Highlights include carved jades from the collection of 19th century Gov. Liu Yunke (1792-1864) of Zhejiang. Lot 187 is a set of nine Qing Dynasty jade carvings inscribed with excerpts form the Thirty-Six Art of War Strategy. Included are a bi bearing the Liu Yunke (He Qiao) collector seal, a notched bi, a halberd blade, a pendant, a Zhang blade, three plaques, and a ge blade. The estimate on the carved jades is $50,000-$60,000. From the same collector, Lot 188 is a massive jade bi in nine sections. Of translucent celadon coloration with russet inclusions, the center disc is formed by two half-spherical sections embellished with a pierced central medallion. The outer bi is comprised of nine sections. On the obverse, inscriptions are carved in clerical script, from the Book of Han. The reverse bears both Zhuànshū and Taotie masks. The sectional jade bi is estimated at $30,000-$40,000. Both items have been held by the Liu Yunke family for the past 150 years and are new to the market.
Lot 190 is a 15-page gilt copper-sheet album of the Pratyutpanna Sutra (Composing of the Mind) Vol. 3. More than 900 characters are inscribed in clerical script on gilt sheets. Held together by hinges, the volume is housed in a rectangular box on which the image of Maitreya is carved. The catalog estimate for the impressive Tang Dynasty album is $30,000-$40,000.
Throughout China’s history, artists have elevated everyday items to extraordinary works of art. Among the most highly prized are zisha clay teapots. The clay itself—indigenous to Yixing in the coastal province of Jiangsu—is generally purplish in color and has qualities so remarkable that it has been deemed a Chinese national treasure. When fired at temperatures as high as 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit, Zisha clay remains porous, a characteristic that allows the teapots made from it to take on the flavor of teas. Zisha teapots have been prized since the 17th century. They inspired not only the Kangxi emperor and 17th century potters such as Shi Dabin, but also recent collectors who have driven the auction price of zisha teapots well above $1 million. This auction contains a single-owner collection of five unique zisha pots valued at between $300,000 and $1 million.
Perhaps the most dramatic of the pots is Lot 224, a dragon-form teapot in the shape of a tree stump in four sections, each with intricately worked gnarled branches that form the handle while curled vines and plum blossoms form the spout, and stumpy knobs form the tightly fitted covers. The dragon’s head with open mouth and protruded tongue is worked into the first section. Lot 222, also unusual, depicts 12 zodiac figures and bears Chen Mingyuan’s maker’s mark along with a reign mark for the Imperial Palace. Lot 225 is molded in the form of a mask, a theme adapted from archaic bronze ritual vessels. Its maker’s mark is that of Shi Dabin, the 17th century artisan.
More outstanding properties include Lot 180, a Qing Dynasty carved jade brush pot with a reticulated floral and dragon design. The pierced cylindrical sides, 4 3/4 inches high, offer a continuous scene of two striding dragons amid densely layered foliage and spray that creates a 3-D effect. The rim and base are incised with a classic scroll. Of translucent jade with touches of russet at the base, the brush pot is expected to bring $200,000-$300,000.
Notably, other jade and hardstone items in the sale include jewelry, bangles and pendants (Lots 102 to 131) with estimates of a few hundred dollars each; carved jade boxes with cover such as Lot 171, estimated at $8,000-$15,000; Lot 167, a finely carved lapis lazuli flask with cover, $3,000-$4,000 and Lot 173, a figure of Maitreya carved in its natural furong stone form, $2,000-$3,000.
Meanwhile, Lot 180 is a rock crystal Guanyin carved from a single block. It weighs in at four pounds. Seated and holding a lotus spray, the Guanyin is a Ming Dynasty piece and has a catalog estimate of $10,000-$15,000.
Another homage to the Deities is Lot 248, gilt statues of the Four Heavenly Kings, Stepping on the Evils of Human Nature. Each gilded Lokapala wears festooned armor and bejeweled headdress and holds a symbol appropriate to its role. Of the period, the Tang Dynasty statues carry the incised mark of Zhenguan and are valued at $100,000-$150,000.
The broad based auction includes decorative and antique properties in all price ranges. Among the ever-popular Chinese ceramics are rare-form ritual items such as Lot 277, a tall, square Geyo Cong vase with horizontal ribs converging at the central vertical plane. Covered with a crackled rust-brown white glaze, and of the Song Dynasty, the vase is estimated at $10,000-$15,000. Lot 280 offers a vase of undulating melon shaped form. It is valued at between $2,000-$3,000. Standing in contrast to both is Lot 278, a bulbous celadon Longquan vase. With looped handles and dish mouth, the body is supported by bands of upright lappets and carved lotus floral pattern. Of the Northern Song Dynasty, the Longquan is expected to fetch $10,000-$15,000.
Lot 283 is the marquee Longquan Yuhuchunping. The pear-shaped celadon vase is carved in high relief depicting a crane in flight holding a flower thread. It is symbolic of the link between heaven and earth. Technically, the celadon glaze is of even tone. The Yuan Dynasty Longquan is expected to command $80,000-$100,000.
Other unusual ceramics include Lot 158, a junyao shallow dish with an unusual purple glaze and the numeral “six” on the underside. Its estimate is $5,000-$6,000. Lot 253 is a junyao wine vessel of compressed spherical shape with purple splashes filing from the short flared neck to the shoulder and below. A curved spout complements a curved loop handle. The pitcher is estimated at $6,000-$10,000.
The auction kicks off with a morning session of 76 classical paintings. The highlight is Lot 15, a 1971 scroll by Chinese-American artist Walasse Ting titled Lotus and Peony. Born in Shanghai, Ting left China as a child. His career took him to Paris, New York and Amsterdam. Although informed by artistic movements of the mid-20th century, he is best known for colorful figurative paintings of nudes. Lotus and Peony marks one of his rare forays into his Chinese heritage and blends classical techniques with ink splash. The ink-on-paper painting carries one artist seal. The top of the scroll reads “Entitled by Walasse Ting.” Its estimate is $100,000-$150,000.
Other modernist masters whose works will come under the hammer are Zhang Daqian (Lot 16, Portrait of Qu Yuan with His Poem, 1941; Lot 19, Magao Lady; Lot 20, Lady; Lot 24, Splashed Lotus, 1946; Lot 38, Scholar in the Shade, 1941, Qi Baishi (Lot 17, Mallard Ducks by the River Reeds and Lot 57, Alchemist, 1924 ) and Zu Beihong (Lot 42, Eagles on Rock, 1947).
Given the current appetite for Chinese master, the paintings may well exceed their market values of $40,000 to $1 million.
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ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE