Christie’s London Asian Art Week

LONDON – The continuing international appeal of Asian Art was demonstrated in the September New York sales which realised $51.1 million, the second highest total ever for Asian Art Week at Christie’s New York. This autumn, Christie’s London Asian Art Week will run from 4 -11 November 2008, featuring further treasures of great rarity and beauty, with many highlights offered from superb private collections. Estimated to realise in the region of £7 million, the sales include: A Private English Collection of White Jade Carvings & Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Including Export Art on 4 November at King Street; Japanese Art & Asian Textiles including the Linda Wrigglesworth Collection on 6 November at South Kensington, Chinese Art on 7 November at South Kensington Japanese Art and Design including an Important Group of Swords from a Private European Collection on 11 November at King Street.

A Private English Collection of White Jade Carvings & Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Including Export Art: 4 November at 10.30am & 2.30pm, Christie’s King Street
Christie’s Asian Art Week London opens with the sale of Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art Including Export Art on 4 November. The auction comprises over 250 lots including superb jades, ceramics, Buddhist sculptures and paintings. Following the success of the Blot collection in May 2008, the November sale will feature two distinct jade collections. Rare archaic jades from the collection of Baron and Baroness von Oertzen are led by an outstandingly fine shield-shaped yellow jade belt hook, Western Han (206 BC – AD 8), which is believed to have been made for a king or prince (estimate: £100,000-150,000).

18 exquisite white jade carvings dating largely to the Qianlong Period (1736–95), are offered from a private English collection. With estimates ranging from £4,000 to £200,000, the centerpiece is a dramatic, exceptionally fine and rare Imperial white jade ‘phoenix’ wine-pot and cover (estimate: £200,000-300,000). The spout is the shape of a phoenix head, exemplifying the long standing history in China of using birds’ heads to provide the shape of the spout on both bronze vessels and ceramic wares. The wine-pot also features a magnificent dragonhead handle and a domed cover with an exquisite peony finial. Among the other jades from the collection is a very fine and rare imperial white jade archaistic vessel (estimate: £180,000-220,000), comprising a trumpet neck with elegant overlapping plantain leaves decorated with geometric motifs. The technical difficulties and the extravagant use of top-quality material employed in the making of this vase, indicates that it could only have been made for the use of the Emperor himself, probably on the writing desk of his private study.

Elsewhere, two works from the famous Palmer Collection will attract great interest. Executed in very different mediums, the first is a beautiful and extremely rare Yongzheng (1723-35) porcelain bowl decorated in famille rose enamels, with an unusual roundel design of peaches and bats (estimate: £150,000 – 250,000). The second is a superb 17th/18th Century rhinoceros horn water–dropper, carved in the form of a lotus leaf, with its stem forming the spout (estimate: £80,000-100,000). Further highlights range from a fine silk kesi tapestry depicting Xi Wangmu, the Queen Mother of the West, riding on a phoenix above Daoist immortals who await her on a garden terrace (estimate: £15-20,000), to a pair of painted album leaves bearing portraits of two of the Qianlong Emperor‘s favoured Imperial bannermen, accompanied by inscriptions from the Emperor’s own brush (estimate: £100,000-150,000).

Japanese Art & Asian Textiles including the Linda Wrigglesworth Collection on 6 November at 10.30 am and 1pm Christie’s South Kensington
The world of Japan is brought to London once again, as part of the Christie’s events for Asia Week in London. The South Kensington sale on Thursday, 6 November encompasses all periods from the 17th Century through to the middle of the 20th Century, offering rare and desirable treasures for both the modern buyer and the traditional collector of Asian Art. The craftsmanship of Japanese metalwork continues to be very popular. A selection of the highlights from the Meiji Period (1868-1912) include a rare bronze okimono of a bird of prey signed Matsatsune (estimate: £8,000-12,000), a stunning silver vase by Miyamoto (estimate: £8,000-10,000) and a naturalistic silver pheasant signed Morinobu (estimate: £1,500-2,500). Amongst the netsuke on offer are examples carved in wood, ivory and stag antler, with further examples in fossil walrus and amber by the contemporary Western netsuke carver Guy Shaw (estimates range from £500-4,000). The sale also features ceramics, including many examples of 19th Century finely painted Satsuma pottery, 20th Century Shin Hanga woodblock prints, cloisonné enamel, inro, ojime and a European private collection of pipecases.

Following the success of The Imperial Wardrobe sale in New York, March 2008, Christie’s are pleased to offer a further selection from the Collection with the Linda Wrigglesworth Collection of Korean and Japanese Textiles. Including Japanese kimono and resist dyed indigo futon covers and wrapping cloths, the sale also features unusual and rare Korean ritual cloths (pojagi), including a 19th century brightly coloured ‘Windmill’ design (estimate: £4,000-6,000) and court costume. Estimates range from £500 to £5,000. The final selection of Chinese costume and textiles from this collection will be offered in May 2009. In addition, beyond the collection, the sale features a selection of Chinese and Japanese costume and textiles including kimono, Canton export coverlets, court dress and rank badges such as a pair of 19th century Chinese Kesi censor’s rank badges (estimate: £6,000-8,000). Key works also include a mid-19th Century Chinese Imperial turquoise chi’fu or formal robe, which is embroidered with nine gilt, five toed dragons (estimate: £12,000-14,000). The use of turquoise robes was the privilege of the immediate members of the Imperial family and is usually associated with female members; this robe displays the elbow bands and closed front of a lady’s robe.

Chinese Art on 7 November at 10.30am and 2.00pm, Christie’s South Kensington
Christie’s South Kensington Chinese Art sale specifically caters for both traditional and new buyers in this vibrant category, with estimates ranging from £500 to £10,000. Works from private Asian, European and English collections will be offered, including a further selection of wonderful pieces from the Von Oertzen archaic jade collection. Imperial ceramics and white and pale celadon jade carvings from the 18th and 19th Centuries which are currently in strong demand are well represented, highlighted by a small yellow glazed dish dating to the Zhengde Period (1506-21) (estimate:£3,000-5,000) and a pair of white jade table screens, early 19th Century (estimate:£5,000-8,000). Spanning the 15th century through to the 20th century, further ceramics featured include a selection of blue and white vases and brushpots, and celadon dishes and bowls, one highlight in this group being a finely painted blue and white brushpot dating to the Transitional Period, (estimate: £2,000-3,000). Amongst the specialist works of art, there are selections of fine cloisonné enamel models including a pair of standing birds dating to the Qianlong Period (1736-95) (estimate: £3,000-5,000), cinnabar lacquer including an Imperial threecolour box and cover dating to the Qianlong reign, (estimate: £4,000-6,000) and also gilt-bronze Chinese and Tibetan models including a set of Eight Tibetan gilt-copper auspicious emblems dating to the 18th Century (estimate: £3,000-5,000).

Japanese Art and Design including an Important Group of Swords from a Private European Collection on 11 November at 2pm, Christie’s King Street
Drawing Asian Art week London to a close is the auction of Japanese Art and Design including an important group of swords from a private European collection at Christie’s King Street on 11 November. Featuring a diverse range of over 250 works representing 200 years of Japanese history, the auction highlights include an impressive pair of Ando presentation cloisonné vases, Meiji Period (1867-1912) (estimate: £150,000-250,000) illustrated left, which were given by Emperor Taisho, in 1920, to the Korean Crown Prince Yi Eun and Princess Masako of the House of Nashinomoto, on the occasion of their wedding. The exquisitely decorated vases, depicting song birds amidst wisteria and white chrysanthemum blossoms, were formerly in the collection of an ecclesiastical institution. They were recently discovered and identified as the pair that match a koro [incense burner] which is held in the collection of the Nagoya City Art Museum.

Among lacquers in the sale spanning the 16th century to the modern day, is a remarkably fine contemporary lacquer writing box illustrated right and table [Suzuribako and Bundai], by Kitamura Tatsuo, born in 1951, who often signs, as in this case, Unryuan, 20th century (estimate: £30,000-50,000). Each piece decorated in vivid gold, black, red, white, green and blue lacquer, they depict scenes in the battle Osaka natsu no jin (The Osaka Summer Battle) which occurred in May 1615.

A private European collection of prints comes fresh to the market, having not been seen for over 50 years, it includes fine examples by Suzuki Harunobu (c.1725-1770), Kitagawa Utamaro (c.1753-1806), Torii Kiyonaga (1752-1815) and Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), for example a fine impression of Hiroshige’s Moon Cape, from the series One Hundred Views of Famous Places in Edo, estimate £4000-6000. In addition to this collection is an unusual work, an Okubi-e portrait of Yaozo, by Toshusai Sharaku (active 1794-1795) (estimate: £25,000-30,000). Sharaku is widely considered to be one of the great masters of woodblock printing in Japan, despite having an extremely short period of activity. He designed portraits of the Kabuki actors and this work depicts the actor Ichikawa Yaozo III as Tanabe Bunzo in the play Hanayame Bunroku Soga performed at the Miyako-za in the fifth month of Kansei 6 (1794). Elsewhere, there is a Yoshitoshi print album (One Hundred Aspects of the Moon) (estimate: £20,000-25,000). Other key examples include a superb hand-painted scroll by Hokusai, depicting an interior scene and a panoramic view of the journey along the Sumida River from the Nihonbashi Bridge to the Yoshiwara (estimate: £40,000-60,000). The inscription on the scroll indicates that it was commissioned by Utei Enba, a writer of comic verse, and painted by Hokusai at the Danjuro establishment.

The Important Group of Swords from a Private European Collection features 18 swords with estimates ranging from £5,000 to £300,000, led by an important Ko-Bizen Tachi, signed Kuni Tomonari saku, the remarkable sword-smith, Kamakura Period (12th-13th century) (estimate: £280,000-300,000). It is a masterpiece of early work by Tomonari. A further important sword with an elegant Heian shape is by Yoshikane, and dates from the late 12th to early 13th century (estimate: £150-180,000). There is also a collection of sword fittings formed in the late 1940’s-70’s by Burnie McDonald Craig, which includes many examples acquired from notable London sales including those of Vever, Hawkshaw, Naunton and Hawkins.