NEW YORK – When Gianguan Auctions, New York’s premier independent Chinese auction gallery, opens its doors for the 15th annual running of its fall sale on Sept. 8, international connoisseurs will find strong collections of Chinese paintings, porcelains and archaic bronzes as well as small collectibles such as stone seals, carved jades and snuff bottles. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.
The headliners, the stars of design and craftsmanship whose values set the tone for more reachable items in each category, begin with a pair of Warring States ritual dou (above) that rise 19 inches tall from the backs of ferocious looking bixie. Making them even more fantastical are Kui dragons that encircle the risers and dare clutch the horn of the stealthy Bixie below. All components are intricately inlaid with silver and gold in geometric patterns and scrolling and set flush with the bronze. Created several hundred years before the Common Era, these ritual vessels attest to the upward mobility that was everyman’s opportunity during that early age of turmoil. The pair is Lot 81, expected to fetch more than $200,000.
Bronze, a foundation of civilization as well as the decorative arts was, by the period of the First Emperor, an advanced art in China. Its age-resistant composite made it the perfect medium for the fruit and foods that assisted the deceased in their eternal journey. An excellent example is the Warring States tripod Ding, (ritual bowl with cover), decorated with cicada and geometric shapes. Of mottled olive-green bronze with pale encrustation, it is Lot 82, valued at upwards of $6,000.
Six hundred years later, during the Tang Dynasty, scholars and artists sought their measure through the use of ink. Great scrolls of calligraphy such as the 8-foot panel by Liu Gongquan, one of four masters of regular script, were highly praised for the precision and beauty of their ink work, and in many cases, their content. This particular offering has 13 emperors’ seals and 14n collectors’ seals that attest to its aesthetic impact. Lot 98, its value is more than $2 million.
Another offering is the sharp, semicursive script of Zhang Ruitu, a Ming master and poet. Lot 105, signed by the artist, in a more manageable length of 25 inches, with two artists seals is upward of $20,000. Liu Yan’s Qing offering, 11 feet long, with two artist seals, is set to go off at upwards of $6,000.
Other paintings hit the high points in aesthetic evolution. Among these is Bird on a Twig, by Zhao Ji, the personal name of the eighth emperor of the Song. Characterized by fine brushwork that allows a crested bird to sit lightly on a branch of yellow flowers, the album page has one emperor’s seal and three collectors’ seals. Mounted and framed, Lot 106 will likely soar above its $850,000 low estimate.
A more accessible Northern Song album leaf is Chirping Birds by Xu Chongju. Here the ephemeral lightness of singing birds and leaves is captured in tones of gray. With three emperors’ seals and eight Collectors’ seals, Lot 157 starts at $20,000.
Xu Beihong’s horses add another dimension to the modernist vision. Horse Standing (below) is a 1940 work offering a three-quarter profile of a black horse on a green and tan field. It is Lot 107, expected to go off at more than $50,000. Several more Xu Beihong paintings illustrate his magnificent way with horses and carry appropriate estimates.
Yangyong Ding, who witnessed and then experimented with 20th-century movements in modern art, is represented by three outstanding works. Frogs (Lot 77), Cat and Butterfly (Lot 78) and Chrysanthemum and Insects (Lot 79). Each masterfully conveys power with few brush strokes. These excellent bargains start at $3,000 each.
Chinese porcelains, favorites of Emperors and collectors, play a major role in this auction. While some of the enduring favorites, such as the blue and white Yuan fish plate at Lot 127, looks familiar, it is unique. Note the center fish has a spiky dorsal fin and swims in a space crowded with reeds. That and the bracket at the rim and foot contribute to its rarity and the estimate of $40,000 or more.
Meanwhile, the complexity of Famille rose with colors introduced from Europe is a Gianguan tradition. A rare offering is a 22-lobed vase with sweeping trumpet neck and a dark ground and rose-colored florals and medallions. It is Lot 160 and expected to sell for upward of $6,000. Meanwhile, the complexity of famille rose with colors introduced from Europe is a Gianguan tradition. A rare offering is a 22-lobed vase with sweeping trumpet neck and a dark ground and rose-colored florals and medallions. It is Lot 160 and expected to sell for upward of $6,000. A rare Qing famille rose octagonal washer is decorated with panels of qilin floral sprays (est. $4,000-$8,000).
To experience the pure joy of color, collectors will find excellence in a selection of purple splash ceramics. Among them, a Song Dynasty Junyao tripod censer with a soft blue ground. It is Lot 62, $1,000-$3.000.
Collectors on alert for Gianguan’s best-selling categories should look to these lots for their favorites: Zisha teapots, Lots 261-274; Chinese seals of Shoushan, Furong and Tianhuang stone, Lots 37-42; and 45-52, snuff bottles, Lots 1-14.
The auction will be conducted live on Saturday, Sept. 8, beginning at 6 p.m. Eastern Time. For inquiries and condition reports, contact the gallery director Mary Ann Lum at 212-867-7288 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.