Lot 1359. An inlaid lacquer and zitan rectangular wall plaque, 19th century; 30¾ in. x 25 in. (78 x 63.5 cm.). Estimate USD 40,000 - USD 60,000. Price realised USD USD 47,500. © Christie's Images Ltd 2011
The black lacquer panel inlaid in white jade with the character de (virtue) above a wood elephant standing on a rockwork base raised on a stand, the fringed blanket draped over the back centered by a shou character, the back surmounted by a vase filled with wannianqing, within a gold-painted key-fret border, the zitan frame inlaid in silver wire, the back also in black lacquer.
Property from the Family of H.H. K'ung.
Note: This lot was part of the collection of the renowned financier and government official, H.H. K'ung (Kong Xiangxi, 1881-1967). Born in Taigu, Shanxi province, to a well-established family of businessmen and educated by Christian missionaries, H.H. K'ung, who was a 75th-generation descendant of Confucius, studied at Oberlin College and Yale University before returning to China in 1907. His initial career as an educator was cut short by the political disruption caused by the fall of the Qing dynasty. He was quickly appointed the civil administrator of Taigu and division commander of the local army. Shifting politics obliged K'ung to spend time in Japan, where he met and in 1914 married Soong Ailing (1890-1973), eldest of the three famed Soong sisters and eventually became the brother-in-law of Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek.
H.H. K'ung served in several critical posts in the Republic of China government: Minister of Industry and Commerce (1928-1931), Minister of Finance (1933-1944), Governor of the Central Bank of China (1933-1945), and Premier of the Republic (1939-1945). During his career he enacted important economic reforms and was among the key architects of China's modern financial and industrial systems. K'ung lived in the United States after 1947, and these works of art remained in the family by descent.
As a highly educated and sophisticated businessman, K'ung enjoyed the resources and the aesthetic sensibilities to appreciate fine works of art. His pivotal role in the government and close connections with influential people in China and abroad also provided him with ready access to important artists and collections.