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From the collection of Virginia "Ella" Hobart (1876-1958). Lot 522. An exceptionally rare pair of Imperial famille rose 'quails and chrysanthemums' bowls, Yongzheng six-character marks and of the period (1723-1735); 3 3/4in (9.5cm) diam. Estimate $300,000–500,000 (€ 260,000 - 440,000)Sold for US$ 1,040,075 (€ 919,769) inc. premium. Photo: Bonhams.

NEW YORK, NY.- The highlight of Bonhams Chinese Works of Art sale is an exceedingly rare and important Imperial pair of bowls exquisitely enameled with the rare design of quails and chrysanthemum blossoms, bearing Yongzheng six-character underglaze-blue marks and of the period (1723- 1735). These masterpieces of Yongzheng Imperial porcelain, will be offered on Monday, March 18 at an estimate of $300,000–500,000. 

The important pair of 'quail' bowls, from the collection of Virginia "Ella" Hobart (1876-1958), and thence by descent, was acquired by Ella Hobart in the early 20th century, possibly from Yamanaka & Co. Virginia Hobart became an heiress in 1892 when, with her two siblings, she inherited her father's fortune from timber, gold and silver mining. In 1913-1914 Ella and her husband Charles Baldwin travelled to China and Japan, returning in time to attend the Pan-Pacific exhibition in San Francisco in 1915. In her letter to her son, dated January 29, 1913, she writes with great enthusiasm of meeting the famed dealer Sadajiro Yamanaka in Kyoto the day before. Following Charles's death in 1936, Ella sold Claremont Mansion in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which was built after the style of Versailles, and relocated to San Francisco. 

The exceptionally rare pair of bowls epitomize the very finest Imperial porcelain of the Yongzheng reign renowned for its innovative design, unsurpassed elegance and exquisite artistry. They are particularly rare in two aspects: firstly, in the design incorporating chrysanthemums rather than prunus and nandina, therefore symbolizing autumn rather than spring; and in the continuous decoration over the rim and onto the interior, in a technique known as guoqiangzhi rather than retaining a plain undecorated interior. 

The palette of the superbly painted and enamelled bowls can be described as a combination of falangcai and fencai; the former, translating as ‘foreign colours’, and the latter corresponding to the ‘famille rose’ palette. The flanagcai enamels are apparent on the present lot in the brown and ochre enamelling of the quails. Related flanagcai ‘quail’ decorated bowl and a teapot and cover, Yongzheng four-character blue-enamelled marks and period, are in the National Palace Museum, Taipei. 

The falangcai palette and manner of painting was influenced by the Jesuit painters in the Court, such as Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), known as Lang Shining; see for example the treatment and colouring of the feathers of a sparrow in the painting titled ‘Chrysanthemums’ in the album Immortal Blossoms in an Everlasting Spring, which is considered to be a masterpiece dating to the Yongzheng reign, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei. 

Several closely related quail enamelled bowls of the Yongzheng period can be found in important museum and private collections including Foundation Baur, Geneva and formerly in the Meiyintang Collection. However, these are decorated with prunus and nandina, representing the season of winter, whereas the Hobart bowls represent autumn; importantly, whilst the related examples are undecorated to the interior, the Hobart bowls are superbly decorated in the guoqiangzhi manner, with the chrysanthemum design continuing over the rim and onto the interior. 

Much admired in China for their courage and fighting spirit, pairs of quail, shuang an, are a homophone for 'peace and prosperity'. Chrysanthemums ju, are among the earliest cultivated flowers in China. Blooming in the colder months, they symbolize fortitude as well as longevity and are also associated with the Autumn season. Combined with pairs of quails, chrysanthemums convey the doubly-propitious wish of 'May you live in peace'. Furthermore, drawing its inspiration from earlier periods, quail and chrysanthemums were a popular theme within the much celebrated 'bird-and-flower' painting genre of the Song dynasty. This genre was revived by the Yongzheng Emperor and represented on Imperial porcelain under the direction of Tang Ying (1682-1756), the celebrated superintendent of the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen. 

The elegant rendering of blossoming chrysanthemums, depicted in various stages of bloom on the present bowls, were very likely inspired by the celebrated paintings of Yun Shouping (1633-1690) and his unique manner of combining bold colors and washes to emphasize the distinct beauty of flowers. 

These remarkable bowls can be numbered amongst the finest Imperial porcelain produced at the zenith of porcelain production during the reign of the Yongzheng Emperor, known for his personal involvement in arts for the Imperial Court, his refined aesthetic taste and high standards.

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An exceptionally rare pair of Imperial famille rose 'quails and chrysanthemums' bowls Yongzheng six-character marks and of the period

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From the collection of Virginia "Ella" Hobart (1876-1958). Lot 522. An exceptionally rare pair of Imperial famille rose 'quails and chrysanthemums' bowls, Yongzheng six-character marks and of the period (1723-1735); 3 3/4in (9.5cm) diamEstimate $300,000–500,000 (€ 260,000 - 440,000)Sold for US$ 1,040,075 (€ 919,769) inc. premium. Photo: Bonhams.

Each finely potted with a hemispherical body supported on a short tapered foot ring, the exterior superbly enameled with a pair of quail with finely articulated feathers, one standing on a stippled, verdant ground, the other on a mossy blue garden rock, in front of blooming chrysanthemum shrubs with tall flowering stems, the large pink blossoms flanking the quail, the other stems extending over the rim into the interior, and bearing further pink, puce and yellow blooms, the foot inscribed in underglaze-blue with the six-character mark within a double-circle, huanghuali stands.

ProvenanceVirginia Hobart (1876-1958), thence by descent.

NoteThe exquisite pair of 'quail' bowls, from the collection of Virginia "Ella" Hobart (1876-1958), and thence by descent, was acquired by Virginia Hobart in the early 20th century, possibly from Yamanaka & Co. Virginia Hobart became an heiress in 1892 when, with her two siblings, she inherited her father's fortune from timber and silver mining. In 1913-1914 Virginia and her husband Charles Baldwin traveled to China and Japan, returning in time to attend the Pan-Pacific exhibition in San Francisco in 1915. In her letter to her son, dated January 29, 1913, she writes with great enthusiasm of meeting the famed dealer Sadajiro Yamanaka in Kyoto and another Chinese porcelain dealer in Tokyo the day before. Following Charles's death in 1936, Virginia sold Claremont mansion in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which was built after the style of Versailles, and relocated to San Francisco.  

The exceptionally rare pair of bowls epitomize the very finest Imperial porcelain of the Yongzheng reign renowned for its innovative design, unsurpassed elegance and exquisite artistry. They are particularly rare in two aspects: firstly, in the design incorporating chrysanthemums rather than prunus and nandina, therefore symbolizing Autumn rather than Spring; and in the continuous decoration over the rim and onto the interior, in a technique known as guoqiangzhi rather than retaining a plain undecorated interior. 

The palette of the superbly painted and enamelled bowls can be described as a combination of falangcai and fencai; the former, translating as 'foreign colors', and the latter corresponding to the 'famille rose' pallette. The falangcai enamels are apparent on the present lot in the brown and ochre enamelling of the quail. On the list of newly developed enamels submitted to the Yongzheng emperor by Prince Yi in 1728, black and dark brown enamels were both listed, indicating that the artists in the imperial ateliers already had the required material at their disposal to produce such enamels on porcelain. See a related falangcai 'quail' decorated bowl and a teapot and cover, Yongzheng four-character blue-enamelled marks and period, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated by Chen Kuo-Tung, Yu Pei-Chin and Wang Chu-Ping, Porcelain with Painted Enamels of Qing Yongzheng Period (1723-1735), Taipei, 2013, nos. 81 and 88. The falangcai palette and manner of painting was influenced by the Jesuit painters in the court, such as Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), known as Lang Shining; see for example the treatment and coloring of the feathers of a sparrow in the painting titled 'Chrysanthemums' in the album Immortal Blossoms in an Everlasting Spring, which is considered to be a masterpiece dating to the Yongzheng reign, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei; see Portrayals from a Brush Divine: A Special Exhibition of the Tricentennial of Giuseppe Castiglione's Arrival in China, Taipei, 2015, no. II-01 and fig. 16. Compare also the speckled ground on the bowls and that which can be seen in a detail of Castiglione's painting of flowers of the four seasons painted on a chess board, also showing the combination of red and yellow chrysanthemum blossoms, illustrated ibid., no. I-11. 

Quail designs appear in the Yongzheng period on several bowls and dishes, examples of which are extant in important museum collections. 

A rare design of quail and flowers amidst rockwork, with very similar style of 'pearl'-grass ground enamelling, the decoration continuing over the rim in guoqiangzhi style and with similar treatment of the iron red enamels on the lower body of each quail and style of feathers, was enamelled during the Yongzheng period on an earlier Hongzhi mark and period bowl, in the Art Institute of Chicago (no.rx17560/117). Arguably, the Chicago 'quail' bowl is possibly the earliest example of quail-decorated pieces by the Imperial Workshops. This possibility is further substantiated by the example of another Ming porcelain dish dated to the Yongle period which was later enamelled by the Imperial Workshops in the falangcai palette during the Kangxi reign and bears a Kangxi Yuzhi mark, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Special Exhibition of Ch'ing Dynasty Enamelled Porcelains of the Imperial Ateliers, Taipei, 1992, no.1. The very close similarly of the 'pearl'-grass ground decoration on the present bowl, would therefore indicate a near date of production, and most probably earlier than the Baur Foundation example, which differs in the type of stippled-grass ground. 

A Hongzhi mark and period Famille-Rose 'Quails' Bowl, later enamelled during the Yongzheng period

A Hongzhi mark and period Famille-Rose 'Quails' Bowl, later enamelled during the Yongzheng period

A Hongzhi mark and period Famille-Rose 'Quails' Bowl, later enamelled during the Yongzheng period. Porcelain painted in overglaze enamels, H. 8.5 cm (3 3/8 in.); diam. 19.6 cm (7 3/4 in.), Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, rx17560/117. Images courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

A Yongle period dish, Kangxi Yuzhi mark and enamels of the period

A Yongle period dish, Kangxi Yuzhi mark and enamels of the period. Image courtesy of the National Palace Museum, Taipei.

A famille rose bowl, Yongzheng six-character mark within a double circle and of the period, similarly decorated on the exterior with quail design but with prunus and nandina (symbolizing spring), with the interior undecorated, is illustrated by J. Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Baur Collection, vol.2, Geneva, 1999, p. 114, no. 227 (A598); another such bowl, previously from the Mount Trust and the Meiyintang collections, was exhibited by the Oriental Ceramics Society in the Arts of the Ch'ing Dynasty, London, 1964, no.209, and was later sold with Poly Beijing on 18 December 2017, lot 5030; a further bowl from the P. Lunden collection is published by J.P. van Goidsenhoven, La Ceramique Chinoise, Brussels, 1954, pl. XCII; a fourth bowl was included by Yamanaka & Co. in their catalog Grand Exhibition of Ancient Chinese and Corean Works of Art, Osaka, 1934, no. 350; and see also another such bowl illustrated in Handbook of the Mr and Mrs John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, New York, 1981, pl.82; another bowl from the Alfred and Ivy Clark collection was exhibited in the Oriental Ceramic Society exhibition catalog Enamelled Manchu Polychrome, 1951, no.176, and was later sold at Sotheby's, London, 25 March 1975, lot 138. See also a related Yongzheng bowl, enameled with quail on a riverbank, but with a pheasant on a rock and a poetic inscription, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Special Exhibition of Ch'ing Dynasty Enamelled Porcelains of the Imperial Ateliers, Taipei, 1992, pp. 74-75, no. 26. 

The quail bowls, illustrated in J

The quail bowls, illustrated in J.Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Baur Collection, vol.2, Geneva, 1999, p.114, no.227 (A598). Image courtesy of the Baur Foundation, Geneva.

An Extremely Rare and Superbly Painted Falangcai and Famille-Rose 'Quail and Longevity' Bowl, Yongzheng Period

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An Extremely Rare and Superbly Painted Falangcai and Famille-Rose 'Quail and Longevity' Bowl, Yongzheng Period (1723-1735), Qing Dynastyfrom the the Mount Trust and the Meiyintang collections. Sold for RMB 46 million by Poly Beijing on 18 December 2017, lot 5030. 

A Yongzheng mark and period pot with two quail in falangcai painted enamels

A Yongzheng mark and period pot with two quail in falangcai painted enamels; image courtesy of the National Palace Museum Collection, Taipei

For related quail, prunus and nandina decorated dishes, Yongzheng six-character mark within a double square and of the period, see one from the Avery Brundage collection at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, illustrated by H. Moss, By Imperial Command, Hong Kong, 1976, pl. 61. See also a pair of dishes from the Barbara Hutton collection, illustrated by R.P.Griffing Jr., Catalogue, Honolulu Academy of Arts, 1956-1957, pl.XXIV, which was offered by Christie's Hong Kong, 28 November 2005.  

Saucer with motifs celebrating prosperity, China, Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period

Saucer with motifs celebrating prosperity, China, Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng mark and period, porcelain with overglaze polychrome; image courtesy Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

Much admired in China for their courage and fighting spirit, pairs of quail, shuang an, are a homophone for 'peace and prosperity'. Chrysanthemums ju, are among the earliest cultivated flowers in China. Blooming in the colder months, they symbolize fortitude as well as longevity, due to the belief in their medicinal properties said to extend one's life and are also associated with the autumn season. Combined with pairs of quail, chrysanthemums convey the doubly-propitious wish of 'May you live in peace'. The fallen leaf on the pearl-ground is known as luo ye which in Chinese is a pun for le ye meaning 'work in contentment'. The decorative combination therefore forms the phrase An ju le ye which may be interpreted as meaning 'May you live in peace and work in contentment'. This pun is shared by both the present Hobart bowls and the Chicago bowl, as one of the quails in the Chicago bowl is enamelled holding a leaf in its beak, further reinforcing the proximity in date of production. Furthermore, drawing its inspiration from earlier periods, quail and chrysanthemums were a popular theme within the much celebrated 'bird-and-flower' painting genre of the Song dynasty; see for example the painting attributed to Li Anzhong (active 1119-1162), titled Ye ju qiu chun (Wild Chrysanthemums and Autumn Quail), in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated by He Chuanxin, Dynastic Renaissance: Art and Culture of the Southern Song – Painting and Calligraphy, Taipei, 2010, p. 235, no. II-30. This genre was revived by the Yongzheng emperor and represented on Imperial porcelain under the direction of Tang Ying (1682-1756), the celebrated superintendent of the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen. 

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Attributed to Li Anzhong (active 1119-1162), Ye ju qiu guo (Wild Chrysanthemums and Autumn Quail), National Palace Museum, Taipei.

The elegant rendering of blossoming chrysanthemums, depicted in various stages of bloom on the present bowls, were very likely inspired by the celebrated paintings of Yun Shouping (1633-1690) and his unique manner of combining bold colors and washes to emphasize the distinct beauty of flowers; see for example Shan shui hua hui ce (Album of Mountains, Waters, Flowers and Grasses), in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated by Lu Chenglong, 'Yongzheng yuyao ciqi gaishu (A Brief Account of Yongzheng Period Imperial Porcelain)', in Gugong bowuyuan bashi huadan gu taoci guoji xueshu yantaohui lunwen ji, Beijing, 2007, p. 212, fig. 26. 

Similarly, the juxtaposition of light and dark hues decorating the chrysanthemum petals and the great realism devoted to outlining the veins of their leaves on the porcelain medium evoked a similar layering and rich volumetric effects as noted on the illustrious painting style of Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766); see Xian E Chang Chun Tu (Everlasting Verdure of the Immortal Calyx: An Album of Flower Studies), illustrated by Xiangping Li, 'Flower and Bird Painting in Ancient China', Singapore, 2007, p. 106. Compare also two famille rose dishes, Yongzheng marks and of the period, exhibiting a comparable treatment of blossoming chrysanthemums as seen on the present bowls, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Porcelains with Cloisonne Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration, Hong Kong, 1999, nos. 58 and 59. See also a related famille rose 'chrysanthemum' dish, Yongzheng mark and period, which was sold at Christie's Hong Kong, November 30 2016, lot 3219.  

The blossoming chrysanthemum branches extend over the rim of each of the bowls continuing well into their interior. This technique, known as guoqiangzhi (branch passing over the wall), a homophone of the phrase 'Eternal Governance', appears to have first developed towards the end of the Ming dynasty and won Imperial favor at the court of the Qing emperors. A surviving record from the workshops of the Imperial Household Department, the Zaobanchu, relates to the Yongzheng emperor's interest in the 'long branch' design, mentioning that 'On the 19th day, 4th month, Yongzheng 9th year... His Majesty ordered glazed and unglazed porcelain decorated with the enameled design of the Everlasting Tranquility and Eternal Governance (...)'. The ingenious design – distinctive on the present pair of bowls and absent on the above mentioned examples of bowls decorated with quails and nandina – was challenging to accomplish. This was due to the convex surface of bowls and restricted working space, which would have required highly accomplished skills of a master craftsman. Impeccably executed on the present bowls this design allows for each side of the vessel to be viewed as a complete design in its own right.