettar, Nalini Malani, Zarina, Atul Dodiya and Muhanned Cader, among others. Featuring a range of works by top artists in the field, this season’s sale offers emerging and established collectors unique buying opportunities across the category.
Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art
20 March | 2pm | New York
Christie’s sale of Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art will present 131 carefully chosen lots featuring an array of fine sculptures and paintings from India, the Himalayas, and Southeast Asia. The sale is led by a rare black ground painting of Mahakala Panjarnata, Tibet, 18th century ($250,000-350,000); and a fine South Indian bronze figure of Chandikeshvara from the Chola period ($200,000-300,000). Other highlights include a curated selection of fresh-to-market Himalayan bronzes and Indian paintings from the Estate of Baroness Eva Bessenyey; a fine group of Indian and Southeast Asian stone and bronze sculpture; Indian picchvais from a distinguished European collection; and an elegant selection of Indian miniature painting from private American and European collections, including the Estate of Mr Carol Summers.
Lot 666. A rare black ground painting of Mahakala Panjarnata, Tibet, 18th century; 33 x 21 1/8 in. (83.8 x 56.2 cm). Estimate USD 250,000 - USD 350,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019
Provenance: Private collection, Australia, by repute.
Note: Fire surrounds a dwarfish and big-bellied Black Lord of the Pavilion, who stands upon a prostrate human figure pinned down atop a lotus throne, which is barely visible through the masses of carefully-shaped flames that encircle each of the retinue figures who surround him. The viewer’s attention is directly drawn to the bright white teeth that protrude in a fierce manner from the gaping red mouth of the deity and his three bulging red-tinged eyes. Atop his head sits a crown with five jewels and five smiling human skulls. His wild gold hair is topped with a vajra and tied with a small serpent resembling the one delicately-rendered around his belly. His heavy gold eyebrows and tufts of facial hair resemble his jewelry in their spiraling designs. The finely painted details of the jewelry, bone ornaments, protective staff, curved knife, blood-filled skull cup, and tiger-skin, were all clearly executed with the finest brush. Mahakala’s garland of fifty severed human heads is also rendered with incredible detail, each expression distinct from the next and each hair defined. Compare these details to those in an example of Panjarnata Mahakala in the Rubin Museum of Art (see figure a).
Figure a: Panjarnatha Mahakala, Central Tibet; early 18th century, ca. 1720, Pigments on cloth, Rubin Museum of Art, C2001.1.4 (HAR 65004).
The beauty and grandeur of the present painting, however, is not all contained within the central figure. This dynamic composition is a result of creative and expertly-painted details filling each and every space between the wrathful retinue of figures: animals emerge between flames, miniature necromancers, monks, and warriors appear in small vignettes, and implements among a feast of gruesome offerings fill the bottom of the canvas, all in harmony with the terrific mood of the painting. The artist of the present work managed to fit an extraordinary volume of figures, flames, symbols, and ritual representations into the composition, and the black ground creates an all-pervasive dark space from which these forms emerge and coalesce. The sheer number of elements packed into the painting and precision with which the mass of details is executed unquestionably makes this painting worthy of display among Tibetan masterworks.
Lot 642. A bronze figure of Chandikeshvara, South India, Tamil Nadu, Chola period, 12th century; 22 ¼ in. (56.5 cm.) high. Estimate USD 200,000 - USD 300,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019
Provenance: William H. Wolff, Inc., New York
Sotheby’s New York, 27 March 1991, lot 51.
Note: This elegantly cast figure depicts the South Indian saint Chandesha, also known as Chandikeshvara. Images of the sixty-three nayanar or Shaivite saints of South India, including Chandikeshvara, are idealized portraits of devotees transformed by bhakti, the state of loving devotion. To these nayanar are attributed more than seven hundred hymns that form the sacred liturgical body recited in Tamil temples, which extol the feats of Shiva and his irresistible beauty.
In the current work, the poetic ecstasy of Chandikeshvara is manifested into an evocative, sensuous, and idealized form. Revered as the foremost devotee of Shiva, the young cowherd Chandesha worshipped a simple mud lingam, using milk from the cows he tended for the ritual daily lustration. When his father chastised him for wasting milk, Chandesha was so absorbed in meditation that he did not hear his father’s admonition. In a fury, his father kicked the lingam and so Chandesha lashed out with his staff, which miraculously turned into Shiva's sacred battleaxe. Pleased by the intensity of Chandesha's devotion, Shiva and Uma blessed him with a divine garland, hence the name Chandikeshvara. During the Chola period, all Shiva temples had a separate shrine dedicated to Chandikeshvara, usually on the northern side near the sanctum, as the guardian and supervisor of Shaivite temples. To this day, his presence is evoked in Shaivita temple complexes by a clapping of hands by devotees.
Graceful and richly patinated, Chandikeshvara stands in contrapposto on a foliate pedestal, the arms raised together in anjalimudra with the parashuor battleaxe of Shiva resting in the crook of the left elbow. His face is beatific, the aquiline nose powerful above a rosebud mouth. The broad shoulders and fleshy physique are in marked contrast to the lithe modeling prevalent in early Chola sculpture. The brief, diaphanous dhoti or loincloth is incised with a scrolling vine motif at front and back, secured with a sash affixed around the waist with a girdle clasp and hung in a half-loop across the upper thighs. The tall jatamukuta echoes the plaited jatas of Shiva. Chandikeshvara is ornamented with large round earrings, ear tassels, wide necklaces, armlets on the upper arm, beaded armlets at the elbows and stacked bracelets, as well as stacked anklets on the right leg. He wears the yajnopavitam or sacred thread across the left shoulder.
The coiled jatamukuta and splay of plaits at the back of the head is favorably comparable with another slightly earlier bronze figure of Chandikeshvara in the British Museum (acc. no. 1988.0425.1), see V. Dehejia, The Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from South India, New York, 2003, pp. 162-3, cat. no. 33. Further iconographical details, including the unadorned parashu, the large flat-petaled shirashchakra or halo at the back of the head, and the tightly coiled jatas arrayed a graceful semi-circle across the upper back and which cascade down the shoulders further support a twelfth century dating. For further reading, see C. Sivaramamurti, South Indian Bronzes, New Delhi, 1963, p. 40.
A bronze figure of Saint Chandesha (Chandikeshvara), India, Tamil Nadu, Chennai District, Chola period, circa 1001-1050, 1988,0425.1. © 2019 Trustees of the British Museum.
Lacquer • Jade • Bronze • Ink: The Irving Collection
Part I: Evening Sale
20 March | 7pm | New York
Lacquer, Jade, Bronze, Ink: The Irving Collection evening sale will present 26 of the finest pieces from across the Irvings’ most collected categories of Asian art: lacquer, jade, bronze, and ink, and some select ceramics. Featured lots include a highly important and extremely rare gilt-bronze figure of a multi-armed Guanyin ($4,000,000-6,000,000); an important and extremely rare Imperially inscribed greenish-white jade ‘Twin Fish’ washer ($1,000,000-1,500,000); a rectangular lacquer tray with decoration of autumn grasses and moon, Shibata Zeshin (1807-1891), Meiji period ($60,000-80,000); and Lithe Like A Crane, Leisurely Like A Seagull, by Fu Baoshi (1904-1965) ($800,000-1,200,000).
Lot 814. A highly important and extremely rare gilt-bronze figure of a multi-armed Guanyin, China, Yunnan, Dali Kingdom, 11-12th century; 14 7/8 in. (38 cm.) high. Estimate: $4,000,000-6,000,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
ot 806.An important and extremely rare Imperially inscribed greenish-white jade ‘Twin Fish’ washer, China, Qing dynasty, Qianlong incised four-character mark and of the period, dated by inscription to the cyclical bingwu year, corresponding to 1786; 10 in. (25.4 cm.) diam. Estimate: $1,000,000-1,500,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Lot 811. A rectangular lacquer tray with decoration of autumn grasses and moon, Shibata Zeshin (1807-1891), Japan, Meiji period, late 19th century; 19 ¼ in. (49 cm.) long. Estimate: US$60,000 - USD 80,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019
Lot 817. Fu Baoshi (1904-1965), Lithe Like A Crane, Leisurely Like A Seagull. Scroll, mounted and framed, ink and color on paper. Entitled, inscribed, and signed, with one seal of the artist and one dated seal of renyinyear (1962), 17 ¾ x 26 5/8 in. (45.2 x 67.8 cm). Estimate USD 20,000 - USD 30,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Provenance: Eastern Pacific Co., Hong Kong, 1988.
The Irving Collection, no. 1638.
Lacquer • Jade • Bronze • Ink: The Irving Collection
Part II: Day Sale
21 March | 10am & 2pm | New York
The Day Sale is divided into a Morning Session of Asian Works of Art and an Afternoon Session for English and European Decorative Arts, Carpets, Fine Art, and other Asian Works of Art. The morning session highlights include a silver-and copper-inlaid bronze figure of a Buddha, Western Tibet ($100,000-150,000), a sandstone figure of a male deity, Khmer ($100,000-150,000), and a white jade ‘Bridge Scene’ brushrest and spinach-green jade base ($80,000-120,000). Among the featured lots in the afternoon session are a set of eight George III solid mahogany dining chairs, possibly by Wright & Elwick, circa 1765 ($40,000-60,000); a Chinese Export reverse mirror painting, last quarter 18th century ($25,000-40,000); and a pair of George III silver candelabra by John Wakelin & William Taylor, 1777 ($20,000-30,000).
Lot 1102. A silver-and copper-inlaid bronze figure of a Buddha, Western Tibet, 11th-12th century; 12 ¼ in. (31 cm.) high. Estimate USD 100,000 - USD 150,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Lot 1107. A sandstone figure of a male deity, Khmer, Angkor period, Angkor Wat Style, 12th century; 28 in. (71.2 cm.) high. Estimate USD 100,000 - USD 150,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Lot 1111. A rare and finely carved white jade ‘Bridge Scene’ brushrest and spinach-green jade base, China, Qing dynasty, 18th-19th century; 6 ½ in. (16.5 cm.) long. Estimate USD 80,000 - USD 120,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Lot 1315. A set of eight George III solid mahogany dining chairs, possibly by Wright & Elwick, circa 1765. Estimate USD 40,000 - USD 60,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Lot 1346. A Chinese Export reverse mirror painting, China, Qing dynasty, last quarter 18th century, 40 in. (101.5 cm.) high, 31 ¼ in. (79.5 cm.) wide. Estimate USD 25,000 - USD 40,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019
Lot 1320. A pair of George III silver two-light candelabra, mark of John Wakelin & William Taylor, 1777; 14 ½ in. (37 cm.) high, 108 oz. 18 dwt. (3,386.8 gr.). Estimate USD 20,000 - USD 30,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Power and Prestige: Important Early Chinese Ritual Bronzes from a Distinguished European Collection
22 March | 10am | New York
Power and Prestige: Important Early Chinese Ritual Bronzes from a Distinguished European Collection presents eleven important archaic bronzes in a single-owner sale. Carefully amassed over two decades by a private collector, the selection encompasses almost all forms of early ritual bronzes. Each piece is exceptional in its craftsmanship and provenance, with all vessels containing important inscriptions. The top lot of the sale is The Shao Fangding, a rare and important bronze ritual rectangular food vessel, late Shang dynasty, Anyang, 11th century BC ($1,000,000-1,500,000).
Lot 1506. The Shao Fangding, a rare and important bronze ritual rectangular food vessel, late Shang dynasty, Anyang, 11th century BC; 8 1/8 in. (20.7 cm.) high. Estimate: $1,000,000-1,500,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019
The slightly tapering, deep rectangular body is raised on four columnar supports each cast in high relief at the top with a taotie mask. The body is cast in high relief on each side with a large taotie mask with dragon-shaped horns divided by a notched flange repeated at the corners and above to divide a pair of kui dragons, all reserved on leiwengrounds. The everted rim is set with a pair of inverted U-shaped handles. The base of the interior is cast with a single clan sign, Shao. The bronze has a milky green patina with malachite and cuprite encrustation.
Provenance: Huang Jun (1880-1951), Zungu Zhai, Beijing, prior to 1942.
Hans Jürgon von Lochow (1902–1989) Collection, Beijing, by 1943.
The Edward T. Chow (1910-1980) Collection.
Sotheby's London, 16 December 1980, lot 339.
Bella and P.P. Chiu Collection, by 1988.
Eskenazi Ltd., London, 1996.
Literature: Huang Jun, Ye Zhong pianyu sanji (Treasures from the Ye [Anyang] Series III), Beijing, 1942, vol. 1, p. 13.
G. Ecke, Sammlung Lochow: Chinesische Bronzen I, Beijing, 1943, pl. V a-d.
B. Kalgren, "Notes on the Grammar of Early Bronze Decor", B.M.F.E.A., vol. 23, Stockholm, 1951, pl. 14, no. 288 (detail only).
Speiser, Werner and E. Köllmann, Ostasiatische Kunst und Chinoiserie, Ausstellung der Stat Köln, Cologne, 1953, no. 75.
Minao Hayashi, In Shu seidoki soran (Conspectus of Yin and Zhou Bronzes), vol. 1 (plates), Tokyo, 1984, fangding no. 12.
J. Rawson, The Bella and P.P. Chiu Collection of Ancient Chinese Bronzes, Hong Kong, 1988, no. 8.
The Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Yinzhou jinwen jicheng (Compendium of Yin and Zhou Bronze Inscriptions), Beijing, 1984, no. 01193 (inscription only).
Zhong Baisheng, Chen Zhaorong, Huang Mingchong, Yuan Guohua, ed., Xinshou Yinzhou qingtongqi mingwen ji qiying huibian (Recently Compiled Corpus of Yin and Zhou Bronze Inscriptions and Images), Taipei, 2006, no. 1924.
Wu Zhenfeng, Shangzhou qingtongqi mingwen ji tuxiang jicheng(Compendium of Inscriptions and Images of Bronzes from the Shang and Zhou Dynasties), Shanghai, 2012, no. 00185.
The illustrious provenance of the Shao Fangding can be traced back to 1942, when it was first published by Huang Jun (1880-1951) in his Ye zhong pianyu sanji (Treasures from the Ye [Anyang] Series III). Huang Jun, who goes by his literary name, Bochuan, graduated from the late Qing government school for teaching Western languages, Tongwen Guan. He spoke German, English, and French, and served as a translator in a German bank after graduation while working part-time in his uncle’s antique shop, Zungu Zhai. He later became manager of Zungu Zhai and one of the most prominent figures in the antique trade in Beijing. Huang Jun not only handled some of the most important archaic bronzes and jades, but also published them in catalogues such as the Yezhong pianyu series, Zungu Zhai suo jian jijin tu chu ji, and Guyu tulu chuji (First Collection of Ancient Chinese Jades), which is almost unique for his generation of Chinese dealers. The Ye zhong pianyu series has great academic importance, since most of the pieces are believed to be from the late Shang capital Anyang (ancient name Ye). Most of the 133 bronze vessels included in the series are now in museum collections, with only a few remaining in private hands. Huang Jun probably sold the Shao Fangding directly to Hans Jürgon von Lochow (1902–1989), a German collector who lived in Beijing. Von Lochow amassed a carefully selected, world-class collection of archaic bronzes, and the Lochow Collection was published by Gustav Ecke, another German who lived in Beiing and collected and studied ancient Chinese art. Upon von Lochow’s return to Germany, he donated most of his collection to the Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Cologne, while only a few of his pieces, including the Shao Fangding, went back on the market, passing through the hands of some of the most important dealers and collectors.
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, and illustrated in Zhongguo qingtongqi quanji: Shang 2 (Complete Collection of Chinese Bronzes: Shang), vol. 2, Beijing, 1997, p. 48, no. 47. While massive fangding vessels were made exclusively for kings and queens, fangding of regular size were reserved for high-ranking aristocrats. The Shao Fangding’s superb proportions and elaborate decoration, especially the dragon motifs cast on the outer sides of the handles, an area that is usually left undecorated, demonstrate the sophistication of bronze design and casting in the late Shang capital, Anyang. There appear to be only a few published examples that may be cited as parallels. A similar, but smaller, late Shang fangding (18.7 cm. high) in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, is illustrated by R. Bagley in Shang Ritual Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, Washington, D. C., 1987, p. 475. It is interesting to note that the Nelson-Atkins fangding is also from the collection of Huang Jun, and is illustrated in the Yezhong pianyu erji, Beijing, 1937, vol. 1, p. 3. Another similarfangding (20.8 cm. high), lacking the relief taotie masks at the top of the legs, is also illustrated by R. Bagley, ibid, pp. 472-74, no. 88. A larger example (26 cm. high) in the Pillsbury Collection, is illustrated by B. Karlgren in A Catalogue of the Chinese Bronzes in the Alfred R. Pillsbury Collection, Minneapolis, 1952, pl. 1, no. 1. Compare, also, the Ya Yi Fangding, sold at Christie’s New York, 14-15 September 2017, lot 907. The taotie motifs on these four similar examples have regular C-shaped horns rather than the rare dragon-shaped horns on the present Shao Fangding.
Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art
22 March | 10:30am & 2pm | New York
Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art will be held on March 22 across two sessions and comprises over 200 lots, representing works from a variety of collecting categories, including early bronze objects, Song ceramics, Ming and Qing porcelain, jades, and fine furniture. Highlights include an exceptional 'numbered' Jun jardinière ($2,500,000-3,500,000); a magnificent Xuande ‘Fruit Spray’ bowl ($2,000,000-3,000,000); a rare Northern Qi gilded grey stone figure of Buddha ($1,200,000-1,800,000), a rare Qianlong Period White Jade washer ($500,000-700,000), and Imperial robes and fine lacquer pieces from important private collections.
Lot 1723. A rare and exceptional 'Number Three' Jun jardinière, Yuan-Ming dynasty, 14th-15th century; 10 ¾ in. (27.3 cm,) diam. Estimate USD 2,500,000 - USD 3,500,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019
The body is molded with six lobes below the correspondingly lobed everted rim, and the exterior is covered with a lavender-blue glaze shading to brilliant purple color. The interior and the rim are covered with a pale milky-blue glaze thinning to mushroom, and there are five drainage holes piercing the base, which is dressed in a thin brown glaze on the underside and incised with the number san (three), double Japanese wood box.
Provenance: Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 5 November 1996, lot 721.
The Dexingshuwu Collection.
The Dexingshuwu Collection; Sotheby’s New York, 18 March 2008, lot 91.
Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 8 April 2013, lot 3046.
An Exceptional‘Numbered’ Jun Jardinière
Probably for a small sculptured tree, this flower pot is exquisitely shaped and glazed. Such Jun pieces have a numeral inscribed in Chinese script on the base—possibly impressed but possibly incised or carved—likely to indicate the vessel’s size and to facilitate pairing it with a drainage basin of appropriate size. The inscribed numbers range from one to ten, with one designating the largest and ten the smallest; this flower pot claims the numeral three. Because of the inscribed numerals, such vessels are termed Numbered Jun ware in English, though they are categorized as Guan Jun, or “official Jun ware”, in Chinese.
This vessel functioned as a jardinière, or flower pot, for a growing plant, not as a cachepot, or ornamental holder for containing and disguising a flower pot. This particular interpretation of the jardinière shape is termed a hexagonal flower pot with foliated lip, walls, and foot in English, but is more poetically characterized in Chinese as a kuihuashi huapen, which is often translated as hibiscus-shaped flower pot. (Other interpretations of the shape include ones with barbed, or bracketed, rim, walls, and foot, ones of circular zun shape, ones of rectangular form, and ones of quatrefoil form, often termed “mallow-shaped” in Chinese.) Pierced during manufacture, 4 five meticulously spaced holes in the pot’s floor allowed any excess water to drain into the basin that once accompanied this pot. While an azure glaze—with the so-called earthworm-track markings so prized by traditional Chinese connoisseurs—covers the vessel’s interior and a variegated azure and purple glaze its exterior, a thin dressing of mottled brownish olive glaze coats the underside. In fact, the glaze on the base is believed to be the same basic azure blue glaze that covers the interior, but as it was applied very thinly it fired olive brown rather than blue. Like other Numbered Jun examples, this planter was fired right side up, standing in its saggar not on spurs but on its own footring, the bottom of which was left unglazed.
Classic Jun glazes are thick, opalescent, and translucent. Despite their color, often termed “robin’s-egg blue”, they fall within the celadon family of glazes. In fact, apart from their prized pale blue-glazed wares, the Jun kilns also produced traditional celadon wares —stonewares with transparent, bluish green glazes. Like all celadon glazes, the Jun glaze relies upon an oxide of iron as its basic coloring agent; fired in a reducing atmosphere, the glaze matures bluish green. The Jun glaze’s opalescence and distinctive robin’s-egg hue resulted from the spontaneous separation of the glaze into silica-rich and lime-rich glasses during the last stage of firing—in essence, the formation of tiny globules of lime-rich glass within the silica-rich glaze matrix—a phenomenon known as phase separation; during that stage, kiln temperature was maintained at, or just a little below, 1200° Celsius, after which the kiln was slowly cooled, circumstances that, in the particular Jun glaze mixture, cause phase separation. The glaze’s translucency, which sometimes borders on opacity, derives not only from phase separation but from the presence of numerous particles and bubbles (which are clearly visible with a magnifying glass). Jun wares were fired in mantou-type kilns — circular, domed kilns so-named because of the shape’s superficial resemblance to a Chinese dumpling, or mantou, (Mantou kilns stand in contrast to the long, hillside, dragon kilns that were popular farther south.) Due to their relatively small size and thick walls, mantou kilns permit more precise control of firing temperatures than did most other traditional Chinese kiln types.
Based on research by W. David Kingery and Pamela Vandiver, Rosemary Scott has succinctly summarized phase separation: “… the Jun glaze had to be kept at a high temperature for a significant period and had to be cooled slowly. If the temperature was raised too much, the emulsion would have decreased and the glaze would have been transparent, and if the glaze was cooled too quickly then the emulsion would not have time to form and a transparent glaze would also have resulted. If the glaze was cooled for too long a period, it would have appeared almost opaque due to the growth of too many wollastonite crystals. Some of these rounded white crystals were, however, desirable since the pale clouds that they formed added to the beautiful texture of the glaze, as did the gas bubbles which failed to escape from the glaze during firing. All these elements affected the passage of light through the glaze and contributed to its colour and texture.”
Among the most famous of Chinese ceramics, Jun wares fall into two typological groups. The first, generally regarded as earlier and often termed classic Jun, includes such food- and wine-serving vessels as dishes, bowls, cups, small jars, and the occasional bottle or vase. The second category, termed Numbered Jun ware, or Guan Jun, includes vessels that not only are generally much larger than classic Jun wares but are almost exclusively flower pots and associated drip-basins. So revered was Jun ware that connoisseurs of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) ranked it among the “Five Great Wares of the Song Dynasty”, alongside Ding, Ru, Guan, and Ge wares. Even so, those Jun wares described in early Ming records seem to include only classic Jun pieces, as no mentions in those records suggest the large vessels that were made as flower pots; by contrast, depictions of flower pots and basins, seemingly of Numbered Jun ware, occasionally appear in Ming and Qing paintings.
The general dating of classic Jun ware is comparatively well understood, even if an exact chronology has yet to be firmly established, but the category of Numbered Jun ware has sparked much controversy in recent decades. Classic Jun wares of the Northern Song (960–1127) and Jin (1115–1234) periods sport a robin’s-egg blue glaze sometimes enlivened with suffusions of lavender or purple from copper filings sprinkled or brushed on the surface of the glaze before firing. Following a tradition set during the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) some specialists assert that numbered pieces were produced at the same time as classic Jun wares, 9 but many other scholars now favor a fourteenth- or fifteenth-century date for the numbered examples10 —that is, a date in the Yuan (1279–1368) or early Ming period. Standing apart from the subtly colored monochrome glazes of most Northern Song and Jin ceramics, the exuberant purple glazes of Numbered Jun wares find aesthetic kinship in the copper-red glazes of the early Ming. Their use as pots for plant cultivation differentiates numbered pieces from classic Jun wares, just as their large size not only distinguishes them from classic wares but links them to fourteenth- and fifteenth-century ceramics from other kilns.11 Moreover, the formalized floral shapes—in particular, the barbed and foliated rims with their thickened edges—find parallels in those of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century vessels in lacquer and metalwork; more to the point, the formalized shapes are akin to those of ceramics produced at other kilns, particularly to blue-and-white porcelains produced at Jingdezhen in the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries.
Perhaps the most compelling argument for a fifteenth-century date, however, is the technique of manufacture of this jardinière and other Numbered Jun vessels; rather than being turned on a potter’s wheel or shaped over a so-called hump mold, such vessels were formed with double-faced, press molds. Although Chinese potters had employed single-faced, or hump molds since antiquity, the use of press molds is not otherwise documented before the fourteenth century, when it came to be used at Jingdezhen, in Jiangxi province. Such double-faced molds allow the foliations (or barbs) and indentations of the rim to continue down the walls of the pot with the perfect placement and symmetry that hand crafting would seldom permit. Beginning in the late fourteenth and continuing into the fifteenth century, potters delighted in continuing those foliations / barbs and indentations into the footring, so that the footring perfectly echoes the rim of a barbed or foliated flower pot. This feature finds parallels in the elaborately molded forms of blue-and-white porcelain stemcups and brush washers produced during the Xuande period (1425–1436); in fact, this technical relationship and its happy aesthetic effects signal that Numbered Jun pieces are unlikely to have been produced earlier than the Xuande period, though they possibly could have been produced as late as the mid-fifteenth-century, during the Chenghua reign (1465–1487).
Just as the precise dating of Numbered Jun ware remains vexingly problematic, so does its place of manufacture. As Rosemary Scott has aptly explained, “Stonewares with Jun-type glazes have been found at the Northern Song Ru ware site at Qingliangsi, Henan province, but the eponymous site for normal Jun wares is Juntai in Yuxian, Henan province, which was excavated in 1964 and 1974,12 and was located just inside the gate in the northern part of the town of Yuzhou. Yuxian was a very active ceramic producing area from the Tang to the Ming dynasty, as evidenced by the discovery of more than 100 kilns in the area. However, Jun-type wares were also made at kilns in other parts of Henan, as well as in Hebei and Shanxi provinces. Everyday Jun wares such as bowls, dishes, cup-stands, vases and ewers have been found at these sites and also in tombs and hoards which can be dated to the Song, Jin and Yuan periods. These include both monochrome blue and copper splashed wares. The dating of these everyday wares is relatively straightforward.”
The use of press molds that permitted the continuation of the foliations of the rim through the walls of the flower pot and into the footring provides technical evidence that Numbered Jun pieces must date to the fifteenth century. Given that Numbered Jun pieces are exceptionally rare, that they are extraordinarily homogeneous in style and technique of manufacture, and that most have, or once had, documentable palace associations, it is tempting to ask if all such pieces might have been made at a single kiln as part of one large commission for the palace, perhaps to celebrate the dedication of a new complex within the Forbidden City, whose origins of course date to the early fifteenth century. As yet, no evidence has yet come to light to substantiate this speculation, but a thorough scrutiny of palace archival records might one day prove revealing.
Controlled kiln excavations one day will settle the much-debated question of the dating of Numbered Jun ware; such archaeological investigations doubtless eventually will identify the kilns that produced the numbered wares and will clarify the relationship between numbered and classic wares. As flower pots and associated basins were made for use by the living and thus seldom appear among tomb furnishings, archaeology probably will shed less light on the identity of the clients for whom the vessels were made, but perhaps a detailed search of palace archives one day will reveal a long-forgotten commission.
A closely related jardinière, also with the number three inscribed on the base, appears in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei;14 the Taipei Palace Museum collection also includes two additional flower pots of similar shape including one with azure blue glaze, impressed with the numeral five, and one with a variegated azure and purple glaze, impressed with the numeral seven.15 The collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, includes a similar azure-purple-glazed planter with impressed numeral three on its base (C.35-1935).16 Two similarly shaped jardinières, each with a variegated azure-purple glaze, each inscribed with the numeral three, and each formerly in the collection of J. Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913), New York, sold at Sotheby’s, London, on 25 March 1975 (lots 224 and 225).17 The similarly shaped and glazed jardinière with the number four inscribed on its underside and once owned by renowned British collector George Eumorfopoulos (1863–1939) was sold at Sotheby’s, London, in 1940.18 A similarly shaped and glazed planter in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (45.42.5), bears the inscribed numeral six on its base.
The largest and most diverse collection of Numbered Jun wares outside of the National Palace Museum is in the Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA. Given in 1942 by Ernest B. Dane (1868–1942) his wife, Helen Pratt Dane (1867–1949), of Brookline, Massachusetts, the Harvard Numbered Jun ware collection includes forty-one complete jardinières and one fragmentary jardinière modified to serve as a censer. In addition, the collection includes sixteen drip-basins, one zun-shaped flower vase, and one fragmentary zun-shaped vase modified to serve as a censer. Of the forty-one complete jardinières, thirteen are hexagonal with foliated rims—that is, in the shape Chinese collectors traditionally call kuihuashi. Among the hexagonal flower pots, two are virtually identical to the present jardinière, each with variegated azure and purple glazes on the exterior and each with the numeral three inscribed on the base (numbers 1942.185.9 20 and 1942.185.10 21). The first-mentioned Harvard jardinière (1942.185.9) has incised into the glaze on its base a Qing-palace inscription reading Chonghuagong Cuiyunguan yong, which might be translated “Palace of Double Glory, used in the Lodge of Emerald Clouds,” indicating that the vessel formerly was part of the Imperial Collection and was housed in the Forbidden City.
Robert D. Mowry
Alan J. Dworsky Curator of Chinese Art Emeritus, Harvard Art Museums, and Senior Consultant, Christie’s.
Lot 1627. An extremely rare and fine large blue and white ‘fruit spray’ bowl, Xuande six-character mark in underglaze blue in a line at the rim and of the period (1426-1435); 11 5/8 in. (29.5 cm.) diam. Estimate USD 2,000,000 - USD 3,000,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019
The bowl is heavily potted with low, rounded sides and decorated on the exterior with six sprays of fruit comprising pomegranate, grape, peach, persimmon, melon, and crab-apple or loquat, all above a band of radiating lotus lappets, and six floral sprays on the foot ring.
Provenance: Purchased by Richard Marchant in London circa 1969, and gifted to his sons Stuart and Bruce Marchant.
Richard Marchant, circa 1970.
Marchant. A Family Legacy
Circa 1969, when Richard Marchant bought this extremely rare and beautiful bowl, London, as well as the rest of the United Kingdom, was a rich source for Asian, or as they were known at the time, Oriental works of art. Not only were they ofered at the various auction houses, but at the numerous dealers, both those specializing in Asian art, and those of a more general nature. At the time, the possible sources also included retail establishments such as Harrods, Knight Frank & Rutley and Druce.
During the 1960s, those in the feld of Chinese art had seen marked changes in the prices for early wares, especially Tang ceramics, Song ceramics and fine, early Ming blue-and-white wares. By the end of the 1960s, the prices for early Ming blue-and-white porcelain dominated the market, fetching the highest prices of any porcelains sold at auction. Gerald Reitlinger in The Economics of Taste, vol. III, The Art Market in the 1960s, London, 1970, pp. 435-444, records these changes and lists, by year, the prices achieved at auction for various wares of Ming dynasty date. Included in the list are three bowls of the same type, often referred to as “dice bowls”, as the Marchant Xuande bowl, but all with diferent designs: one with lotus scroll sold in 1965 for £1995, one with composite fower scroll sold in 1967 for £4200 and a third with the “Three Friends” sold in 1968 for £11,000. He notes that these prices far exceeded the cumulative total of £146 paid for three bowls of this type in 1937.
Richard Marchant, having joined his father Samuel Sydney Marchant in his newly re-named antiques business, S. Marchant & Son, in 1953, would have been well aware of these changes. Shortly after his arrival, S. Marchant & Son began to focus on Imperial wares of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, especially porcelain, jade and cloisonné, a refection of Richard’s interest in these areas. In addition to visiting the London dealers and attending the frequent auctions of Oriental art, Richard traveled around Britain monthly in search of Ming and Qing porcelains. Setting out with £300, in three days he would fll his car with antiques. With a transitional sleeve vase costing about £10 at the time, these trips were enjoyable and richly rewarding. In the early 1960s, Richard also began traveling to Hong Kong and Japan, thus becoming familiar with the Asian markets. These combined experiences and expertise meant that Richard was well placed to realize the rarity and the value of his fortuitous fnd. Having watched the rise in prices for bowls of this type, Richard could also foresee that they would only continue to appreciate in value. With this in mind, and thinking of his two young sons, Stuart and Bruce Marchant, Richard made the decision to make a gift of this superb and very rare Xuande blue and white “fruit spray” bowl to his sons and to their future.
Patricia Curtin, Consultant, Christie’s.
A Magnificent Xuande Bowl With Fruiting Sprays
Rosemary Scott, Senior International Academic Consultant Asian Art
When the great Qing dynasty imperial patron and collector Emperor Qianlong (1736-95) wanted to bestow particular praise on porcelains made for his court, he compared them to those created for the courts of the Ming dynasty Xuande and Chenghua Emperors in the 15th century. In his appreciation of porcelains from this period, Qianlong was following the tradition of Chinese connoisseurs, who, over the centuries, had recognised the blue and white porcelains of the Xuande reign (1426-35) and the polychrome wares of the Chenghua reign (1465-87) as representing the pinnacles of achievement in their respective felds. The current magnifcent blue and white Xuande bowl with its superb decoration of fruiting and fowering sprays provides excellent justifcation for the high regard in which Xuande blue and white porcelains were, and indeed are, held.
The bowl is a fne example of the skill of the Xuande potters. This reign period was one of those rare eras when both thinly-potted and thickly-potted porcelain vessels were equally well made. This bowl was deliberately thickly potted, in order to give it weight and stability, but the walls of the bowl are so evenly thrown and so well fnished that there is no appearance of heaviness and the bowl has fred without warping. This is no mean feat when one considers how much porcelain shrinks in the kiln. The underglaze painted decoration was also created with the utmost skill – using a medium-sized brush to create bold natural designs of fruiting sprays, which complement the form of the bowl.
Flowers – either fower heads or foral scrolls - had been a popular source of decorative motifs on ceramics since at least as early as the Tang dynasty. However, the regular inclusion of fruit on the branch was a relatively recent phenomenon in the early Ming. Melons, grapes and gourds had been included among the scattered natural elements in the centre of large Yuan dynasty mid-14th century blue and white dishes, and on some facetted double-gourd vases, but depictions of other fruit on branch or stem were few on pre-Ming porcelains. Nevertheless, in the Yongle reign (1402-24) not only imperial blue and white porcelains, but also those monochrome white wares with tianbai 甜白 glaze and anhua 暗花 incised designs were regularly decorated with fruiting sprays. Sprays of fruit on the branch became thereafter a very popular decorative theme on both open and vertical forms among the fnest quality imperial porcelains. They appear, for example, scattered within the main decorative band on the famous blue and white lidded meiping in the Palace Museum, Beijing (illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Blue and White Porcelain with Underglaze Red, Part I, Hong Kong, 2000, p. 32), and on the exterior of a Xuande mark and period six-lobed bowl in the same collection (illustrated ibid., p. 159, no. 151). A considerable variety of diferent fruits has been found on the shards of early 15th century vessels excavated from the site of the Imperial kilns, and in some cases the fruiting sprays were alternated with fower sprays on the sides of bowls and dishes - as on the interior of a large Yongle bowl in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing (illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Blue and White Porcelain with Underglaze Red, Part I, op. cit., p. 68, no. 65). The specifc fruit, like the fowers included in the designs on these early 15th century porcelains, would have been chosen with care for the messages they conveyed.
The sprays on the Palace Museum meiping and bowls share with the six fruiting sprays around the exterior of the current bowl the feature of a naturalistic break at the end of the twig – as if each spray had been torn of the branch, rather than cut. This naturalistic approach was a relatively new one on early 15th century blue and white wares, and it is probable that this and the frequent depiction of both fowers and fruit on the same branch - also seen on this bowl - were infuenced by the woodblock illustrations in materia medica – pharmaceutical literature dealing with plants for their medicinal properties. Although studies of plants were advanced enough in the Han dynasty for specifc mention to be made of foreign plants being brought into China in records dating to about 128 BC, it was not until the Song and Jin dynasties that there was extensive publication on the subject of plants. Among the most important of these was a signifcant publication on pharmacology by Tang Shenwei 唐慎微 (1056-93), who was a doctor who came from a Sichuan family of physicians. Tang Shenwei studied assiduously and added his own observations to the information that he was able to glean from earlier publications. He combined this knowledge into the Zhenglei Bencao 證類本草, which even in the Song dynasty was produced in two editions – one of 30 juan 卷 and one of 32 juan. In 1108 the book was revised by Ai Cheng 艾晟, with further later revisions by Cao Xiaozhong 曹孝忠 and Wang Jixian 王繼先. Although parts of the book were lost, in the Jin dynasty Zhang Cunhui 張存惠 combined the text with a work by Kou Zongshi 寇宗奭 and in 1189 published the 30 juan book entitled: Chongxiu Zhenghe Jingshi Zhenglei Beiyong Bencao (重修政和經史證類備用本草 New Revision of the Classifed and Consolidated Armamentarium Pharmacopoeia of the Zhenghe Reign). It was this version of the work which was later incorporated into the famous imperial Qing dynasty collectanea Siku Quanshu 四庫全書. After the Song period, the subject was much studied with both new and revised publications being produced during the Ming and Qing dynasties - the Bencao Gangmu 本草綱目 by Li Shizhen (1518-93 李時珍), the frst draft of which was completed in 1578, being regarded as one of the most important works of the Ming period. This intense academic activity serves to illustrate the importance given to studies of this kind and helps to explain why the illustrations contained within these publications should have had such far-reaching infuence.
The exterior of the current bowl is beautifully painted in the fnest cobalt blue with peaches, pomegranates, persimmons, grapes, melons and either crab-apples or loquats - all of which have been found on the shards of early 15th century porcelain vessels excavated from the site of the Imperial kilns. It is notable that all the diferent fruiting sprays are shown with fowers as well as fruit and leaves. This is undoubtedly a result of their depiction being infuenced by the illustrations in materia medica, as discussed above, in which all stages of the plants’ annual development are noted. As well as any botanical or medicinal interest they might have, the fruit included in the designs on imperial porcelains, such as the current bowl, would have been chosen for their auspicious connotations as well as for their aesthetic appeal.
Although originally entering China from Central Asia, pomegranates have been cultivated in China since the 3rd century BC and are a popular motif in the decorative arts. With its many seeds the pomegranate (Punica granatum, Chinese 石榴 shiliu) is associated with many children. It is often shown with its skin split displaying the seeds inside. This is known as liukai baizi 榴開百子, ‘pomegranate revealing a hundred sons’. This fruit also evokes the saying: duo zi duo shou 多子多壽 ‘many sons and many years of long life’. However, it is not only the fruit of the pomegranate which is regarded as auspicious; the vibrant red fowers were also believed to ward of evil and were particularly associated with Duanwujie 端午節, the Dragon Boat Festival, which is held on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month and is considered the most pernicious day of the year. Pomegranate is also one of the san duo 三多, or Three Abundances – representing an abundance of sons.
The peach (Prunus persica, Chinese 桃子 taozi) is another of the san duo and embodies the wish for an abundance of years, or long life. Peaches are perhaps the most popular of all the symbols of long life, particularly in respect of the emperor. This association with longevity is linked to the legend which states that Xiwangmu 西王母, the Queen Mother of the West, lived in a fabulous palace in the Kunlun mountains and had an orchard in which grew peach trees which only ripened every three thousand years, but bestowed immortality on anyone who ate one. To the lucky few, Xiwangmu would serve these peaches of immortality, but there are additional stories of others trying to steal them. The third of the Three Abundances is usually represented by the Buddha-hand citron because its name (fo shou gan 佛手柑) provides a homonym for blessings and longevity.
There is no Buddha-hand citron on the current bowl, however, its place in the san duo has been taken by the persimmon (Diospyros kaki, Chinese 柿子 shizi). Persimmons have been grown in China at least since the Western Han dynasty, when they are recorded as growing in Shanglin imperial park 上林菀. Persimmons, being reddish orange in colour are regarded as symbols of joy. Their auspicious colour means that they are amongst the fruit eaten either fresh or dried during the Moon Festival. Their round shape is also auspicious as it symbolises completeness and reunion (tuanyuan 團圓). It has been noted that the distinctive four-leafed calyx of the persimmon was often used as a design on the backs of mirrors and other items in the late Bronze Age (T. T. Bartholomew, Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art, San Francisco, 2006, p. 260). Not only is its fruit highly regarded, but also its wood is prized as a hardwood, and if persimmon is used as a motif in architecture, it suggests frm foundations (dipan jiangu 地盤堅固, see ibid.). The current bowl has three persimmons on the branch, and three of these fruit provide the wish: ‘May your business enjoy threefold prosperity’ lishi sanbei 利市三倍.
As mentioned above, grapes (vitis vinifera, Chinese 葡萄 putao) appeared as a minor part of the decoration amongst the other plants on Yuan dynasty blue and white vessels, but in the early 15th century they became popular as a major decorative motif on porcelains, especially in the centre of large dishes. In fact, early 15th century dishes with this blue and white grape design provide a nice illustration of the way infuences travelled back and forth across Asia. Both the grape plant and its use as a decorative motif entered China from the West during the Han dynasty, but in the 15th century Chinese dishes with this design travelled westward entering collections like those still preserved in Iran and Turkey. Subsequently in the early 16th century a copy of the Chinese design appeared among the lower-fred blue and white ceramics made at Iznik in Turkey. In China grapes were an enduringly popular motif in the early 15th century, that was employed in both the Yongle and Xuande reigns. The grape is one of the plants that is recorded as having been brought to China from Central Asia in 128 BC by Zhang Qian (張騫 d. 113 BC), a returning envoy of Emperor Wudi (武帝 r. 141-87 BC). Both green and black grapes are recorded by the beginning of the 6th century AD, a seedless variety is mentioned in Song dynasty texts, and many diferent varieties of grape were grown in China by the early 15th century. The grapes were eaten fresh, as well as dried in the form of raisins, but do not seem to have been used to make wine until the Tang dynasty. There is a fulsome entry for grapes with illustration in juan 23 of the Chongxiu Zhenghe Jingshi Zhenglei Beiying Bencao (Classifed and Consolidated Armamentarium Pharmacopoeia of the Zhenghe Reign). Because they grow in large clusters on the vine, grapes symbolise a wish for ceaseless generations of sons and grandsons.
There is one fruiting spray depicted on this bowl which is hard to identify with complete certainty, but the two possibilities are both auspicious in their meaning. This fruiting spray may represent crab-apple or loquat. The Chinese fowering crab-apple (Malus spectabilis, Chinese 海棠 haitang), is often used in rebuses to stand for ‘hall’ (tang 堂) and by extension the home and family. Thus, when crab-apple is combined with other auspicious motifs, their good wishes are attached to the whole family. In later periods crab-apple is most frequently depicted in its fowering phase, and is often combined with magnolia and peony to form the auspicious phrase yutang fugui 玉堂富貴 ‘wealth and rank in the Jade Hall’, or ‘may your noble house be blessed with wealth and honour’.
Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica, Chinese 枇杷 pipa) fruit, being golden in colour are associated with gold and, therefore, wealth. The plant is also regarded as auspicious because it can be seen as embodying the spirit of all four seasons. It has buds in autumn, blossoms in winter, sets its fruit in spring, and the fruit ripen in summer. Loquats are sometimes selected by artists for paintings of the ‘fve auspicious ones’ wurui 五瑞, which are displayed at Duanwujie. The name of the fruit pipa comes from the fact that its shape resembles that of the musical instrument of the same name.
One of the fruit sprays may possibly be identifed as melon. Melons (Cucumis melo inodorus 瓜 gua) or gourds symbolise unending generations of descendants because the vines on which they grow are long and bears many fruit, while each fruit contains many seeds. Small gourds may be called die 瓞 and thus a vine with large and small melons or gourds may suggest the phrase guadie mianmian 瓜瓞綿綿, a wish for ceaseless generations of sons and grandsons. This phrase can be traced back to the Books of Odes (Shijing 詩經) and the association of melons or gourds relates to an important ritual in particular princely New Year’s Eve celebrations.
This magnifcent bowl from a revered period, thus combines the fnest raw materials, expert potting, skilful painting and an aesthetically pleasing, as well as highly auspicious, choice of decoration.
Bowls of similar shape, size and decoration to that of the current bowl are in the Percival David Collection (illustrated by M. Medley, Illustrated Catalogue of Underglaze Blue and Copper Red Decorated Porcelains, London, 1976, Pl.XIII, no. B658) (Fig. 1); the Palace Museum, Beijing (illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Blue and White Porcelain with Underglaze Red, Part I, Hong Kong, 2000, p. 152, no. 144) (Fig. 2); the National Palace Museum, Taipei (illustrated in the Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Selected Hsüan-te Imperial Porcelains of the Ming Dynasty, Taipei, 1998, p.149, no. 47) (Fig. 3); exhibited at the Tokyo National Museum in Chinese Arts of the Ming and Ch’ing Periods, Tokyo, 1963, no. 288; in the Freer Gallery of Art (illustrated in Ming Porcelains in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1953, p. 18, no. 10 (Fig. 4); in the collection of Stephen Junkunc, III (illustrated in An Exhibition of Blue-Decorated Porcelain of the Ming Dynasty, Philadelphia, 1949, p. 54, no. 61 (Fig. 5); sold from the Meiyintang Collection by Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 5 October 2011, lot 13; in the collection of Edward T. Chow sold by Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 19 May 1981, lot 406; and formerly in the Cunlife and F. Gordon Morrill collections, sold at Doyle, New York, 16 September 2003, lot 91.
Fig. 1 Porcelain bowl with underglaze blue fower and fruit sprays around sides, Xuande mark and period. PDF,B.658 © The Trustees of the British Museum.
Fig. 2 Blue and white bowl decorated with plucked sprays of fowers and fruits, Xuande period, Ming dynasty © The Palace Museum.
Fig. 3 Blue and white bowl, Xuande mark and period. © The Collection of National Palace Museum.
Lot 1610. A very rare and important gilded grey stone figure of Buddha, Northern Qi dynasty (AD 550-577); 27 ¾ in. (70.5 cm.) high. Estimate USD 1,200,000 - USD 1,800,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019
The slender, elegant figure is shown standing on top of a socle with right hand raised inabhayamudra, in the attitude of 'do not fear', and the left hand held in varadamudra, the gesture of gift-giving. He wears a simplified sanghati bearing traces of patchwork pattern that falls to above his feet and clings to the contours of his body. The face is carved with a serene expression, and the hair and rounded ushnisha are painted black while the remainder of the figure is covered in gold leaf, with traces of red pigment on the mouth and black pigment on the eyes and brows, stand.
Provenance: Eskenazi Ltd., London, 1978.
Important Chinese Works of Art from the Arthur M. Sackler Collection, Christie's New York, 1 December 1994, lot 166.
Property from a Private New York Collector; Christie's New York, 18 September 2003, lot 181.
Literature: Eskenazi Ltd., Ancient Chinese sculpture, London, 1978, no. 19.
Exhibited: London, Eskenazi Ltd., Ancient Chinese sculpture, 14 June - 22 July 1978.
Shakyamuni Preaching: A Masterpiece Of Chinese Buddhist Sculpture
Presented in the guise of a monk, this magnificent sculpture, which dates to the Northern Qi period (AD 550–577), represents a Buddha as indicated by the robes, ushnisha, benevolent countenance, distended earlobes, and webbed fingers. The ushnisha, or cranial protuberance atop the head, symbolizes the expanded wisdom that the Buddha gained at his enlightenment, and it serves as the Buddha’s diagnostic iconographic feature as only Buddhas possess an ushnisha. The gilded surfaces not only make the sculpture appropriate for representing a deity but symbolize the light that, according to the sacred texts, or sutras, radiates from his body.
“Buddha” means “the Enlightened One;” he is an individual who has attained enlightenment and has entered into nirvana. In this sculpture, the Buddha is standing and holds his right hand in the abhaya mudra, a preaching gesture in which the hand is raised, palm outward, in the attitude of ‘do not fear’. (A ritual hand gesture, a mudra symbolizes a particular action, power, or attitude of a deity.) He holds his left hand in the varada mudra, or gift-giving gesture, in which the hand is lowered, palm outward. This combination of mudras— often shortened to read abhaya-vara mudra—indicates that the Buddha is preaching. Many different Buddhas hold their hands in the abhaya-vara mudra; even so, a Buddha with hands so positioned, the fingers elegantly arrayed and pointing straight up and straight down but without fingertips and thumb touching to form a circle, is typically identified as the Historical Buddha Shakyamuni (traditionally, 563 BC – 483 BC), suggesting that this image likely represents Shakyamuni.
As described in the sutras, the Buddha wears three distinct robes, though not all are visible in every sculpture or painted image; in this sculpture, the outer robe fully cloaks the figure, for example, with the result that the other robes are mostly concealed. Known in Sanskrit as the kasaya or ticivara, the Buddha’s three robes comprise the sanghati, uttarasanga, and the antaravasaka. Not tailored, each robe is a long, rectangular piece of cloth that is wrapped around or draped over the body in a prescribed fashion. Sometimes likened to a dhoti or sarong, the antaravasaka is an inner robe that covers the lower portion of the body; wrapped around the waist, it typically hangs from to the ankles, covering the hips and legs. Also an inner robe, the uttarasanga covers the left shoulder and crosses the chest diagonally but leaves the right shoulder and right arm bare; it covers the antaravasaka, except for its lowermost edge, and is itself covered by the sanghati, which is the outer robe that usually is the most visible and distinctive of the three robes. Additionally, there might be a kushalaka, a cloth or cord worn around the waist to hold the antaravasaka and uttarasanga in place; more rarely, those inner garments may be secured in place by a samakaksika, or buckled belt.
In this sculpture, the antaravasaka, the dhoti-like garment, is visible only at the Buddha’s ankles, where it projects below the edge of the outer robe. Completely covered by the outer robe, the uttarasanga also is not visible in this sculpture. Most prominent of all, the sanghati, or outer robe, which has been embellished with applied gold, covers both shoulders and the chest and then flows gracefully over the entire body, terminating just above the ankles in a wide, U-shaped configuration. The outer edges of the sanghati loop over the arms and descend along the sculpture’s sides, suggesting a cape. Lacking a kushalaka, or cincture around the waist, the drapery flows smoothly and elegantly over the body, clinging tightly enough to reveal the body’s presence and to suggest its form, from the broad shoulders and narrow waist to the swelling hips and columnar legs, but not so tightly as to reveal its anatomical structure in detail.
This sculpture originally would have stood on a carved lotus base of which only the “seedpod” at the bottom of this sculpture remains today; with flat top and slightly concave sides, the generally triangular seedpod would have been set within the central cavity of a circular lotus base on top of a square plinth, anchoring the sculpture in an upright position.1 Rising from its lotus base, this majestic, gilt stone sculpture originally stood on an altar; it might have appeared alone but it more likely was part of a group of figures.
Hierarchically scaled and symmetrically arranged, such a group would have included the the Buddha at the center flanked on either side by a bodhisattva, perhaps with a monk or disciple tucked between the Buddha and each bodhisattva, and perhaps with a guardian figure at each outer edge of the assemblage. A Sui-dynasty (AD 581–618) bronze altarpiece in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (22.407)2 suggests the context in which this sculpture originally appeared, as does the late seventh or early eighth-century, gilt bronze Maitreya altar group in the collection of the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco (B60 B8+).
If presented as the central deity in a grouping, Shakyamuni likely would have been accompanied by Bodhisattva Manjushri, the bodhisattva of transcendent wisdom, and Samantabhadra, the bodhisattva of Buddhist practice and meditation, thus forming a Shakyamuni Triad. (Meaning “enlightened being”, bodhisattvas are benevolent beings who have attained enlightenment but who have selflessly postponed entry into nirvana in order to assist other sentient beings in gaining enlightenment and thus release from the samsara cycle of birth and rebirth.) Alternatively, as he is regarded as the Buddha of the Future and thus the successor to Shakyamuni, the Bodhisattva Maitreya might have accompanied Shakyamuni in place of Samantabhadra or Manjushri. If disciples appeared in the grouping, they likely would have been the youthful Ananda and the elderly Mahakasyapa, Shakyamuni’s favorites.
That its back is flat and, though finished, not fully modeled indicates that this sculpture stood before a mandorla, which likely was painted on the wall behind the sculpture, the aureole suggesting light radiating from the Buddha’s body and thus signaling his divine status. (Symbolizing divinity, a halo is a circle, or disc, of light that appears behind a deity’s head; a mandorla is a full-body halo.)
In excellent condition and amazingly complete—retaining its original head, arms, body, legs, feet, and lotus-seedpod base—this sculpture dates to the Northern Qi period (AD 550–577). The sculpture’s majestic, columnar stature is entirely in keeping with its Northern Qi date, as are the large hands, the simple, clinging robe, and the treatment of the rounded chest, which lacks both a division of the pectorals and a distinction between chest abdomen. (The disproportionately large hands likely served to emphasize the mudra and associated symbolism of teaching.) The unembellished cylindrical neck, which is typical of Northern Qi sculptures, stands in contrast to the fleshy necks with three strongly articulated folds that would appear during the Sui dynasty (AD 518–618) and then would become characteristic in sculptures from the Tang dynasty (AD 618–907). The rectangular face with relatively small eyes set in shallow sockets, the large domical ushnisha, and the depiction of the top of the head with shaven pate rather than with wavy locks or small snail-shell curls of hair also are all standard features of Buddhist sculptures from the Northern Qi period. In addition, the elongated ears with distended but flat, unmodulated, unpierced lobes are characteristic of the Northern Qi style. Moreover, the placement of the arms close to the body, with a lack of open space between arms and torso, is a standard feature of Northern Qi sculptures, the interest in such piercing of the stone occurring in the Sui and flourishing in the Tang.
Although modest drapery folds, whether incised or carved in shallow relief, enliven the robes of most Northern Qi stone sculptures of the Buddha,4 a few such sculptures—particularly ones excavated at the site of the Longxingsi Temple at Qingzhou, Shandong province—lack such folds, the robes clinging tightly to the figure’s body and flowing gracefully from shoulders to ankles, unimpeded by incised or carved folds.5 In the treatment of its drapery, the present sculpture shows a remarkable kinship to those from Qingzhou. As amply demonstrated by the Qingzhou sculptures, however, such sculptures originally were fully painted or gilded—as in the case of the present sculpture—so the stone surfaces in fact were embellished, even if not with incising or carving.
Published in London already in 1978,6 this sculpture had been in the West at least twenty years before the discovery and excavation of the Qingzhou sculptures in 1996-97. Close as it is in appearance to those sculptures, this impressive sculpture is not from that location, though the similarity in style suggests that it might well have been produced in the same general area as the Qingzhou sculptures, perhaps at another site in Shandong province or a little farther to the west, in Hebei province. Even so, subtle features differentiate the present sculpture from those recovered at Qingzhou. The present sculpture has a shaven pate, for example, whereas most Qingzhou images of the Buddha have small snail-shell curls of hair; in addition, this Buddha’s face is rectangular, but those of the Qingzhou sculptures are slightly rounded (even if not as round and fleshy as those of Tang sculptures). The hands of the Qingzhou Buddhas generally are in proper scale to the bodies, rather than disproportionately large, and the fingers are more delicately arrayed, occasionally with fingers slightly flexed. Nonetheless, the remarkable similarity in style and general appearance establishes this sculpture’s Northern Qi date, demonstrates that one variant style lacked incised or carved drapery folds, and documents that some rare stone sculptures were embellished with applied gold.
This majestic image represents a Buddha in the act of preaching, likely the Historical Buddha Shakyamuni. Simply yet brilliantly composed, this exquisite sculpture focuses attention on the Buddha’s face, with its serene countenance and compassionate expression, and on his hands, with their preaching mudras. In perfect harmony, the elegant style and clear statement of purpose—the preaching of wisdom and compassion—combine to make this a great masterwork of Chinese Buddhist sculpture.
Robert D. Mowry
Alan J. Dworsky Curator of Chinese Art Emeritus, Harvard Art Museums, and Senior Consultant, Christie’s
Lot 1655. A magnificent and extremely rare embroidered qiu xiangse silk‘dragon’ robe, longpao, early 18th century;57 ¾ in. (146.7 cm.) long, 77 ½ in. (196.8 cm.) wide. Estimate USD 300,000 - USD 500,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019
The robe is finely embroidered with roundels of five-clawed dragons chasing 'flaming pearls', each worked in gold metallic threads with horns, scales and claws picked out in Peking knot, all beneath vaporous clouds and above roiling waves. The lower register is embroidered with a lishui stripe at the hem tossed with auspicious emblems, and the whole is reserved on a ground of pale greenish-yellow 'Autumn incense'-colored (qiu xiangse) silk.
Provenance: Acquired by the descendants of Tian Baodai (1916-2015) and Ye Man (1914-2017) in California in the 1970s.
Note: The present longpao is from the collection of the descendants of Ye Man (葉曼) (1914-2017), also known as Liu Shilun (劉世綸), and Tian Baodai (田寶岱) (1916-2015). Ye Man, who was born and raised in Beijing and studied at Peking University Law School, also studied Buddhism under Nan Huaijin (南懷瑾) and Chen Jianmin (陳建民). She later founded Wen Xian Institute (文賢學院), whose goal was to teach the ‘Three Treasures’ of Chinese culture: Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism. Ye Man was an acclaimed scholar and lecturer, and wrote extensively on the subject of Buddhism. Ye Man married her Peking University (北京大學) and Xinan Lianda (西南聯大) classmate Tian Baodai, who served in several important diplomatic roles between 1939-2000, including those of Consul General and Ambassador. Among his many achievements, he was instrumental in securing funding for the ‘10 Major Infrastructure’ (十大建築) development of Taiwan through diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia. The descendants of Ye Man and Tian Baodai have continued the family tradition of reverence for Chinese history and culture through the acquisition of this exquisite robe in the early 1970’s in California, and they treasured this robe for decades amongst other pieces in their family collection. It is Christie’s great pleasure to present this rare and exceptional longpao from the collection of the descendants of Ye Man and Tian Baodai to a new generation of collectors.
Tian Baodai 田寶岱 (1916-2015) and Ye Man 葉曼 (1914-2017), during Tian Baodai’s posting as Consul General, Yokohama, Japan, 1950. Photographer unknown.
The father of Tian Baodai 田寶岱 (1916-2015), Tian Shufan 田樹藩 (1885-1966), collector of Chinese calligraphy, Beijing, 1950s, during the annual blooming of the nightblooming orchid. Photographer unknown.
An Autumn Incense Color Jifu with EmbroIdered Dragon Roundels
This outstanding imperial man’s semiformal dragon robe (longpao 龍袍) features eight visible dragon roundels, and another under the front overlap, on a silk satin feld and a standing water and wave border (lishui 立水) at the hem. The garment is complete as initially tailored, retaining its original light blue small-scale wan fret with blossoms, silk damask lining and silk and gold-wrapped thread lampas bindings at the neck and cufs. It refects the culmination of the initial phase in the development of Qing dynasty court dress, particularly for the class of festive wear ( jifu 吉服). It is a scarce survivor of a rarely studied development in Qing court attire that was all but obliterated by major shifts in the oficial dress code initiated under the Qianlong emperor in the late 1740s and promulgated in the 1760s.
A nearly identical jifu with embroidered dragon roundels on a muchfaded greenish yellow silk satin is in the collection of the Danish National Museum. (Fig. 1) It was acquired in China in 1893 by the Danish merchant Peter Arnt Kierulf (1838-1909), the frst Westerner to open a commercial establishment in Beijing (1859-1894), and donated to the museum together with his large collection of Chinese material.1 Unfortunately there is no additional information about this garment or its history. It and the present jifu reveal the same exacting technique and attention to detail in embroidery that we associate with textile production created for the court of the Yongzheng emperor (雍正 r. 1722-1735).2 Embroiderers have used several shades of the same color foss silk worked in satin stitch to suggest contour and dimension. Very thin gold-wrapped threads have been couched with precision to form the scaled dragons and the lucky symbols foating in the waves. The same thin metal threads have been used lavishly to outline the rocks and spume of the breaking waves as well as the interior contours of the billows. Dragon claws and horns and their serrated spines are worked in tiny knot stitches, outlined with various colored silk plied cords. Minute dots of green or brown pigment depict lichens on the rocks.
Fig. 1. An embroidered silk satin longpao acquired in China in 1893 by the Danish merchant Peter Arnt Kierulf (1838-1909), L: 56 1/4 in. (143 cm.), Danish National Museum, accession number: Bd207, unpublished. © National Museum of Denmark.Photographer unknown
The forerunners of what became dragon roundel jifu, appear to be the functional Manchu utilitarian coats with tapered sleeves, a front overlap and a fared shape that widened at the hem, as illustrated by the yellow silk damask robe in the Palace Museum, Beijing attributed to the reign of Abahai (Huangtaiji 皇太極 r. 1626-1643).3 Dragon roundel decoration appears on robes dating from the reign of the Shunzhi emperor (順治 r. 1643-1661). Three robes in the Palace Museum collection attributed to this reign are decorated with dragon roundels in supplemental weft patterns in colored foss silk and gold threads: two on yellow silk grounds, either damask or gauze, and one on dark blue silk gauze.4
Dragon roundel patterns for imperial robes have a long history and had been used in China since the Tang dynasty (618-907). During the Ming dynasty (1388-1644), roundel decorated robes were ranked as formal wear and conferred higher status than yoke-and-band dragon patterns. We may never be able to determine exactly how or when this dragon pattern style was incorporated into Qing court dress, but it was considered a less formal style than patterns used for the formal robes (chaopao 朝袍), worn for state ritual.
The arrangement of dragon patterns on Qing chaopao had been directly infuenced by the specifc type of dragon-patterned silks sent as diplomatic gifts from Ming emperors to Manchu tribal leaders beginning during the late sixteenth century. These gift yardages featured patterns of dragons amid clouds above waves and mountains. They were arranged in a quatrefoil yoke at the shoulders and a band of across the skirt approximately at knee level and were adjusted to ft the shapes of Manchu national dress. Hence, early Qing dynasty practice essentially reversed the Ming dynasty ranking system for dragon robe patterns.
Other than applying the roundels to a Manchu-shaped robe, the single Qing period modifcation of the historic roundel pattern style was the addition
of a lishui standing water and wave border along the hem with mountain peaks rising at the center front and back and at each side seam. A brownish yellow fgured gauze jifu in the Palace Museum that is documented as having been worn by the Kangxi emperor (康熙 r. 1661-1722)5 is among the earliest Qing examples of eight dragon roundel jifu with a lishui border. The dragon roundels are embroidered in gold- and silver-wrapped threads set on a silk ground patterned with clouds above a standing water and wave border.
During the early Qing period eight-dragon roundel jifu were worn by both genders. A pair of posthumous portraits in the Arthur M. Sackler Galley Collections reportedly depicts Cuyeng (褚英 1580-1615) and his wife.6 (Fig. 2) Cuyeng was the eldest son of Nurhaci (努爾哈赤 r. 1559-1626), the founder of the Qing dynasty. Although the paintings were created possibly more than two centuries after Cuyeng’s death, nonetheless the artist has opted to present the couple in court clothes in styles that also predated the date of the painting’s execution. The prince’s jifu, as well as that worn under the dragon roundel patterned overcoat of his wife, follow the early Qing eight roundel above a lishui border convention. Although the color of ground fabric of the woman’s jifu reads chestnut brown, it should be understood as the special shade of yellow known as “autumn incense color” (qiu xiangse 秋香色) and is meant to emulate the distinctive yellow green of the silk satin ground of the jifu in this sale.
According to Qing court dress regulations issued in 1694, for important ceremonies or sacrifcial activities, the emperor should wear a crown set with large-sized pearls or the pearls that come from Northeastern region; and the ceremonial robe should be made of yellow or autumn incense colored damask, with patterns of three-claw or fve-claw dragons.7 The ceremonial dress of the empress and empress dowager should be made of similarly colored damask with patterns of three-claw or fve claw dragons.8 The regulations, further note that yellow or autumn incense color are not allowed to be used for the robes of imperial noble consorts.9 Interestingly, the dyestuf used to produce the bright yellow and autumn incense color comes from the same source (pagoda bud, Styphnolobium japonicum L.).10 The precise shade of the dye was determined by the mordant, which sets the dye to make it colorfast: alum for bright yellow or ferrous (iron) sulphate for green or in combination to produce incense color. The color is again included in a list of forbidden colors for the dress of oficials and military personnel as per a regulation issued in 1724.11
The ascension of the Qianlong emperor (乾隆 r. 1735-1795) set the stage for major changes to the regulations concerning court attire. In 1748 the emperor commissioned a review of all previous Qing court dress regulations. The review culminated in the circulation of the Illustrated Precedents of the [Qing] Imperial Court (Huangchao liqi tushi 皇朝禮器圖式) in 1766. This law, the most inclusive and wide-ranging of its kind in the history of imperial China, classifed all clothing and accessories used by the court from the emperor to the lowest functionary. Although robes made for the emperor could be, and were occasionally, made of fabric dyed qiu xiangse. This color, once forbidden to the noble consorts (guifei 貴妃), was now assigned to next two lower ranks of consorts (fei 妃 and pin 嬪).
The new practice of diferentiating gender by styles of jifu was already evident at the outset of the Qianlong reign (1736-1795). Everyone (all of the women) but the emperor in the 1736 Giuseppe Castiglione’s (Lang Shining) handscroll In My Heart There is the Power to Reign Peaceably [Inauguration Portraits of the Qianlong emperor and his consorts] is depicted wearing a dragon roundel jifu. Unlike the early Qing dynasty evidence of men and women wearing dragon roundel patterned jifu, the emperor’s jifu is decorated with an overall integrated pattern of dragons amid clouds above a lishui standing water and waves border at the hem.12 (Fig. 3) This jifu type was already present during the early Qing period as demonstrated by a supplemental weft patterned yellow silk gauze robe in the Palace Museum collection that sometimes is associated with Shunzhi emperor.13 There are several examples each of jifu with integrated dragon decorated associated with the Kangxi and Yongzheng emperors in the Palace Museum collection and in other museum and private collections.
After 1766, save for the surcoats displaying insignia, which were assigned to the highest-ranking male members of the imperial clan, dragon roundels ceased to ornament the robes of the emperor, his sons and princes of the frst to fourth ranks.14 The wardrobes of imperial women detailed in the Huangchao liqi tushi included the garments of the emperor’s daughters and fve grades of consorts. Individual ranks were largely distinguished by the colors of the garment fabrics. The skirts of women’s dragon robes have vents at the side seams, rather than the center front and back as prescribed for men. They also carried an additional contrasting band of decoration on the sleeves, which matched the neck facings and cufs. The Huangchao liqi tushi authorized three styles of semi-formal attire for the empress and other high-ranking women. The frst style was nearly identical to the emperor’s jifu, with a single integrated design of dragons within the cosmos across the entire surface of the coat. The second type confned the dragons to nine roundels. Eight were exposed and the ninth roundel was placed under the front overlap; the hem was decorated with a lishui border. The third type is decorated with nine roundels only. The preoccupation with the number nine and emperor, or the emperor’s women, appears to be a mid-eighteenth century development as the qiu xiangse robe under consideration has only the eight roundels that are exposed when the garment was worn and none under the front overlap.
The Qianlong edicts provide no reasons for diminishing the oficial status of dragon roundel patterned jifu or the color qiu xiangse. The particularshade of bright greenish yellow autumn incense color we encounter in early eighteenth century Chinese textiles disappears from later textiles, where qiu xiangse most often refers to shades of brown or only slightly green-tinged yellows—a fact that raises questions about the possibility of forgotten or changing dyeing practices. Decisions to emphasize Manchu heritage, as stated in the preface to the Huangchao liqi tushi, may have infuenced decisions to downgrade the dragon roundel patterns favored by the previous Ming dynasty, but which also continued to decorate the unoficial wardrobes of the Han Chinese populations of the empire.
Although surviving court robes dating from the early Qing period are few in number and leave us with many unanswered questions, it would appear that the re-evaluation of the status of certain types of attire and colors was already underway during the third and fourth decades of the eighteenth century. This stunning early eighteenth century robe will continue to be an important document to consider when studying the evolution of Qing dynasty oficial dress code.
John E. Vollmer
1 Danish National Museum, dragon robe, embroidered silk satin, L: 56 1/4 in. (143 cm.), accession number: Bd.207, unpublished. The robe was misidentifed as a woman’s robe in a citation for a description of an empress’s robe in the Mactaggart Art Collection, see: John E. Vollmer and Jacqueline Simcox, Emblems of Empire: Selections from the Mactaggart Art Collection, Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2009, p.39
2 See: Palace Museum, Beijing, Gugong bowuyuan cang wenwu zhenpin quanji 50: Qingdai Gongting Fushi, [The Complete Collection of Treasurers of the Palace 51: Costumes and Accessories of Emperor and Empresses of the Qing Dynasty], Hong Kong: The Commercial Press Ltd., no.14, pp. 28-29.
3 See: Ibid., no. 5, pp. 12-13.
4 See: Ibid., nos. 32 and 33, pp. 58-59 and Hong Kong Museum of History, Guo cai caho zhang: Qing dai gong ting fu shi, [The Splendours of Royal Costume: Qing Court Attire], Xianggang : Kang le ji wen hua shi wu shu, 2013, p.120-121.
5 See: Palace Museum, Beijing, Gugong bowuyuan cang wenwu zhenpin quanji 50: Qingdai Gongting Fushi, [The Complete Collection of Treasurers of the Palace 51: Costumes and Accessories of Emperorand Empresses of the Qing Dynasty], Hong Kong: The Commercial Press Ltd., no. 29, pp. 53-54.
6 Pair of Portraits, reportedly depicting Cuyeng (1580-1615) and his wife, probably dating 18th – 19th century, hanging scrolls, ink and color on silk, 72 1/2 x 38 7/8 in. (184.3 x 98.8 cm.), S1991.114 and S1991.115, Arthur M. Sackler Galley, Purchase – Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program and partial gift of Richard G. Pritzlaf.
7 See Da Qing Hui Dian, section 24.
8 See ibid., section 37.
9 See ibid., section 49.
10 See: unpublished PhD dissertation by Jing Han, The Historical and Chemical Investigation of Dyes in High Status Chinese Costume and Textiles of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911), University of Glasgow, School of Cultural and Creative Arts, College of Arts, 2016, pp. 52 and 298.
11 See Da Qing Hui Dian, section 162.
12 Giuseppe Castiglione (Lang Shining, Italian, 1688-1766), In My Heart There is the Power to Reign Peaceably [Inauguration Portraits of the Qianlong emperor and his consorts], 1736, handscroll, ink and color on silk, 20 7/8 x 127 in., (52.9 x 688.3 cm), Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund 1969.31.
13 See: Palace Museum, Beijing, Gugong bowuyuan cang wenwu zhenpin quanji 50: Qingdai Gongting Fushi, [The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace 51: Costumes and Accessories of Emperor and Empresses of the Qing Dynasty], Hong Kong: The Commercial Press Ltd., no.31, p. 57.
14 See: “Rank and Status at the Qing Court” chart in John E. Vollmer and Jacqueline Simcox, Emblems of Empire: Selections from the Mactaggart Art Collection, Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2009, pp.62-63.
ASIAN ART WEEK | ONLINE SALE:
Contemporary Clay: Yixing Pottery from the Irving Collection
19 March – 26 March | Online
Contemporary Clay: Yixing Pottery from the Irving Collection, takes place from March 19-26 and comprises 68 teapots, figures and objects made by well-known Yixing pottery artists. Florence and Herbert Irving, known for their great eye for exceptional quality in art and form, appreciated the unique charm of contemporary Yixing ware. Steeped in earlier Ming and Qing traditions, while drawing creative inspiration from nature and the daily life, each potter represented in this collection has their own distinct style.