Sotheby’s to Auction Chinese Furniture and Works of Art from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections

. August 21, 2009

Sotheby’s series of Asian art auctions in New York will begin on September 16 with two sales. The sale Fine Chinese Furniture, Works of Art and Carpets from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections will be offered at 10am, and it will be immediately followed by the sale of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art. Works from the two sales will be on exhibition at Sotheby’s New York galleries from September 11 through 15.

Fine Chinese Furniture, Works of Art and Carpets from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections
Leading off the series of sales is a fine group of approximately 40 lots of Chinese Furniture from the Collections of Dr. Arthur M. Sackler. Mostly of huanghuali wood and dating to the 17th and 18th centuries – late Ming and early Qing dynasties – among the highlights is a Rare and Important Pair of Huanghuali Compound Cabinets and Two-Drawer Stands, 17th century (est. $120/180,000). Three-part cabinets of this size and quality were reserved only for the wealthiest and most prominent families, and their rarity is enhanced by the fact that very few sets have survived together into modern times. Each component features matching aprons and feet, details that are extremely rare for compound furniture of this type. The extensive selection of furniture in the Sackler furniture group also includes a Rare Huanghuali Daybed, 17th century, (est. $80/120,000); and a Pair of Huanghuali Yokeback Armchairs, 17th century, (est. $60/80,000).

Jade BrushpotIn addition to furniture, the Sackler sale also includes a small group of Chinese archaic bronze vessels and other works of art.

Dr. Sackler’s collections also include 50 rugs and carpets of predominantly Chinese and East Turkestan origin, with a few tribal weavings such as the faces of storage bags woven by nomads who roamed the Southern Caucasus area. Most of the Chinese carpets originated in the Western Chinese province of Ningxia, a major rug producing center since the 15th century. The pieces range in size from small seat mats and backs measuring 2ft. by 2ft. to larger carpets such as the dapple-fielded Ningxia Audience Carpet, 10’2” x 9’2” (est. $15/20,000) and a handsome early 19th century square Ningxia carpet, 14’9” x 14’6” (est. $25/35,000). There are also carpets of unusual dimensions including the Ningxia banner carpet that measures 27’ x 4’5” (est. $8/12,000) and a very long, narrow Ningxia runner, 16’9” x 2’2” (est. $7/10,000).

Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art
Featured in the sale of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art is an Important Pale Celadon Jade Brushpot (Bitong) dating to the 18th century and made at the height of jade carving during the Qing dynasty (est. $300/400,000). The work was acquired by Heber R. Bishop (1840-1902), a banker, entrepreneur and philanthropist, who formed one of the most important early collections of Chinese jades during the second half of the 19th Century, the majority of which was gifted to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The present brushpot however remained in the Bishop family and descended to the present owner – the auction this September will be the first time it has been available on the market since the 19th century. It is superbly carved and epitomizes the best in 18th century Chinese jade carving, skillfully using the stone’s translucency and even pale celadon-white color to depict an immortal and his attendants in a luminous landscape setting. Jade brushpots of this color and size are extremely rare due to the limited availability of the material.

The sale will also include a Rare Large Bronze Figure of an Eleven-Headed and Multi-Armed Avalokitesvara, Ming Dynasty, 17th century, formerly in the Collection of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston (est. $200/250,000). In 1883-1884, Isabella Stewart Gardner, the renowned Boston patroness of the arts, and her husband Jack, spent more than a year visiting Japan, China, Cambodia, Java and India, where Mrs. Gardner’s interest in Asian culture and art was ignited. Mrs. Gardner was an early and prolific collector of Asian art, and even rebuilt a wing of her personal museum to display her treasured works. Within this wing was a secluded underground area called the Chinese Room filled with largescale bronze Buddhist sculptures purchased in 1902, many from the Japanese dealer Sadajiro Yamanaka – including the present figure, which was prominently displayed on the tiered wood base included in this lot. Mrs. Gardner did not make this room available to the public, but welcomed only friends, often at night. The contents of the room were sold at Sotheby’s New York in 1971.

Also among the highlights of the sale will be a single-owner sequence of Property from the Manheim Collection, including ceramics, archaic bronzes and pottery. Paul E. Manheim (1906-1999) was an American financier, art collector and philanthropist based in New York City and served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn Museum from 1969-1982. All of the lots offered were on long-term loan to the Brooklyn Museum or The Metropolitan Museum of Art, most from the mid-1960s onwards. Leading this selection is an Impressive Blue and White ‘Dragon’ Jar, dating to the Ming dynasty with a Wanli mark, that was on loan to The Metropolitan Museum of Art for over forty years (est. $150/250,000). The jar is impressive both for its magnificent size, which would have been extremely difficult to fire without warping in the kiln, and its lively depiction of ferocious dragons. In December 2009, a further group of property from the Manheim Collection will be offered in the Antiquities sale at Sotheby’s New York.

Ming period lacquer furniture is represented by a Rare Mother-of-Pearl Inlaid Black Lacquer Wine Table dating to the Wanli period, from the Property of Gordon Getty (est. $400/600,000). The table was formerly in the collection of Mrs. Nelson A. Rockefeller and can be compared to a very similar table in the Qing Court collection in the Palace Museum, Beijing. Also from the Property of Gordon Getty is a Famille-Rose ‘Ladies of the Han Palace’ Lantern-Shaped Vase, Jiaqing Iron-Red Seal Mark and Period, which is painted with elegant and beautifullydressed ladies performing music and dancing (est. $250/350,000).

The Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art sale will also feature ceramics and works of art from the Estate of Eugene Y.C. Sung (1915-2005), which reflect one man’s lifelong commitment to Chinese art. Many of the lots offered were acquired at Sotheby’s by Mr. Sung in the 1970s and 1980s, and some were formerly in esteemed early collections, including those of J.P. Morgan, Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Bernat, Ferris Luboshez, Martin Hurst and Edward T. Chow. Among the highlights is a rare work from the Qing dynasty, an Incised Celadon-Glazed Dish, Yongzheng Mark and Period, formerly in the Edward T. Chow collection and subtly decorated with auspicious symbols (est. $30/50,000).

A Rare Limestone Head of Buddha from the Northern Wei / Eastern Wei dynasty in the early 6th Century will be offered in the sale (est. $80/120,000). The carving of the head is characteristic of the style of the Gongxian caves near Luoyang in Henan province, which are important examples of late Northern Wei Buddhist sculpture and reflect the final stage of the sinification of Buddhist art as developed under the Northern Wei dynasty. Like other works from the Gongxian caves, the face is carved with a broad forehead, wedge-shaped nose with semi-circular eyebrows curving from the bridge, half-closed eyes and a faint benign smile, suggesting a serene gentle expression. Prior to 1956, the work belonged to the New York-based Asian art expert Mathias Komor.

The sale will also comprise a selection of Chinese paintings lead by a Zheng Xie (1693-1765) ink and color on paper work depicting Orchids and Bamboo (est. $150/250,000). Executed on a large scale and indeed one of the largest works known by the artist, it is a classic example of 18th century scholar painting. Zheng was renowned for his paintings of bamboo, orchids and rocks, and this painting demonstrates his mastery of expressive, calligraphic brushwork.

Image: Important Pale Celadon Jade Brushpot (Bitong), Qing Dynasty, 18th century (est. $300/400,000). Photo: Sotheby’s.

Category: Auction News

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