Lot 39. A pair of famille rose 'ladies' dishes, Yongzheng period (1723-1736); Each 19.7cm (7 3/4in) diam. Estimate £ 4,000-6,000. Sold for £ 37,562 (€ 42,258). Photo: Bonhams.
Each potted with shallow rounded sides rising to an everted rim, the interior finely painted with a seated lavishly dressed lady painting a leaf by a table, her attendant holding a floral fan to her side, a group of lingzhi stems, fly whisk and incense burner resting on the gilt stand behind them, one dish with brush, ingot and ruyi-sceptre maker's mark.
Provenance: Leonard Gow (1859-1936), Glasgow, no.411
Sotheby's London, 15 December 1950, lot 47
Robert Stanley Hope Smith (1910-1979), collection no.R31, and thence by descent.
Published: R.L.Hobson, Catalogue of the Leonard Gow Collection of Chinese Porcelain, London, 1931, p.101.
Exhibited: Glasgow Art Galleries & Museums, Reg.No.E6-'36rs and E6-'36rt (labels).
Note: Leonard Gow (1859-1936), born in Glasgow, Scotland, was the son of a shipping magnate also called Leonard Gow (1824-1910), who established the Glen Line to trade between London, Singapore, China and Japan. Leonard junior eventually became the senior partner in the shipping company Gow, Harrison & Co., a director of Burmah Oil, and chairman of several other companies. A noted philanthropist, Gow established in 1919 a lectureship in the Medical Diseases in Infancy and Childhood at Glasgow University, where he had studied moral philosophy. Glasgow University presented Gow with an honorary doctorate degree in law in 1934. Gow built one of the finest collections of Qing ceramics in the early years of the 20th century, which gained international recognition through a series of ten articles by R.L.Hobson in The Burlington Magazine and through Hobson's catalogue, which Gow published privately in a limited edition of 300 copies in 1931. Part of his collection was exhibited in the Glasgow Art Gallery.
One dish has an underglaze-blue mark of a brush (bi), an ingot (ding) and a ruyi-sceptre, tied with ribbons, forming the rebus bi ding ruyi signifying 'may all certainly be as you wish'.
Compare with a slightly smaller dish (17.1cm) in the Palace Museum collection, Beijing, illustrated in Porcelains with Cloisonné Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration, Hong Kong, 1999, p.74. See two other dishes in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, nos.640-1907 and 649-1907.
Dish, porcelain painted in overglaze enamels in the famille rose palette and gilding, China, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng mark and period (1723-1735). Diameter: 16.8 cm. Given by Mrs. Julia C. Gulland, 640-1907. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Dish painted with a domestic scene of man and woman playing board game, Qing dynasty, 1730-1740. Diameter: 16.5 cm. Julia C. Gulland gift, 649-1907. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Compare with a very similar famille rose 'ladies' dish, Yongzheng, which was sold at Sotheby's London, 17 November 2017, lot 213.
A famille-rose 'ladies' dish, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period (1723-1735); 19.7 cm, 7 3/4 in. Estimate: £3,000 - £4,000. Lot Sold: £16,250 at Sotheby's London, 17 November 2017, lot 213. © Sotheby's.
The Robert Stanley Hope Smith Collection
Robert Stanley Hope Smith, known to friends and family as Stanley, was born on 13th December 1910 in Horton, Bradford. During the 2nd world war he served with his local Home Guard Regiment. He was a solicitor and partner at Browning Oliver and Smith in Bradford and was known to have worked closely with the refugee Polish community which settled there in the late 1940s and early 50s, helping them establish a future within the city that still prospered with a textile industry.
He married Joan Shelton, a schoolteacher, on 4th September 1946, bought a small semi-detached house, Colwyn, Park Mount Avenue in Baildon and had one son, John.
According to his diary he began collecting "Famille Rose" and "Famille Verte" pieces in 1946 from local auction houses, shops and privately in Harrogate, Leeds and Bradford. His wife Joan also shared his passion and they made further purchases on weekend trips to country houses and antique fairs.
He made his first Sotheby's purchase via absentee bid on 2nd October 1950 and on the 15th December the same year was elected a member of the Oriental Ceramic Society. In 1959 Frank Davis, another north of England OCS member, wrote to say that he would surely be welcomed by the "learned lot" in London but it is unlikely Stanley ever made it there because of the disability that made travel difficult.
Over the following decades he was delighted to acquire pieces from well-known collections formed by Lord Cunliffe, Montague Meyer, Leonard Gow, along with OCS exhibition pieces. What may have not been key pieces for them became the core of his collection.
Stanley and Joan lived an unassuming life, intellectually stimulated by eclectic subscriptions to periodicals. He played the organ at church services in Baildon, watched his son play rugby for his school and county, and on summer afternoons tended his allotment. They loved the Yorkshire Dales, visiting country houses, occasionally staying in hotels in the Lake District. On Sundays they drove a specially adapted Jaguar across the Yorkshire moors.
Members of their family were the few fortunate enough to see the porcelain collection displayed in the back room of Colwyn on a dresser alongside the piano and harpsichord. They assumed that Stanley collected even broken pieces of Chinese pottery because they were all that he could afford, unaware that Kintsugi was key to his passion, for he had suffered from polio as a child and walked with a cane.
Stanley died in November 1979. Joan remained a member of the Oriental Ceramic Society for the rest of her life. In later years her grandchildren remember her reading to them in front of an open fire from auction catalogues, OCB periodicals and Oriental art study books, teaching them about the Chinese dynasties and their dates while referring to the pieces still on display in the back room where they had remained undisturbed for the previous 45 years. She died in 2000 and the collection was subsequently put into storage. The family has decided that the time has come for others to enjoy and admire the collection and hope that it will bring as much pleasure as it did for Stanley and Joan.