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"Il n'y a en art, ni passé, ni futur. L'art qui n'est pas dans le présent ne sera jamais." (Pablo Picasso)
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    The MQJ Collection 2

    HONG KONG.- During its autumn sale week, Sotheby’s Hong Kong will present an exhibition of the private collection of the world’s foremost expert in and leading dealer of Ming furniture, Grace Wu Bruce. Perhaps the greatest collection of Ming furniture in private hands, The Best of The Best: The MQJ Collection of Ming Furniture will be on public view at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from 29 September to 2 October 2017. A new book by Grace Wu Bruce under the same title, documenting each item of furniture in the collection, is being published to coincide with the exhibition. 

    The MQJ Collection 1

    New Book by Grace Wu Bruce

    The Pinnacle of Art and Workmanship of Ming Furniture
    Formed over the past 30 years and little known to the public, The MQJ Collection, short for Muquju ('Lodge of Wood Delights'), comprises more than 100 pieces (sets) of museum-grade Ming furniture of all major types, mainly made of huanghuali and zitan. The collection spans 11 categories, from tables and chairs to incense stands and beds, all beautifully designed, superbly crafted and in excellent condition. Among them are rare surviving examples of their kind which are being unveiled to the market for the very first time. 


    Element of the MQJ Collection

    For a long time, Ming furniture remained a neglected field until Mr. Wang Shixiang, renowned Chinese scholar and Palace Museum specialist, hailed the ‘Father of Chinese Furniture’, published his book Classic Chinese Furniture in 1985, now considered the bible on the subject. The publication brought to light the beauty and magnificence of Chinese furniture design and workmanship, sparking an immense amount of interest in Ming furniture and leading to an influx of quality works onto the market. Most pieces from the MQJ Collection were acquired during this ‘golden age’ of Ming furniture collecting in the 1980s and 1990s, a feat that would be impossible to repeat today. The name of the collection, ‘Muquju’, was fittingly bestowed by Mr. Wang Shixiang as a gesture of endorsement of its exceptional quality. 


    Element of the MQJ Collection

    It is our privilege to once again collaborate with Ms. Grace Wu Bruce,” says Kevin Ching, Chief Executive Officer of Sotheby’s Asia. “Grace is an internationally-revered expert in classical Chinese furniture. Her MQJ Collection is the distilled product of 30 years of relentless collecting and continued refinement – all done with great passion and knowledge. Its quality and rarity is second to none. Sotheby’s is extremely honoured to host this unprecedented exhibition, and to become the first to showcase the MQJ Collection in its entirety. I would like to once again thank Grace for her support and trust in Sotheby’s, and her professional advice and guidance in the planning of this show.” 

    Grace Wu Bruce said: “The debut of the MQJ Collection is a personal cause which I hold close to heart. Sotheby’s and I have spent the entire summer tirelessly staging what could possibly be the most prodigious Ming furniture exhibition ever seen. I would like to extend my gratitude to Sotheby’s for not only their vision in the state-of-the-art installation, but also the use of interactive technology to bring out the best of the Collection. I sincerely hope that this exhibition will provide an opportunity for everyone to appreciate the very pinnacle of Chinese furniture.” 

    From Collector to Renowned Furniture Dealer
    Known affectionately as the ‘Queen of Huanghuali’, Grace Wu Bruce began her collecting journey at an early age, and her passion for Ming furniture started with her visits to museums in Europe and the US in the 1970s. Her passion was so strong that she not only travelled all over the globe in search for great pieces, but also engaged in further studies and even acquainted herself with antique furniture restoration to further her understanding on this subject. In 1983, Grace met her mentor Mr. Wang Shixiang, who subsequently played a pivotal role over the years as Grace pursued her collecting passion and established a career in the field. Her first Ming furniture exhibition was held in Hong Kong in 1985, which coincided with the launch of Mr. Wang’s book Classic Chinese Furniture. Pieces from Grace’s personal collection were exhibited as representative examples, illustrating her influence in the world of Ming furniture even then. 


    Grace Wu Bruce

    Grace Wu Bruce

    In 1987, Grace turned her collecting passion into her life-long career by opening her first gallery in Hong Kong under the Chinese name ‘Jia Mu Tang’, meaning ‘Hall of Beautiful Woods’, an evocative title chosen by Mr. Wang. Over the next 30 years Grace cemented her reputation as a leading expert in Chinese furniture, training her eye and developing an astute sense of quality through the sheer quantity of pieces she handled. 

    A prolific author, Grace has written numerous books and articles that were published internationally, including Chinese Classical Furniture by Oxford University Press and Two Decades of Ming Furniture by the Forbidden City Publishing House, Beijing. She has curated landmark museum exhibitions around the world, at the Guimet Museum in Paris and the Palace Museum in Beijing to name a few, and exhibited at leading international antique fairs in London, New York, Beijing, Maastricht and Basel. In addition, many of the most distinguished Chinese furniture collections have been formed with her advice and assistance, including the Lu Ming Shi Collection assembled by Belgian collector Mr. Philippe De Backer, as well as The Dr. S Y Yip Collection from Hong Kong, both achieving remarkable results at auction. 

    Mr Wang Shixiang and Grace Wu Bruce

    Renowned Chinese Scholar Mr. Wang Shixiang and Grace Wu Bruce

    Grace has great knowledge in what she deals in, both in detail and overall, so I would assume that the furniture she is going to sell is going to be of first class, of rare examples in exceptionally good quality.” --Mr. Giuseppe Eskenazi, Internationally-renowned Chinese art dealer 

    I bought virtually everything from Grace ... Grace has the deepest knowledge [and] the best ability to source and restore Ming furniture.” --Belgian collector Mr. Philippe De Backer, Owner of the Lu Ming Shi Collection.


    Element of the MQJ Collection

    Passing on the Legacy
    Grace developed the vision of building a sizable and representative repository of Ming furniture in the mid-1990s. In 1995, The Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture in California decided to disperse its collection. Mr. Wang lamented the disbandment, wishing the collection could have been kept intact, as there was no other public institution that housed such a comprehensive group of Ming furniture at the time. This very thought inspired Grace to take on the mission of forming her own extensive collection to be passed on to future generations, which led to the birth of the MQJ Collection, quintessential in its content and with an unrivalled depth and quality. Unveiling the entire MQJ Collection for the first time, the current exhibition will provide collectors and art lovers alike with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness and appreciate the epitome of Chinese heritage and culture.


    Calligraphy for The MQJ Collection

    The Calligraphy of The MQJ Collection penned by Mr. Wang – A High Honour in Chinese Tradition


    Element of the MQJ Collection


    Element of the MQJ Collection 


    Element of the MQJ Collection

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    Attributed to Pedro García de Benabarre (Spanish, active 1455-1480), St. Anthony Abbot, ca. 1460-70. Tempera on panel, 72 1/16 x 36 1/4 in. Museum purchase, with funds provided by George Alfred Cluett, Class of 1896Courtesy Williams College Museum of Art.

    WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS.- Williams College Museum of Art opened The Presence of Absence: Medieval Art and Artifacts on August 18, 2017. The exhibition employs object-oriented ontology to recast the relationship between humans and nonhumans. Instead of passive objects installed simply for the pleasure of human viewers, the works of art and artifacts shape the physical interactions people have with them. 

    The Edwin Howland Blashfield Gallery was originally constructed in the 1930s to evoke the Medieval era, and to hold WCMA’s Medieval and Early Renaissance collections. It was boarded up for over a decade, when the gallery was turned into a “white cube” space. Now newly restored, leaded and stained glass windows have been revealed, the tiled floor refurbished, and the beamed ceiling brought back into its original context. 


    The Edwin Howland Blashfield Gallery. Courtesy Williams College Museum of Art.

    Light plays a significant role, both metaphorically and physically. The desire to illuminate something long-hidden led to the renovation of the gallery and rediscovery of objects in the collection that have not been displayed for many years. Physically, the light pouring through the leaded windows illuminates the French grisaille with stained glass hung in the window frame. The deeply-carved 400 lb limestone capitals are reanimated by the shadows and natural light playing on their surface. As the sun travels across the sky, reaching the west-facing windows in the afternoon and evening, gilded paintings opposite the windows glow from the reflected light. 


    Byzantine. Cross, 6th century. Bronze, 3 x 1 7/8 in., 3/16 in. Gift of John Davis Hatch V, 84.32.3. Courtesy Williams College Museum of Art. 

    The objects themselves represent the presence of the Medieval period, but the absence of their original contexts. Although the societies and people that fashioned nonhuman materials into these works of art are long dead, they live on as a spectral presence in our present. The works have accrued their own histories, which affect their relationships with humans and nonhumans alike. There are some experiences and associations that we can never fully access and, therefore, some ways of relating to the objects that are lost to us. The ecclesiastical bell, for example, would have been consecrated in a manner analogous to baptism, and for this reason could be considered to have as much presence as a human. Visitor expectations of how museums stage, place, and describe objects are purposely subverted. Some objects, such as a beautiful ivory triptych, displayed closed, will keep their own company, while others will come off the walls to enter the space traditionally reserved for the viewer.  


    French. The Nativity, 15th century. Ivory, 3 1/8 x 2 1/4 in. Bequest of Frank Jewett Mather, Jr., Class of 1889, 57.25. Courtesy Williams College Museum of Art.

    Object-oriented ontology was developed in part as a way of thinking about the increasing pressure put on humans by climate change. Rising seas, shifting weather patterns, and mass extinctions entreat us to pay attention to nonhuman forces. The objects in this exhibition also remind us of an earlier stage of our own possible destruction. After all, the people who created these objects are long gone. Yet the precious materials of gold and ivory that make up or decorate many of the works are still coveted even though we understand the ecological damage done by mining or the risk of hunting elephants into extinction. This tension between human and nonhuman forces should make us aware that a world without humans or other animate beings may be closer than we think. 


    Byzantine. Oil Lamp with Cross and Scallop Shell Cover on Stand, c. 5th–6th century. Bronze, 2 7/8 x 2 1/16 x 5 1/8 in. Gift of the son and daughters of Charles Bolles-Rogers, Class of 1907: Frederick Van D. Rogers, Mary Rogers Savage, and Nancy Rogers Pierson, 75.43.41.

    I see this installation as an opportunity to transcend or maybe even transgress norms of how museums display works that are foundational to the traditional Western canon. Object-oriented ontology is associated lately with contemporary art and curatorial practice, but not with art from the distant past,” says Kevin Murphy, Eugénie Prendergast Senior Curator of American Art. “However, I believe that emphasizing the agency of objects will encourage audiences to engage with our Medieval collection in ways they haven’t considered before.”  


     Unknown artist (Dutch). Virgin and Child, 1455–1475. Polychrome and gilt elephant ivory, 4 1/2 x 1 7/16 in. Gift of John Davis Hatch V, 78.2.4. Courtesy Williams College Museum of Art.

    The Presence of Absence enacts a dismissal of the dichotomy between subject and object, positing instead that we—humans and nonhumans alike—are all objects. The atmosphere in the gallery lends itself to meditation and discovery, the questioning of conventions, and speculation on how our material culture will be perceived by future humans or nonhumans.

    L’image contient peut-être : intérieur

    Unknown artist (Byzantine) Triptych, date unknown. Wood with polychrome and gilt, 8 1/4 x 10 1/2 x 1 1/4 in. Gift of Emerson Swift, 73.61.G. Courtesy Williams College Museum of Art.


    Unknown artist (French) Romanesque Capital from St. Pons-de-Thomieres, c. 1140. Limestone, 10 1/4 x 10 1/4 x 9 1/16 in. Museum purchase, Joseph O. Eaton Fund, 49.6. Courtesy Williams College Museum of Art.


    Byzantine. Michael III, "the drunkard" and his mother Theodora, regent, 842–867 AD. Gold,3/4 in. Gift" of S. Lane Faison, Jr., Class 1929, 39.6. Courtesy Williams College Museum of Art.

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    An  important and extremely rare Ruguanyao brush washer, Northern Song dynasty from the Le Cong Tang collection, “…today it is very difficult to obtain…” Zhou Hui, 3rd year of the Shaoxi period, Southern Song Dynasty (corresponding to 1192), estimated to fetch in excess of HK$100 million / US$13 million. Courtesy Sotheby's.

    HONG KONGThis autumn, Sotheby’s Hong Kong Chinese Works of Art Autumn Sales 2017 will be held on 3 October at Hall 1, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The sale will be led by a highly important and extremely rare Ru guanyao brush washer from the Le Cong Tang collection, which dates back to the Northern Song Dynasty, one of only four known heirloom Ru wares in private hands. Other major highlights include an exceptional Xuande-marked porcelain jar painted in rich tones of cobalt-blue with a pair of makaras which was part of the 1968 Oriental Ceramics Society Exhibition, an extremely fine and rare blue and white ‘bajixiang’ bowl which has not been seen in the market for thirty years and an important documentary Tibetan gilt-inscribed jade river pebble ‘kapala’ box which marked the occasion in 1783 when the Eighth Dalai Lama was presented with an imperial jade edict by the Qianlong Emperor. A total of six sales this season offer more than 230 lots estimated in excess of HK$600 million / US$77 million.

    Nicolas Chow, Deputy Chairman, Sotheby’s Asia, International Head and Chairman, Chinese Works of Art, states, “This October we are proud to present several extraordinary collections of Chinese art encompassing understated ceramics from the Song dynasty, refined objects for the scholar’s studio, and porcelain and works of art destined for the palaces of the Ming and Qing emperors. There will be a unique opportunity to acquire a near perfect and ravishing small brush washer from the Northern Song dynasty Ru kilns, the most celebrated and forged ceramic type throughout Chinese history. It is the finest example extant among all four heirloom pieces in private hands.”



    This selection of remarkable ceramics from the Le Cong Tang collection comprises one of the greatest assemblages of Song ceramics ever to be offered at auction. Formerly in the collection of the Chang Foundation, Taipei, these exquisite ceramics underpin the artistry and pre-eminence of the Song dynasty.

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    A highly important and extremely rare Ru guanyao brush washer, Northern Song dynasty (960-1126), Diameter 13 cm. Expected to fetch in excess of HK$100 million - US$13 millionCourtesy Sotheby's.

    Ru guanyao, the court ware of the late Northern Song (960-1127), was commissioned by the imperial court and is the most revered of the Five Great Kilns. Its quasi mythical status over the millennium can be attributed to its short-lived production period, generally believed to not have exceeded twenty years.

    With its glowing, intense blue-green glaze, its luminous, complex interlaced ‘ice crackle’ pattern, its classic, excellently proportioned shape, and its three fine ‘sesame seed’ spur marks, the present brush washer, formerly in the collection of the Chang Foundation in the Hongxi Museum, Taipei, is a pre-eminent example of Ru guanyao and incarnates to perfection the ware’s revered qualities. While seemingly small and unobtrusive, these understated aesthetics reflect the calibre and meticulousness of its craftsmanship, a quiet metaphor of Chinese philosophy celebrated by erudite connoisseurs and scholars throughout time. The present washer is one of only four known heirloom Ru wares in private hands.

    An_Exceptional_And_Rare_Ding_Lobed_Brown-Splashed_Black-Glazed_Dish (2)

    An exceptional and rare 'Ding' lobed brown-splashed black-glazed dish, Northern Song dynasty (960-1126), Diameter 19.7 cm. Estimate HK$6,000,000 - 8,000,000 / US$770,000 – 1,000,000Courtesy Sotheby's.

    Also categorised under the Five Great Kilns, Ding ware was produced up until the mid-14th century, with the Northern Song dynasty marking their finest period in Chinese history. This stunning black Ding dish boasts a surface splashed with brown speckles and a noteworthy provenance from the Mr and Mrs Alfred Clark collection.


    The eighth installment of the Water, Pine and Stone Retreat Collection - Treasures is the most tightly curated of the series, consisting of ten exceptional works of art of superlative quality. Highlights of the sale include two extremely rare works of art inscribed by order of the Qianlong Emperor.

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    An important documentary Tibetan gilt-inscribed jade river pebble ‘kapala’ box and cover, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795), Length 14.6 cm. Est. HK$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 / US$260,000 – 380,000Courtesy Sotheby's.

    This extraordinary artefact, a natural jade pebble skilfully worked into a box and cover of ritual ‘kapala’ form, and intricately inscribed in gilt in Tibetan text, is an object of superlative historical importance. It was bestowed by the Qianlong Emperor to the Eighth Dalai Lama of Tibet at the peak of China’s golden age, at the height of its wealth and territorial power, together with a jade seal and set of jade album leaves. The album leaves, comprising a certificate of appointment inscribed in Han, Tibetan, Manchu and Mongolian with precisely the same inscription as on the current lot, are recorded as having been conferred in 1783. Originally in the collection of the Potala Palace, the seal and album leaves are now preserved in the Tibet Museum, Lhasa. All three jade artefacts were recorded in the biography of the Eighth Dalai Lama, written in Tibetan by the tutor of the Ninth Dalai Lama and regent of Tibet, where the current lot is described as a ‘a golden decree having the outward appearance of a precious gem’.


    An extremely rare imperial carved and inscribed boxwood 'Manjushri and lion' group, Seal mark and period of Qianlong (dated in accordance with 1761), Height 10 cm. Estimate HK$8,000,000 - 10,000,000 / US$ 1,000,000 – 1,300,000.

    A devoted pilgrim and patron to Buddhist Temples, the Qianlong Emperor commissioned a large quantity of Buddhist figures in his life
    time. Apart from patronising and directly supervising the production of Buddhist images, the Qianlong Emperor had also written extensively on these religious artefacts. It is recorded that the Qianlong Emperor adhered to rigorous standards and would constantly impose adjustments in the production of Buddhist figures.

    Exquisitely carved to the smallest details, the present boxwood figure is modelled as a bodhisattva with a serene face and compassionate gaze, seated in rajalilasana and dressed in a robe draped over one shoulder. The lion, with alert eyes and sharp fangs, is caparisoned with a lotus-adorned saddle and decorated further with tasselled harness. Standing by the side guiding the lion is a foreigner with curly hair, with his long-sleeved shirt buttoned up and the lower robe hanging. The base is further decorated with fluent scrolls, creating the illusion of the bodhisattva on a lion back elevated by sacred clouds. The finely carved Buddhist figure is inscribed with a long poetic inscription in clerical script, dated and concluded with a seal.


    This outstanding Xuande covered bowl, superbly painted in vivid cobalt blue with the Buddhist emblems bajixiang and lotus blooms, was formerly in two of the most remarkable collections of Chinese ceramics, those of Edward T. Chow (1910-1980) and T.Y. Chao (1912-1999). Only one other example of this form with a cover, but decorated with a different motif, is preserved in private hands. Following the successful sale of the exceptional Xuande barbed bowl last season, the reappearance of this bajixiang covered bowl on the market after thirty years is a moment of celebration.


    An Extremely Fine and Rare Blue and White 'Bajixiang' Bowl and Cover, Marks and Period of Xuande (1426-1435); Overall height 10.7 cm. Estimate HK$35,000,000 - 55,000,000 / US$4,500,000 – 7,000,000 Courtesy Sotheby's.


    The sale consists of three outstanding masterpieces of Chinese art from the Ming and Qing dynasties acquired from the 60s to 80s, all with extensive provenance: an exceptional Xuande-marked porcelain jar painted in rich tones of cobalt-blue with a pair of makaras, included in the 1968 Oriental Ceramics Society exhibition, a magnificent Yongzheng period cloisonné enamel tianqiuping decorated with a three-clawed dragon, and a superb Qianlong period zitan box carved with dragons and phoenix.

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    An Exceptional Blue and White 'Makara' Jar, Mark and Period of Xuande (1426-1435); Height 19 cm. Estimate HK$30,000,000 - 40,000,000 / US$3,800,000 – 5,100,000Courtesy Sotheby's.


    The Important Chinese Art auction is a tightly curated assemblage of fine and rare porcelain and works of art with a particular focus on the Ming and Qing dynasties. Highlights of the sale include two treasures of the Qianlong period from a private collection: a superb white jade teapot skillfully adorned with a cloisonné enamel handle, together with an exquisite doucai and famille-rose moonflask painted with autumn blooms and inscribed with a corresponding poem. 


    A Rare and Important White Jade and Cloisonne Enamel Ram-Head Teapot and Cover, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period; Overall height 18.5 cm Estimate HK$20,000,000 - 30,000,000 / US$2,600,000 – 3,800,000Courtesy Sotheby's.

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    Bernardo Bellotto, The Fortress of Königstein from the North, About 1756-8. Oil on canvas, 132.1 x 236.2 cm© The National Gallery, London.

    LONDON.- The Fortress of Königstein from the North by Bellotto, which was due to be exported from Britain, has been saved for the nation and went on display in Trafalgar Square today (Tuesday 22 August 2017). 

    Bernardo Bellotto’s works are among the very greatest of 18th-century view paintings, and The Fortress of Königstein from the North is undoubtedly one of the finest examples. It stands out as a highly evocative and beautiful depiction of a fortified location within an extensive panoramic landscape, and has no real parallel in European painting. 

    If Bellotto was once overlooked in favour of his more famous uncle, Canaletto, today he is recognised as one of the most distinctive artistic personalities of his century. The acquisition of this masterpiece by the National Gallery will cement Bellotto’s reputation with both British and international visitors, giving him a significant place on the walls at Trafalgar Square that is long overdue. 

    The National Gallery is very strong in 18th-century view paintings, however almost all of our works are of Italian sites. Bellotto’s The Fortress of Königstein from the North is the first major 18th-century landscape at the National Gallery to depict a Northern European view, and so this acquisition creates a bridge between northern and southern European painting in the collection. 

    The £11,670,000 acquisition has been made possible thanks to a generous legacy from Mrs Madeline Swallow, a £550,000 grant from Art Fund, contributions from the American Friends of the National Gallery and The National Gallery Trust, and the support of Howard & Roberta Ahmanson, The Deborah Loeb Brice Foundation, The Manny & Brigitta Davidson Charitable Foundation, The Sackler Trust and other individual donors, trusts and foundations. 

    The vast (132.1 by 236.2cms) panoramic painting which depicts the Fortress of Königstein, near Dresden and is one of a series of five large-scale views of the ancient hill-top fortress commissioned by Augustus III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, in about 1756. Here, the Fortress is seen perched atop a crag, its fortifications providing an imposing contrast to the verdant landscape that surrounds it, in which peasants talk and work. Bellotto combines topographical accuracy in the fortress with pastoral invention in the figures. Imbued with a monumentality rarely seen in 18th-century Italian view painting, The Fortress of Königstein from the North dramatically illustrates the very different direction in which Bellotto took the Venetian tradition of the veduta. 

    The escalation of the Seven Years’ War in Saxony - a war that reshaped the balance of power in Europe - just after the series was commissioned meant that the views of Königstein were never delivered. All five paintings were imported into Britain, probably during Bellotto’s lifetime, and they all remained in this country until 1993 when one of them was sold to Washington.* Unlike Canaletto, today Bellotto is underrepresented in the UK: there are just thirteen Bellotto paintings in our public collections, nearly all Italian views and mostly minor works. 

    Visitors can see The Fortress of Königstein from the North from today as part of a special display in Room 40 dedicated to its purchase. In early 2018 it will move to Room 38 and hang alongside works by fellow Italian view painters, his uncle Canaletto and Canaletto's successor in Venice, Francesco Guardi. 

    The Fortress of Königstein from the North will also be the focus of wide-ranging public programmes engaging audiences nationwide, including a touring exhibition and educational programmes at museums across the UK: locations to be confirmed shortly. 

    Arts Minister John Glen said, "This stunning painting demonstrates Bellotto's masterful technique and striking composition. I'm delighted to hear that thanks to the Government’s export bar process it has been saved for the nation and will now be displayed at the National Gallery for the public to enjoy." 

    Born in Venice in 1722, Bellotto had a precocious talent. He received his earliest training with his uncle Canaletto and was accepted into the Fraglia dei Pittori (Venetian painters’ guild) aged just 16. In the 1740s he travelled extensively around the Italian peninsula, producing views of various cities. He was called to Dresden in 1747, and the subsequent year was appointed Court Painter to Augustus III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, receiving the highest annual salary ever paid by that court to an artist. Following the escalation of the Seven Years’ War, Bellotto worked at the courts of Vienna and Munich, before returning again to Dresden. He spent the last thirteen years of his life in Warsaw. 

    Although contemporaries appear to have had some difficulty distinguishing between Bellotto’s Venetian views and those of his uncle, there are marked differences between their styles. Bellotto tends towards a more silvery light, a cooler palette, and a greater sense of monumentality (even when a composition is derived from a Canaletto prototype, Bellotto tended to increase it in both size and scale). One of the most distinctive elements of Bellotto’s pictures is his use of impasto, particularly in the sky, where broad brushstrokes denote clouds and changing light on the horizon. 

    Today, Bellotto is best known for his views of Northern Europe, and the series of views he painted for Augustus III during the first Dresden period mark the height of his achievements. All are large-scale works characterised by panoramic compositions, strongly contrasted use of light and shadow, and meticulous attention to architectural detail. Such was Bellotto’s precision that his late views of Warsaw played a crucial role in that city’s reconstruction after the Second World War. 


    Bernardo Bellotto, The Fortress of Königstein from the North, About 1756-8 (detail). Oil on canvas, 132.1 x 236.2 cm © The National Gallery, London.

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    Late 18th century natural pearl and diamond spray brooch, with four drop pearls and diamond swags, mounted in silver. Probably from the Russian Crown Jewels© A La Vieille Russie, New York

    NEW YORK, NY.- A La Vieille Russie, the renowned art and antiques gallery, founded in Kiev in 1851, will be moving this Fall to a new Manhattan location designed specifically to showcase its unparalleled collection of antique jewelry, Fabergé, and Russian works of art. After 56 years at the storied corner of Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, the new and equally iconic ALVR gallery, at 745 Fifth Avenue (at 58th Street), will officially open in Fall 2017. ALVR first opened in New York in 1933, as one of Rockefeller Center’s first tenants.  

    The new location will enable A La Vieille Russie to continue its 166-year-old tradition of acquiring the world’s most exquisite treasures for its loyal network of worldwide clientele – all while remaining a block away from its longtime headquarters.  

    We have enjoyed our iconic 781 Fifth Avenue location for over 56 years, where we have greeted generations of clients and held groundbreaking exhibitions,” said Mark Schaffer, who along with his father, Paul, and uncle, Peter, own and operate A La Vieille Russie. “We look forward to this opportunity to present inventory in a new setting, while remaining faithful to ALVR’s tradition of unusual and important works of art – to continue to delight our loyal clientele.” 

    L’image contient peut-être : bijoux

    Art Deco Tutti Frutti Bracelet. © A La Vieille Russie, New York

    Mark Schaffer is the grandson of Alexander and Ray Schaffer, who originally brought ALVR to New York from Paris and Kiev, on the heels of war and revolution. A La Vieille Russie is one of a handful of art and antiques businesses that have remained in the same family for generations, and has earned a reputation for scholarship, leadership, and integrity. The Schaffer family was instrumental in introducing the work of Russian court jeweler Carl Fabergé to American audiences, in forming major museum collections, and in contributing to the continued strong popularity of the jeweler’s work. Today, that mission continues through its flagship Manhattan store, strong exhibition schedule, and online presence at  

    The gallery’s inventory over the decades has included numerous personal possessions of the last Tsars, such as the intricate jeweled Imperial Easter eggs that the Romanovs presented to one another. Famous American clients have ranged from Marjorie Merriweather Post to Malcolm Forbes. Ongoing interest in the Russian Imperial family continues to foster a special fascination with the art of that era.  

    To celebrate its new space, A La Vieille Russie will host a special Fabergé exhibition in New York in Spring 2018, and will continue to maintain its strong exhibition schedule in the U.S. and Europe. The gallery will showcase its antique jewelry and Fabergé in TEFAF New York Fall at the Park Avenue Armory from October 28 – November 1,, and will be a significant lender to Royal Fabergé, a major exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich, UK. The event will be held from October 14 – February 11, 2018, alongside works from the Royal Collection, loaned through the gracious permission of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.


    Fabergé, Basket of flowers egg, 1901. Royal Collection Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

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    Fabergé, Cigarette case, c. 1910. Gold gingko leaf, blue enamel and diamond.© A La Vieille Russie, New York


    Fabergé, Caesar, c. 1908. © A La Vieille Russie, New York


    Carl Fabergé, Queen Alexandra’s Dormouse, c. 1910 - Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017


    Fabergé, Golden quartz sculpture of a lion with elaborately carved mane, and with ruby eye, St. Petersburg, ca. 1900 © A La Vieille Russie, New York

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    A Vietnamese white-glazed jar, circa 11th-13th century

    Lot 172: A Vietnamese white-glazed jar, circa 11th-13th century; H: 10 3/8 in., 26.3cm. Estimate $2,000 – $3,000 © Freeman’s

    Of tall ovoid form, slight spreading foot, rolled lip and four sinuous lug handles at the shoulder.

    Provenance: Property from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Gaylord and Pamela Watkins.
    Acquired from KenSoon Asiatic Art Pte Ltd., Singapore.


    0 0


    The current sale includes a particularly interesting group of Yuan and early Ming celadon wares from the Longquan kilns, which includes some pieces which are extremely rare. Yuan and early Ming Longquan celadons have come to prominence in recent years due to new research, the important exhibition of Ming dynasty Longquan celadon wares, Bilu – Mingdai Longquanyao qingci碧綠—明代龍泉窯 青瓷 (Green – Longquan Celadons of the Ming), at the National Palace Museum, Taipei in 2009, and the sale of a small number of important pieces in major international auctions. One of the things that has become clear, is that the Longquan celadons of this period were, and remain, very highly regarded by both Chinese connoisseurs and overseas patrons.

    The name Longquan applied to these celadons does not come from a specifc kiln site, but rather from the name of the market town in southern Zhejiang province to which these celadon-glazed ceramics were brought for sale and distribution. Longquan celadons were admired not only for the high quality of the raw materials used to make them, and for the variety of their forms, but most especially for the beauty of their subtle, delicately translucent, glazes. Early Longquan celadons undoubtedly owed a considerable debt to the legacy of the celadonglazed wares from the Yue kilns, which were made in the same province. Thus in the Northern Song period the Longquan kilns produced celadon-glazed stonewares with rather thin glazes, very similar to those of Yue wares.

    The major change in Longquan celadons came in the Southern Song period, with the establishment of the court at Hangzhou in Zhejiang. Members of the court and the accompanying elite had refned tastes which would have required high-quality, sophisticated ceramics. It was doubtless in response to this infux of new patrons that the Longquan kilns began to develop the fne ceramics with soft green celadon glazes that were to prove hugely popular both in China and overseas. This classic Longquan glaze is a lime-alkaline glaze – in contrast to the Yue and Yaozhou glazes, which were both lime glazes. Some of the components in the Longquan glaze were less soluble than those in the previous Yue glaze, and remained intact after fring. These, together with gas bubbles, produced the delicate translucence typical of Longquan glazes. In addition the new ‘classic’ Longquan glaze was more viscous than the Yue glaze, and was usually thicker, as well as having a purer and richer colour.

    Although the popularity of Longquan wares was very successfully established during the Southern Song period - both at home and abroad - production was considerably expanded in both these markets during the Yuan dynasty. Indeed, as the Yuan dynasty progressed, production rose to such an extent that some 300 kilns were active in the Longquan region. These kilns ranged across a signifcant area from the Dayao (大 窯), Jincun (金村) and Xikou (溪口) kiln complexes in the west, which had been prominent in the Southern Song dynasty, to those further east on the Ou (甌江) and Songxi (松溪) rivers. These rivers facilitated the transportation of the ceramics to other parts of China as well as to the ports of Quanzhou (泉州) and Wenzhou (温州), whence they could be exported to markets ranging from Japan to Turkey.

    It is likely that some of the larger forms that became a feature of Yuan and early Ming Longquan wares were initially inspired by the requirements of patrons from Western Asia. However, these larger forms came also to be greatly appreciated by patrons in East Asia. In addition to China, fne Longquan celadons were especially popular in Japan, and a Longquan lidded celadon jar was found in the grave of Kanazawa Sada-aki (金沢貞顕1278-1333) in the grounds of the Shomyo-ji (称名 寺) Temple. The Shomyo-ji temple itself, which is believed to have been set up by Hōjō Sanetoki (北条実時1224-76) during the Kamakura period, still has in its collection two large Longquan celadon vases and a large incense burner with applied relief decoration. Other major Japanese temples, such as the Engaku-ji (円覚寺) and Kencho-ji (建長寺at) Kamakura also still use celadon vases preserved in the temples since the Kamakura (1185-1333) and Muromachi (1333-1573) periods. Numerous examples of fne Yuan and Ming Longquan celadon wares collected by the Ottoman rulers are still preserved in the Topkapi Saray in Istanbul, while those from the Ardebil Shrine, preserved in Tehran, provide ample evidence of the popularity of Yuan and Ming Longquan wares with the Safavid rulers of Iran.

    It is clear from a number of textual sources that some of the ceramics produced at the Longquan kilns in the early Ming dynasty were being made for the court, under the supervision of government offcials sent from the capital. Juan 194 of the大明會典Da Ming Huidian states that in the 26th year of the Hongwu reign [1393] some imperial wares were fred at the Rao and Chu kilns – i.e. at Jingdezhen in Jiangxi and at the Longquan kilns of Zhejiang.

    In volume one of the明憲宗實錄Ming Xianzong Shilu it is noted that Emperor Xianzong ascended the throne in the eighth year of the Tianshun reign [1464] and after the Chenghua reign began in the following year, an amnesty was declared. It was also noted that the offcials sent by the government to supervise ceramic production at the Yaozhou kilns of Jiangxi province and the Chuzhou kilns of Zhejiang province were required to return to the capital as soon as they received the imperial edict. This makes it clear that there was offcial production at the Longquan kilns as late as 1464 - the beginning of the Chenghua reign. Volume I of the Ming Xianzong Shilu further suggests that a courtappointed offcial was regularly sent to supervise the fring of these wares for imperial use up to 1464, and possibly even to 1465 (see Zhu Boqian (ed.) Longquan qingci, Taipei, 1998, p. 47; and Tsai Mei-fen (ed.), Bilu – Mingdai Longquanyao qingci, Taipei, 2009, p. 22). After the Chenghua reign (1464-85) the quality of Longquan celadons declined, and their fnal ‘golden era’ was over.

    Further evidence comes from archaeological excavations. Those carried out at the Longquan Dayao kiln site have revealed sherds bearing offcial marks, and other excavations have emphasised that fne Longquan wares were also made at other kiln sites in the Ming dynasty. Excavations at the Dayao site, begun in 2006, have provided an indication of the extensive production at this site, which appears to have continued for some 400 years. Excavated examples from the early Ming period have clearly shown that this was another highpoint for Longquan celadon production, when both large and fnely potted vessels of superb quality were manufactured. One fragment of a Ming dynasty dish excavated at the Dayao kilns bore the Chinese character guan (offcial) on its base. In August 2009 the excavation of a deposit containing Longquan celadons at Hexia, Huai’an City, Jiangsu province, revealed a huge quantity of vessels, predominantly dating to the Ming dynasty from the reign of the Hongwu Emperor (1368-98) to that of the Tianshun Emperor (1457-64). The archaeologists surmise that celadons from the Longquan kilns were sent here to be shipped up the Grand Canal to the court. The fnds suggest that only the fnest pieces were chosen and that those deemed to lack the required perfection were broken and discarded.

    The literati in the late Ming dynasty frequently refer to Longquan celadons in their writings. Among the vessels which were specifcally mentioned are large vessels, such as bowls or dishes to hold Buddha-hand citrons and meiping vases. Vessels of large size, such as the jar in the current sale (lot 701), were regarded as especially desirable. Although the quality of Longquan celadons declined after the 15th
    century, nevertheless even in 1591 one writer noted that: ‘If plum blossoms are to be arranged in winter, large Longquan celadon vases are a necessity’. It seems probable that he was referring to those vessels made in the early Ming period. In the chapter on ceramics in the Qing bi cang (清閟藏 Pure and Arcane Collecting) by Zhang Yingwen (張應文 fl. 1530-94), the author lists antique Yuan and early Ming ceramics which are worthy of praise, including Chenghua grape cups from Jingdezhen, but, interestingly, the author ranks the wares of the Longquan kilns highest of all (see Ts’ai Ho-pi, ‘Chenghua Porcelain in Historical Context’, The Emperor’s broken china - Reconstructing Chenghua porcelain, London, 1995, p. 16).

    The large Yuan dynasty jar (lot 701) in the current sale is particularly rare in having a boldly-carved dragon encircling its body. Jars of this form, often with lotus-leaf shaped lids, were made at the Longquan kilns from the Song dynasty, through the Yuan dynasty and into the Ming dynasty. A taller, undecorated jar of this form was excavated in 1974 from a Yuan dynasty tomb in the Yuanyichang (園藝場) area of Dongxi (東溪), Jianyang county (簡陽縣), Sichuan province. Although the tomb is dated to the Yuan dynasty, the archaeologists believe that the jar dates to the Southern Song dynasty (illustrated in Longquan Celadon – The Sichuan Museum Collection (龍泉青瓷), Macau, 1998, pp. 134-5, no. 38). An undecorated lidded jar dating to the Yuan dynasty was excavated in 1975 at Yiwu city (義烏市), Zhejiang province (illustrated by Zhu Boqian (朱伯謙) (ed.) in Celadons from Longquan Kilns (龍泉窰青瓷), Taipei, 1998, p. 196, no. 171). A smaller Ming dynasty lidded jar of this form, with carved foral decoration, was excavated in 1955 in Yujing village in Bazhong county, Sichuan province (illustrated in Longquan Celadon – The Sichuan Museum Collection, op. cit., pp. 162-3, no. 55). A further Ming dynasty jar with carved decoration including the four characters qing xiang mei jiu (清香美酒) is in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing (illustrated in Celadons from Longquan Kilns, op. cit., p. 262, no. 247). There are also a number of similar jars in the collection of the Topkapi Saray in Istanbul, some of which are plain, some with ribbed decoration and one (not missing its lid) with foral scrolls carved around the upper body (illustrated by in J. Ayers and R. Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, vol. 1, London, 1986, pp. 292-3, nos. 212-216, and colour plate on p. 215). A Yuan dynasty Longquan celadon jar, excavated in the Nanhui district of Shanghai City is decorated with a three-clawed dragon and clouds in low relief (illustrated in Complete Collection of Ceramic Art Unearthed in China, 7, Jiangsu Shanghai, Beijing, 2008, no. 234). This excavated jar has a lotus leaf-shaped lid decorated with birds and clouds. One other Longquan celadon jar decorated with a four-clawed dragon from the J. T. Tai Collection was sold by Sotheby’s New York in March 2011, lot 85, but jars with this decoration are extremely rare. The J. T. Tai jar had not retained its lid.


    Lot 701

    As is the case with the current jar, the jars from the Yuan and Ming dynasties normally have saucer-shaped, separately-applied, bases, while the Southern Song jars have fat, fxed, bases. As noted above, the current jar is especially rare in being decorated with a powerful four-clawed dragon encircling the body of the vessel. The dragon has been depicted above a band of stylized waves, and appears to stride through stylized clouds. Accompanying the current jar is a well designed cover in the form of an up-turned lotus leaf. It is interesting to note that on the famous handscroll in ink and colour on silk, entitled Elegant Gathering in the Apricot Garden (杏園雅集), which is in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, there is a monochrome (probably either Longquan celadon or white Jingdezhen porcelain) jar of similar shape, with a lotus leaf lid standing on a red lacquer stand shown on a table behind the main group of fgures (directly behind the standing crane). The gathering is believed to have taken place in April 1427, and was hosted by Yang Rong (楊榮, 1371-1440), while the senior guest was Yang Shiqi (楊士奇, 1365-1444). The original painting by Xie Hun (謝環 1377-1452) is believed to be in the Zhenjiang Museum, while The Metropolitan Museum of Art scroll is believed to be a contemporary copy made by one of Xie Hun’s associates for Yang Shiqi. The gentlemen in the painting were all-important literati-offcials of the early 15th century, and the antiques and works of art that appear in the background of the paintings emphasise their refned tastes.


    The current sale includes classic Longquan forms from both the Yuan and early Ming dynasties. The 14th century trumpet-mouth vase (lot 702) is a case in point. A similarly decorated vase with raised rings encircling the whole of the neck, foral scrolls around the body, and a tall petal band around the foot, was excavated in 1987 from a Yuan dynasty hoard in Hangzhou city (illustrated in Complete Collection of Ceramic Art Unearthed in China– 9 – Zhejiang, Beijing, 2008, no. 218.) Vases of this form appear to have been made from at least the frst decade of the 14th century. A similar vase, with relief peony decoration on the body, was excavated from a site to the east of Huhehot in Inner Mongolia (illustrated in Wenwu, 1977, vol. 5, p. 76, fg. 3). A Jun ware censer of ding form, which was excavated from the same site, was incised with a cyclical date of the ninth month of the jiyou year, which has been calculated by the archaeologists as corresponding to 1309. A vase of similar size and carved decoration as the current vase was salvaged from the wreck of a Chinese trading vessel which foundered off the Sinan coast of Korea on its way from Ningbo in China to Kamakura in Japan in 1323 (illustrated in Special Exhibition of Cultural Relics Found off Sinan Coast, Seoul, 1977, colour plate 47), along with a number of similar vessels of different sizes. Similar vases are also preserved in the Topkapi Saray, Istanbul, and in the collection from the Ardebil shrine, preserved in Tehran, Iran – testifying to the popularity of this form with foreign patrons as well as within China itself.


    Lot 705

    One of the classic Ming dynasty forms in the current collection is the elegant pear-shaped ewer decorated with peony scrolls (lot 705). This is a form which was produced both at the Longquan kilns and at the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen. It follows closely the form of pearshaped vases of the period, but with the addition of a long curved spout, attached to the neck with a stabilizing cloud-form strut, and a long strap handle. A slightly smaller Longquan ewer, also with peony scroll decoration like that of the current ewer, from the Idemitsu Collection is illustrated in Chinese Ceramics in The Idemitsu Collection, Japan, 1987, no. 589. A further similar example in the Shanghai Museum is illustrated in Celadons from Longquan Kilns, op. cit., p. 195, no. 169, while an undecorated ewer of very similar proportions to those of the current ewer is in the collection of the Zhejiang Provincial Museum (Illustrated by Zhu Boqian (朱伯謙) in Celadons from Longquan Kilns (龍泉窰青瓷), Taipei, 1998, p. 266, no. 251). Four Longquan ewers of this form from the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, are illustrated in Green – Longquan Celadons of the Ming (Bilu – Mingdai Longquanyao qingci), op. cit., nos. 60-63, the ewer illustrated as no. 60 having similar bold foral scrolling decoration to that on the current ewer. Several Longquan ewers of this shape with various decorative schemes are in the collection of the Topkapi Saray, Istanbul, and are illustrated by J. Ayers and R. Krahl in Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, vol. 1, London, 1986, p. 297, and colour pls. 225 and 226.


    Lot 703

    An interesting vase of fattened pear-shape with two stylized handles from which are suspended further ring handles is also in this sale (lot 703). The vase belongs to a small group of similar fattened pearshape vases, which probably derive from rounded pear-shape vases
    with wide mouths and twin handles produced in the Yuan dynasty. A vase of this latter type is illustrated in Green Wares from Zhejiang, Fung Ping Shan Museum, Hong Kong, 1993, no. 77. A Yuan dynasty fattened version of this form, with very similar handles to those on the current vase, is in the Capital Museum, Beijing, and is illustrated in Celadons from Longquan Kilns, op. cit., p. 184, no. 157. The Beijing vase has high-relief decoration of phoenixes on the side and a wide, lobed mouth. A Ming dynasty example of this form, with slightly longer, narrower neck is in the collection of the Sichuan Museum and is illustrated in Longquan Celadons – The Sichuan Museum Collection, Macau, 1998, pp. 170-1. Like the current vase, the Sichuan vessel has ruyi-shaped panels on either side – one containing the character fu (good fortune), and the other the character shou (longevity). This vase has somewhat differently-shaped handles to the current vase and also has a short, straight mouth rim. A pair of Ming dynasty similarly decorated vases which are closer in shape to the current vase, and also with ruyi panels containing fu and shou characters, excavated at Xikou, is now in the Juzhou city Museum (illustrated in Celadons from Longquan Kilns, op. cit., p. 255, no. 240). The vase in the current sale is particularly unusual for the shape of its mouth, which is formed as an open double lotus blossom, reminiscent of the bases of incense burners and also the lotus thrones of Buddhist deities.


    Lot 706

    The sale includes a particularly well–shaped early Ming dynasty dish with bracket lobing which continues from the fattened rim down the sides (lot 706). In the Yuan dynasty the large dishes with bracket lobed rims were made at the Jingdezhen kilns, but these did not have lobed sides. Many Yuan dynasty versions of this form without lobed sides, but with central decoration are known, including those
    amongst the Longquan dishes in the Ardebil Collection such as the dish illustrated by T. Misugi, Chinese Porcelain Collections in the Near East – Topkapi and Ardebil, vol. 3, Hong Kong, 1981, no. A 232, which has a moulded central motif; and also those in the cargo of the Sinan wreck, such as that illustrated in the 1977 exhibition catalogue, Special Exhibition of Cultural Relics found off Sinan Coast (新 安 海 底 文 物), Seoul, exhibit 117. A small number of bracket-lobed dishes produced at the Longquan kilns in the Yuan period did have lobed sides, but these were not generally well-defned. A large Yuan dynasty dish with bracket-lobed rim and lobed sides from the collection of the Longquan Celadon Museum (龍泉青瓷博物館) is illustrated in Longquan Celadon of China (中國龍泉青瓷), Hangzhou, 1998, pl. 120, where it can be seen that the lobes are not as distinct as on the current dish.

    It is signifcant that with the advent of the Ming dynasty in 1369, the re-establishment of Han Chinese rule, and the ascension to the imperial throne of the Hongwu Emperor, ceramic production for court use received a new stimulus – both at the Jingdezhen and Longquan kilns. It is interesting to note that in the Hongwu reign bracket-lobed rims reappeared at both kilns, and with the added feature of lobing to the sides that conformed to the shape of the mouth rims. While the dishes of this type from Jingdezhen were usually decorated in either underglaze blue or underglaze copper red, those from the Longquan kilns were either decorated with carved or impressed decoration, or were left undecorated. A large early Ming dish of this form, but with carved decoration, from the collection of
    the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul is illustrated by R. Fujioka and G. Hasebe in Ceramic Art of the World, vol. 14, Ming Dynasty, Tokyo, 1976, no. 131, while an undecorated dish from the same collection is illustrated by J. Ayers and R. Krahl in Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul, vol. I, London, 1986, no. 245. It is interesting to note that some of the finest examples, such as the dish in the current sale, fall into the undecorated category. The shape of this dish is most effectively enhanced by the narrow raised lines outlining the fattened rim at the edge and at the junction with the sides of the vessel, and by its beautiful glaze.

    Rosemary Scott
    Senior International Academic Consultant Asian Art

    A rare Longquan celadon carved jar and cover, Yuan dynasty, 14th century

    701 bis

    Lot 701. A rare Longquan celadon carved jar and cover, Yuan dynasty, 14th century; 12 7/8 in. (32.8 cm.) diam. Estimate USD 30,000 - USD 50,000© Christie's Images Ltd 2017

    The jar is carved with a large four-clawed dragon, with an open mouth and scaly body, and one claw reaching towards a flaming pearl, all above waves. The cover is formed as a lotus leaf with a curling rim and incised leaf veins, and a small stem forming the finial. The jar and cover are covered with a thick glaze of dark sea-green tone, except for the unglazed foot ring of the jar and the underside of the cover which were burnt orange in the firing.

    ProvenanceImportant private collection, France

    NoteThe carving of a sinuous, energetic dragon on this jar is extremely rare and only one other example appears to be known: a jar carved with a dragon, but without a cover, formerly in the collection of Dr. Bo Ewert, sold at Sotheby's New York, Informing the Eye of the Collector: Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art from J.T. Tai & Co., 22 March 2011, lot 85. 

    A related jar and cover carved with peony scroll from the Fujita Museum was sold at Christie’s New York, 15 March 2017, lot 502. Two further examples, one with vertical ribbing on the body and the other plain, are illustrated by R. Krahl and J. Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum Istanbul, Vol. 1, Yuan and Ming Dynasty Celadon Wares, London, 1986, col. pl. 213, nos. 213 and 215. 

    A carved Longquan celadon 'phoenix-tail' vase, Late Yuan-early Ming dynasty, 14th century

    Lot 702. A carved Longquan celadon 'phoenix-tail' vase, Late Yuan-early Ming dynasty, 14th century, 17 7/8 in. (45.4 cm.) high. Estimate USD 40,000 - USD 60,000© Christie's Images Ltd 2017

    The body is carved with a band of leafy peonies above a lower band of upright petals, and the flaring neck is carved with concentric ribs beneath the everted rim. The vase is covered inside and out with a glaze of sea-green color, and the inside of the foot and deeply recessed base are similarly glazed.

    ProvenancePrivate collection, Japan. 
    Private collection, Europe.

    LiteratureS. Marchant & Son, Recent Acquisitions, 2006, no. 2, pp. 8-9.

    Note: This vase is a particularly well-executed example of its type, with an elegant form and even, attractively-colored sea-green glaze. The three decorative registers are contrasting yet complementary: the finely carved horizontal ribs of the neck and the vertical lappets frame the freely-scrolling lotus of the central section. 

    A Longquan 'phoenix-tail' vase of similar size is illustrated by R. Krahl and J. Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum Istanbul, Vol. 1, Yuan and Ming Dynasty Celadon Wares, London, 1986, no. 206, where the authors note that similar vases were among the cargo of a ship which sank off Sinan, Korea, in about the third decade of the 14th century. Other examples include one illustrated by J. A. Pope, Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine, Washington, 1956, pl. 129, no. 29.648 and another of similar height and decoration in the Idemitsu Museum of Arts, and illustrated in Chinese Ceramics in the Idemitsu Collection, Tokyo, 1987, no. 576.  

    Compare, also, the Longquan celadon 'phoenix-tail' vase with similar ribbing on the upper neck, from the Percival David Foundation and currently on loan to the British Museum, museum no. PDF.237, which is inscribed with a date corresponding to 1327. 

    Large dated temple vase, Yuan dynasty, dated around AD1327

    Large dated temple vase, Yuan dynasty, dated around AD1327. Stoneware, porcelain-type, incised, carved and with celadon glaze, Longquan ware, Longquan region, Zhejiang province, Sir Percival David Collection, PDF 237 © 2017 Trustees of the British Museum.

    A Longquan celadon ring-handled vase, Yuan-early Ming dynasty, 14th century


    Lot 703. A Longquan celadon ring-handled vase, Yuan-early Ming dynasty, 14th century, 8 in. (20.2 cm.) high. Estimate USD 15,000 - USD 20,000© Christie's Images Ltd 2017

    The flattened, pear-shaped vase is carved on one side with a fu(happiness) character and on the other with a shou(longevity)character, each within a lobed border amidst leafy branches. The neck is flanked by two stylized animal-head ring handles and the mouth is formed as an open lotus blossom. The vase is covered with a rich sea-green glaze, stopping at the foot ring which was burnt orange in the firing, Japanese wood box and silk pouch.

    ProvenancePrivate collection, Japan.

    NoteA related Yuan dynasty vase with a high foot and handles similar to those on the present vase, but with a simpler, flaring rim and molded with two phoenix in flight, is illustrated in Chinese Celadons from Longquan Kilns, Taipei, 1998 p. 184, no. 157. Another Yuan dynasty vase, with shou and fu characters set in openwork sides, is illustrated by R. Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, London, 2010, vol. 4 (I), p. 4-5, no. 1605, and was subsequently sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 8 April 2013, lot 11. 

    The lotus-form rim of the present vase is extremely rare, and other published vases carved with shou and fu characters typically feature a more standard flaring rim. See, for example, the vase illustrated in Longquan Celadon, The Sichuan Museum Collection, Macau, 1998, p. 170-71, and another illustrated in Chinese Celadons and Other Related Wares in Southeast Asia, Singapore, 1979, pp. 252-53, pl. 204, no. 248. Two further examples are illustrated by R. L. Hobson, The George Eumorfopoulos Collection, Catalogue of Chinese, Corean and Persian Pottery and Porcelain, vol. 2, London, 1926, p. 32, no. B 159 and pl. XLII, and by J. Ayers, The Baur Collection, Chinese Ceramics Volume One, Geneva, 1968, no. A 114.

    A rare Longquan celadon carved jardinière, Early Ming dynasty, 14th century

    Lot 704. A rare Longquan celadon carved jardinière, Early Ming dynasty, 14th century, 12 in. (30.5 cm.) diam. Estimate USD 12,000 - USD 15,000© Christie's Images Ltd 2017

    The exterior is carved with two large peony blossoms amidst leaves and branches in the main register, between a band of lappets at the foot and a band of ruyi cartouches below the everted pie-crust rim. The interior and exterior are covered overall with a rich celadon-green glaze except for the foot ring and the inset base which is drilled for drainage. 

    ProvenanceMrs. Iside Rizk Collection, Rome.

    A carved Longquan celadon ewer, Early Ming dynasty, late 14th-early 15th century


    Lot 705. A carved Longquan celadon ewer, Early Ming dynasty, late 14th-early 15th century, 12 ¼ in. (31.1 cm.) high. Estimate USD 80,000 - USD 100,000© Christie's Images Ltd 2017

    The pear-shaped body tapers to a narrow neck below the everted rim and is applied with a curving spout supported by a cloud-form strut opposite the strap-form handle. The body is carved with a peony scroll below a band with leafy scroll on the shoulder and upright petals on the neck. The ewer is covered overall with a rich sea-green glaze, and the tip of the spout is mounted in silver. 

    ProvenanceThe O'Connor Family Collection, Wales, by 1975.

    NoteThe form of the present ewer is derived from Persian metalwork, but the proportions reflect a more Chinese sense of harmony: the heavier pear-shape of the body echoes the curves of the elegant handle and spout, while the flared rim provides a complementary terminal to the overall shape. 

    The peony scroll decoration can be compared to that on contemporary Ming blue and white wares. Indeed, motifs of flowers and other plants appear to be particularly popular on vessels of this form, reflecting a great appreciation for the natural world. Four related ewers, each with different carved decoration of flowers, plantain, prunus and peaches respectively, are illustrated in Green-Longquan Celadon of the Ming Dynasty, Taipei, 2009, pp. 122-29, nos. 60-63.

    Further examples of ewers include the one illustrated in Celadons from Longquan Kilns, Taipei, 1998, p. 266, no. 251, and another example of similar form, but carved with peonies, in the Idemitsu Museum of Arts and illustrated in The Ceramics of the Yuan-Ming Dynasties, Tokyo, 1977, no. 25. Two further gilt-silver-mounted ewers with carved designs are illustrated by R. Krahl and J. Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum Istanbul, Vol. 1, Yuan and Ming Dynasty Celadon Wares, London, 1986, nos. 225 and 226.

    A superb large Longquan celadon bracket-lobed dish, Early Ming dynasty, late 14th-early 15th century



    Lot 706. A superb large Longquan celadon bracket-lobed dish, Early Ming dynasty, late 14th-early 15th century, 19 in. (48.2 cm.) diam. Estimate USD 300,000 - USD 400,000© Christie's Images Ltd 2017

    The dish is sturdily potted with a tapered foot ring rising to the sides divided into twelve bracket lobes on the interior and exterior below an everted rim of conforming shape. The dish is covered overall with an even translucent glaze of soft sea-green tone with the exception of the wide ring on the recessed base, Japanese wood box.

    Provenance: Important private collection, Japan. 
    Christie's Hong Kong, 27 May 2009, lot 1887.

    LiteratureMarchant, Ming Porcelain, 2009, pp. 20-21, no. 8.

    NoteThe present dish is exceptional for its large size, sophisticated potting and rich, even-colored glaze, and represents some of the most highly-skilled celadon wares produced by craftsmen at the Longquan kilns during the early Ming period. Records from this time suggest that the kilns were under imperial supervision, and it appears that standards of production were exceptionally high in order to meet imperial demand. 

    With a diameter of 19 in., the present dish is one of the larger types produced at the Longquan kilns, and it would have posed a considerable challenge to shape and fire without significant warping. The glossy, even glaze serves to emphasize and celebrate the large, open surface of the dish, as well as the simple yet refined bracket lobing. Kiln wasters of large dishes found at the Longquan imperial kiln sites attest to the difficulty in producing dishes of this size, and to the high production standards of the time. See, for example, the partially-reconstructed barbed-rim dish found at the Longquan imperial kilns and dated to the Yongle period, illustrated by R. Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, London, vol. 4, 2010, p. 3, fig. 2a.  

    The imperial influence can also be seen in the similar forms of dishes produced at the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen. This parallel production at two sites, each working with different clays and different glazes, appears to have provided both kiln sites with inspiration and healthy competition. Three blue and white examples of bracket-lobed dishes, of related size to the present dish and dated to the Hongwu period (1368-1398), and a further example dated to the Xuande period (1426-1435), are illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum – 34 – Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (I), Hong Kong, 2000, pp. 22-24, nos. 20-22 and p. 150 no. 142. 

    An early 15th century dish of similar size to the present dish is illustrated by R. Krahl and J. Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum Istanbul, Vol. 1, Yuan and Ming Dynasty Celadon Wares, London, 1986, p. 304, no. 245, and another dish of similar size is illustrated in Chinese Ceramics in the Idemitsu Collection, Tokyo, 1987, no. 591. A similar but larger charger with sixteen brackets, from the collection of Roger Belanich, was sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 31 May 2017, lot 3006, and another larger example from the Meiyintang Collection is illustrated by R. Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, London, 1994-2010, vol. 4, no. 1609, and p. 3, fig. 2b, and was subsequently sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 5 October 2011, lot 7.

    A massive and very rare Longquan celadon barbed-rim charger, Hongwu period (1368-1398), 24 ½ in. (62.2 cm.) diam. Sold for HKD 4,860,000 at Christie's Hong Kong, 31 May 2017, lot 3006 © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.

    A massive barbed rim Longquan celadon charger, Ming dynasty, Yongle period

    A massive barbed rim Longquan celadon charger, Ming dynasty, Yongle period (1403-1425), 62.5 cm. Sold for 4,820,000 HKD at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 5 October 2011, lot 7. Photo: Sotheby's.

    A very rare Longquan celadon teapot and cover, Ming dynasty, 15th-16th century


    Lot 707. A very rare Longquan celadon teapot and cover, Ming dynasty, 15th-16th century, 8 ¾ in. (22.3 cm) high. Estimate USD 40,000 - USD 60,000© Christie's Images Ltd 2017

    The globular body is carved with a continuous floral scroll above lappets at the foot. The arched handle and short, curving spout are of square section and carved with classic scroll, and the domed cover is also carved with scrolls and geometric bands beneath a bud finial. The teapot and cover are covered with a rich sea-green-toned glaze, Japanese wood box.

    ProvenanceNobehara Family Collection, Osaka, Japan.

    NoteThe form of this teapot is extremely rare. A related carved teapot, but lacking a cover, dated to the 16th century, is illustrated in Chinese Celadons and Other Related Wares in Southeast Asia, Singapore, 1979, pp. 254-55, pl. 207, no. 250. Another related teapot, also with a square-section spout, a domed cover and dated to the Ming dynasty, but with a more rounded handle, is illustrated in K. S. Lo Collection in the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware, Part 1, Hong Kong, 1984, p. 70, no. 43.

    The present teapot can also be compared to two blue and white teapots included in the exhibition at the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Empty Vessels, Replenished Minds: The Culture, Practice and Art of Tea, Taipei, 2002, one illustrated on p. 95, no. 74, and dated to the Longqing period (1567-1572), with an upright handle, rounded sides and a domed cover, and the other illustrated on p. 96, no. 75, dated to the Wanli period (1573-1619), with a humpback upright handle and a square-section spout similar to the present example. 

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    Pre-Achaemenid Silver Compound Zoomorphic Vessel. Silver, 8th-6th century B.C.E. H. 24.2 cm.© Miho Museum.

    This unusual vessel features a pair of rampant lions, interlocked forelegs on each other's shoulders, standing on a prone bull. The lions are identical, not mirror images, each with its head turned to the right and its right hind leg up on the bull. The lion that treads on the bull's head has a round opening in the back of its snarling mouth that serves as a spout. The gaping mouth of the second lion is solid, but a small, carefully finished circular hole in its head provides the opening through which the vessel can be filled. A narrow depressed rim around this hole suggests that a stopper once sealed it. Each lion's body is formed in two pieces, upper and lower cylinders whose joining is marked by a narrow rib. The two pieces of each cylinder fit together; no solder is visible. The hollow forelegs of the lions are formed of open tubes that fit one into the other, allowing fluid to run from the filling hole to the spout. The bull, whose cylindrical body is also hollow, serves as a base; there is no internal connection between the lions and the bull.

    Reputed to be part of a silver treasure found in a cave in western Iran some years ago,1 this remarkable piece presents a puzzle not easily solved. The orthography of Akkadian inscriptions found on some pieces of the supposed hoard show Elamite influence suggestive of a date in the second quarter of the first millennium B.C.2 If this vessel was part of that so-called Cave Treasure, it should have a similar date and place of origin. While this association cannot be documented, the imagery of the piece supports a date in the second quarter of the millennium.

    Triangular compositions featuring two rampant wild animals over a third creature, often a domesticated one, occur on Mesopotamian cylinder seals of the thirteenth century B.C.,3 one of which shows two rampant lions sparring over a bull.4 The motif is uncommon in later Mesopotamian art but appears in the art of western Iran between the ninth and the seventh centuries B.C. A small iron plaque excavated in Burned Building III at Hasanlu in northwestern Iran depicts a pair of rampant lions, their forelegs engaged, over a small bull.5 Rampant lions whose forelegs touch also appear on fragmentary ivories from the same site,6 which burned at the end of the ninth century B.C. A further excavated example of the motif comes from Sorkh Dum-i Luri to the south of Hasanlu in Luristan.7 The now-damaged head of a large bronze disk pin worked in repouss shows two lions over an upended bull.8 Excavated from a level dated to the first half of the seventh century B.C.,9 the relief could have been made well before it was deposited in the shrine. However, cylinder seals of Late or Neo-Elamite date and style with pairs of rampant lions also excavated from Sorkh Dum-i Luri and nearby Chiga Sabz10 demonstrate that the motif was relatively widespread in that region of western Iran. A bronze quiver plaque from northwestern Iran now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art presents another version of the scene.11

    The distinctive concentration of related images in northwestern Iran before the Achaemenid period (559-330 B.C.), the unique translation of an image better known in glyptic into three-dimensional form, and the technically straightforward manner in which the piece was made suggest that the Shumei lions-and-bull vessel may have been a unique creation, made for a specific reason, and perhaps for a specific person. The absence of any clear religious imagery also suggests that it was a political or dynastic reason. The visual equality of the two lions and their unity in dominating the bull suggests an alliance or treaty agreement to overcome a mutual enemy.

    It is tempting to search among the swiftly changing alliances of various tribes, clans, and regional groupings of western Iran-who are known only imperfectly from Assyrian annals-for a suitable possibility. The term "Median" has been applied to items from the supposed hoard, linking them to the pre-Achaemenid rulers of western Iran. Unfortunately "Median" as a historical period is poorly documented; the Medes themselves are difficult, if not impossible, to identify in the archaeological record,12 the geographical extent of their control is uncertain;13 and no excavated work of art can be definitively linked to the Median ruling elite. It would be foolhardy at present to claim a specific ethnic, dynastic, or political association for this remarkable work.

    Nonetheless, it is clear that any meaning carried by this image lost its significance in the Achaemenid period. Images of lions attacking bulls are uncommon in Iranian art after the middle of the first millennium B.C. The motif of a single lion attacking a bull whose forelegs splay out like the bull of the Shumei vessel appears at Persepolis only on buildings built in the first half of the fifth century B.C.14 and is not known at all from Susa. The Persepolis reliefs mark the end of the motif's appearance, and apparently its relevance.


    1. The Independent (London), 6 July 1993; The Art Newspaper 52 (October 1995), p. 27.
    2. Donbaz 1996.
    3. Collon 1995, p. 115, fig. 93b.
    4. Ibid., p. 120, fig. 97b.
    5. Muscarella 1988, pp. 24-25.
    6. Muscarella 1980, no. 162, pp. 76-77, no. 185, pp. 88-89, 183.
    7. Schmidt et al. 1989, pl. 206d, p. 340.
    8. Field no. Sor 811. It was deposited in the Muzeh-e Iran Bastan, Tehran.
    9. Schmidt et al. 1989, p. 490.
    10. Ibid, pl. 236, nos. 81-84, pl. 237, nos. 85-91, and especially pl. 238, no. 96.
    11. Muscarella 1988, no. 308, pp. 192-201.
    12. Muscarella 1987, pp. 109-27.
    13. Muscarella 1994, pp. 57-64.
    14. Wilber 1969, pp. 16, 20, 23, 25, 41, 48, 100; Roaf 1983, pp. 48, 50, 63; Truempelmann 1988, p. 22, fig. 15, p. 48, fig. 35.
    15. Roaf 1983, pp. 150-59.

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    Achaemenid Gold Bowl with Lid. Gold, 6th-5th century B.C.E. D. 10 cm© Miho Museum.

    This bowl has a flat base and its cylindrical form is slightly puckered at the top. The bowl has a lid with a central, hammered, disk-shaped protruding handle.

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    Achaemenid Gold Bowl with Everted Lip. Gold, 6th-5th century B.C.E., D. 10.5 cm. © Miho Museum.

    The protruding base of this bowl is fitted with a mouth rim that rises relatively vertically before flaring at its top. The exterior base of the bowl is decorated with a rounded tip 10 petal, double-layer rosette. The body of the bowl is covered with 16 narrow framed arches, each fitted with a protruding male head in the top of the arch. The clothing and hair of these males have been gilded. A vessel with three-dimensional figural heads as decoration is a type known from antiquity in Greece as a "Megaran bowls" cup, and a famous example of this tradition can be seen in the ivory rhyton from the Parthian period discovered at Nisa. One explanation of this rhyton states that it might have been made in Bactria. The possibility of such a source can be also indicated by the resemblance between the male heads on this bowl and the heads seen on the ivory seahorse excavated at Takht-I Sangin.