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Ming dynasty cloisonne ritual water vessel, or kundika, estimated at roughly $37,800-$50,400. Image courtesy of Chiswick Auctions

Ming dynasty cloisonne vessel among highlights at May 19 Asian art auction

Ming dynasty cloisonne ritual water vessel, or kundika, estimated at roughly $37,800-$50,400. Image courtesy of Chiswick Auctions
Ming dynasty cloisonne ritual water vessel, or kundika, estimated at roughly $37,800-$50,400. Image courtesy of Chiswick Auctions

LONDON – The sale of Asian Art at Chiswick Auctions on May 19 is led by a rare example of Ming dynasty cloisonne. The 15th- or 16th-century bronze and enamel ritual water vessel, or kundika, comes from a private collection in France with provenance to Robert Rousset (1901-1982), an employee of the Compagnie de la Chine et des Indes. It carries an estimate of £30,000-£40,000, or $37,800-$50,400.

Following Indian prototypes, kundika were used by monks to wash their mouths after meals. They were filled through the hinged spout with purified water, and their contents were sprinkled out of the top. The polychrome lotus scroll decoration on the example in the May 19 auction is a common ornament on Chinese cloisonne of this period, and is especially appropriate for a vessel connected with Buddhist ritual. The gilt underside is incised with the protective visvavajra motif.

The gilt underside of the Ming dynasty cloisonne vessel is incised with the protective visvavajra motif. Image courtesy of Chiswick Auctions
The gilt underside of the Ming dynasty cloisonne vessel is incised with the protective visvavajra motif. Image courtesy of Chiswick Auctions

Also on offer is a Khmer figure from the 12th or 13th century depicting the 16-armed guardian deity Hevajra, estimated at £8,000-£12,000, or $10,000-$15,100. This 23cm (9in) figure was formerly in the collection of Himalayan, Indian and Southeast Asian works of art assembled by US specialist Nik Douglas (1944-2012). After living in the Himalayas for a decade, he organized numerous exhibitions of Eastern art and advised leading museums and private collectors. Bought when his collection was sold in 1997, Hevajra now comes by descent from an English private collection.

From a private collection in France comes an 18th-century brush pot carved from a boulder of spinach green jade. The scene to the exterior retells the ancient story of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, the group of 3rd-century scholars who fled the intrigues and corruption of politics in the Three Kingdoms period to enjoy the simple, rustic life. Previously owned by Roger Meffreys (1899-1976), the French ambassador to China between 1936 and 1946, it is estimated at £10,000-£15,000, or $12,600-$18,900.

Among the most striking Japanese works of art in the sale is a life-size model of an eagle signed Masatsune chu (cast by Masatsune). This family of sword-makers and armorers were among the Japanese metalworkers courting a new clientele during the Meiji period (1868-1912). Upon the abolition of the samurai, the firm began producing decorative objects, mostly made for export. This impressive model cast in copper and zinc alloy with wings outstretched measures almost two meters (6.5 feet) high. Consigned from an English private collection, it is estimated at £4,000-£6,000, or $5,000-$7,500.

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