Lot 135. A famille verte 'Romance of the Western Chamber' brushpot, bitong, Kangxi period (1662-1722); 15.1cm (5 8/9in) high. Estimate £ 3,000 -5,000. Sold for £ 20,000 (€ 23,478). © Bonhams.
The tall sides delicately enamelled with a continuous scene of a monk squatting on the ground wearing his distinctive cap and holding a fan as he gazes up at a butterfly, beside him two elegant ladies and a gentleman also fix their attention on the butterfly, all set within a terraced garden with rocks and trees.
Provenance: Francesco Maria, Marchese Taliani de Marchio (1887 - 1968), Grand Officer of the Italian Crown, Commander of the Order of St Maurice and Lazarus, and Commander of the Order of Pius IX (Ordine Piano), and his wife Archduchess Margaretha d'Austria Toscana, Marchesa Taliani de Marchio (1894 – 1986).
Acquired from Chu Tsun Tsai, 24 March 1940.
Note: The brushpot depicts a scene from the Western Chamber, known as 'Beauty's Enchantment' showing Zhang Gong and the monk as well as Cui Yingying and Hong Niang. Compare with a dish with similar decoration illustrated in Seventeenth Century Chinese Porcelain from the Butler Family Collection, Alexandria, 1990, p.181.
Marchese Taliani was a distinguished Italian diplomat who lived through major historical upheavals of the first half of the 20th century, events whose impact affect all to this day. His first diplomatic appointment was to Berlin in 1912; followed by Constantinople in 1913, where during the First World War he negotiated an agreement for the protection of Italian citizens and interests in the (soon to be demise) Ottoman Empire. From 1916 to 1919 he served in St Petersburg, and under the privilege of diplomatic immunity was in a unique position to observe and chronicle first-hand the October Revolution, its day by day development, the subsequent fall of Tsarist Russia and the establishment of the Soviet Republic; from 1919 he served in Rome as Secretary of State for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; with later assignments to London (1921 - 1923) and again to Constantinople (1924 – 1928), this time as the Republic of Turkey; from 1929 - 1930 he was in Rome as Head of Protocol of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; in 1932 he was appointed Italian Ambassador to the Netherlands; in 1938 he was appointed Ambassador to China, where he remained until 1946; and his last diplomatic appointment was in 1951 as Ambassador to Spain until 1952.
Sent to China in 1938 as Ambassador to the Nationalist Government of Chiang Kai-shek in Nanjing, he became an acute - and far from humourless, despite the hardships of everyday life - front line eye-witness of the Second Sino-Japanese War, during which the Japanese forces captured the capital and attacked Shanghai. When Mussolini recognised Wang Jingwei's Japanese puppet government, Taliani presented his credentials to him. On 8 September 1943, having refused to swear allegiance to the Italian Social Republic (Republic of Salò), he and his wife, the Archduchess Margaretha d'Austria Toscana (1894 - 1986), were arrested and interned by the Japanese in a concentration camp near Shanghai, where they remained for two years until the end of the war. After the end of hostilities, the new government of Alcide De Gasperi reconfirmed him as Ambassador to China until 1946.
Many of the purchase invoices survive, providing an important documentation of Chinese art dealers active in Shanghai and Beijing between 1938 and 1946. The majority of the invoices are dated to between December 1938 and July 1943, with a significant gap until April 1946, explained by Marchese and Marchesa Taliani's internment by the Japanese. The long list of dealers demonstrates the vibrant Chinese art market in Shanghai and Beijing in the late 1930s and early 1940s; this list includes the following:
In Shanghai - K. D. Lu, Yee Chun Chang, C. K. Chou, Strehlneek's Gallery of Chinese Art, The Midoh Co., Tung Koo Tsar Chinese Curios & Arts Co., Philip Chu, Zui Wha Curios & Co., T. Y. King & Co., King Koo Chai, Tai Loong & Co., Tin Dao Shan Fang, Y. L. Hong, Chu Tsun Tsai, The China Curios Co., Hsueh Ken Chai, Zung Chang Ziang Co., The Little Pagoda, M. L. Kwauh, Hoggard – Sigler, and Foo Yuen Tsai.
In Beijing - J. Plaut, Jung Hsing Chai, Mathias Komor, Tung Ku Chai Curio and Picture Store, Yi Pao Chai Jade Store, Jung Hsing Chai, Wan E. Cheng, Yung Pao Chia Jade Store, Mario Prodan, and Tung Yi & Co.
Marchese Taliani published three books: Pietrogrado 1917, Milan, 1935; È Morto in Cina, Milan, 1949; and Dopoguerra a Shanghai, Milan, 1958.