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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Sotheby’s Spring 2008 Chinese Works of Art Sale Total $79.8 Million

HONG KONG – Sotheby’s spring theme sales of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art in Hong Kong totaled HK$623,788,248 (US$79,826,182). The sales included Masterpieces of Chinese Precious Metalwork – Ming and Qing Imperial Gold, A Tradition of Elegance – The Leshangang Collection, Two Song Treasures From a Japanese Collection, Tao – The Jiansongge Collection and Splendours of the Qing Court. A sale of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art continues this afternoon.

Masterpieces of Chinese Precious Metalwork – Ming and Qing Imperial Gold – A Magnificent and Extremely Rare Embellished Gold Tripod Vessel and Cover (Ming Dynasty, Xuande period), undoubtedly one of the most precious and most costly works of art of its time, commanded HK$116,807,500 (US$14,947,856), setting a world auction record for Chinese metalwork and almost doubling its estimate (est. in excess of HK$60 million/US$7.7 million), selling to great applause after a battle between two bidders. The vessel is engraved with five-clawed dragons – the most recognisable symbol of Imperial power – and encrusted with rubies, sapphires, pearls and other gems is. No early Ming gold vessel of similar quality or status appears to have survived in private hands and it is one of only eight early Ming gold vessels preserved outside China, all of which are in public institutions today. Another highlight of the sale was an Extraordinary Embellished Gold Ewer and Cover, period of Qianlong, which brought HK$36,167,500 / US$4,628,355) (est. in excess of HK$25 million / US$3.2 million). This small solid gold ewer, richly decorated in high relief with peony scrolls and with filigree work embellished with pearls, turquoise, sapphires and rubies, bears the mark of the Qianlong Emperor and was used by the Emperor after his abdication on New Year’s Day to celebrate his first writing of the year and pray for successful administration and peace and order in the nation. The ewer was most probably used to pour wine in the cup.

A Tradition of Elegance – The Leshangang Collection – The highlight of The Leshantang Collection, which was formed over the last thirty years and belongs to a great Shanghai tradition of ceramic connoisseurship, was highlighted by a Magnificent Imperial Jun Flowerpot from the J.T. Tai collection, fetched HK$39,527,500 (US$5,058,334) (est. in excess of HK$40 million/ US$5.1 million). Such flowerpots, with their blue and purple glazes of unrivalled beauty, have always been an integral part of the Imperial Collection. The Leshantang flowerpot is a magnificent example, of the largest size, with a lustrous and even blue glaze. While Junyao flowerpots have traditionally been attributed to the Northern Song period, recent archaeological finds in China would support an early Ming dynasty date.

Two Song Treasures From a Japanese Collection – An Outstanding Guan Mallet Vase, which ranks among the world’s finest examples of Southern Song (1127-1279) official court ware (guan), brought HK$67,527,500, a record for a Song ceramic at auction (US$8,641,494) (est. in excess of HK$55 million/ US$7 million). The lush glaze that covers the vase, with its smooth pleasing texture, luminous bluish tint and delicate large-scale crackle, was achieved through multiple glaze applications and several firings. Originals of this quality are exceedingly rare and today not more than a dozen vases are preserved worldwide, virtually all in museum collections. The Emperor is known to have used this garden for archery banquets on New Year’s day.

Tao – The Jiansongge Collection – The sale of twenty seven scholar’s rocks and organic works of art embodying the Taoist aesthetic was highlighted by a Black ‘Lingbi’ Rock, Yuan dynasty, Hongmu stand, which realised HK$3,847,500 (US$492,365). These rocks, prized for their textured surface and visually arresting shape, started out as large scale garden rocks and evolved into smaller rocks meant to be placed inside the home on a desk or bookshelf. They were vehicles of meditation that allowed the scholar, in the intimacy of his garden or studio, to contemplate the natural world.

Splendours of the Qing Court – Topping the prices achieved for the impressive selection of objects made for the court of the Qing Emperors, including superb examples of Imperial glass, jade, cloisonné and furniture, was an Exceptionally Magnificent Gold, Cloisonne and Beijing Enamelled Tibetan-Styled Ewer, Duomuhu engraved mark and period of Qianong, which commanded HK$56,327,500, a record for Qing gold at auction / US$7,208,230 (lot 2824, estimate upon request). Extremely Rare Pair of ‘Famille-Rose’ ‘Dragon Boat’ Moonflasks, seal marks and period of Qianlong, brought HK$31,687,500 / US$4,055,049 (lot 2821, est. HK$20/30 million / US$2.6/3.8 million).