NEW YORK – Doyle will hold an auction of Asian Works of Art on Wednesday, September 21, starting at 10 am Eastern time. This highly-anticipated auction presents the arts of China, Japan and across Asia spanning the Neolithic Period through the 20th century. Showcased will be exceptional porcelains, bronzes, jades, snuff bottles, pottery, scholar’s objects, furniture and paintings from prominent collections and estates. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
Highlighting the sale is an important Chinese famille rose porcelain vase of a form called Tianqiuping, or celestial sphere vase. Of the many forms utilized in the production of fine porcelain wares for imperial use in the 18th century, several derived from archaic styles, shapes and motifs from China’s early civilizations and several were of novel form. The celestial sphere is of that latter category. Its bold features reflect both the grandeur of Qianlong’s court and the level of technical mastery achieved by both the potters at Jingdezhen and the painters within Qianlong’s imperial workshop. The limits within which earlier generations of master potters were forced to work – limits of size, of form, of color – had been eradicated.
The oversized and relatively simple form of the tianqiuping made it an ideal canvas for imperial porcelain decorators of various disciplines. Well-known period examples in both private and museum collections display the breadth of all porcelain-decorating techniques; not just underglaze and overglaze painting but also the application of monochrome glazes as seen in the vase on offer. Recent highlights of London Asia Week have been of tianqiuping form.
The true mystery of the vase lies in its history since leaving Chinese shores. Discovered in the loving possession of a Pennsylvania collector, the vase displays the etched inventory number of a previous owner, ending in “PA.” Is it the mark of a Pennsylvania museum? A university collection? Its significance isn’t clear. Further research has revealed what appears to be a mate: a vase of identical decoration and size sold at Sotheby’s New York in 1990. A single photo from that catalog shows the equally-vibrant reflection of this remarkable vase. Then, as now, one’s eye is drawn to the large central lotus blossom with its unique feathery petals. The somewhat sparse bands of decoration serve to accentuate the size and heavenly form of its celestial sphere body.
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