Christie’s Hong Kong Spring sales of Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, to be held on Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, will present over 450 rare and exquisite Chinese Imperial ceramics and works of art, valued at close to HK$1 billion. This represents an increase of almost 60 times Christie’s first sale of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art in Hong Kong in 1987. Offering global collectors unprecedented breadth and depth, the sale this season is the perfect place from which connoisseurs can acquire the rarest and the best in a wide range of Chinese works of art.
Leading the group of Imperial ceramics is the very rare Ming doucai stemcup, Chenghua six-character mark and of the period (1465-1487), estimated at HK$25-30 million/US$3.3-3.9 million (image left, Lot 3582). Coming from the Dr. Elizabeth Shing collection, this stemcup was likely created in the 1480’s when, during the latter part of the Emperor Chenghua’s reign, the Emperor’s interest in Buddhism sparked the production of works of art decorated with Buddhist emblems, such as this stemcup which is adorned with lotus flowers. Doucai (meaning ‘joined colours’ or ‘contrasting colours’) ceramics have enjoyed universal admiration for many centuries, not only for its delicate colours but also due to the technical skills required to produce pieces of outstanding quality.
Another spectacular example of early Ming ceramics is an important early Ming blue and white ‘Dragon’ jar, Xuande six-character mark within double-circles and of the period (1426-1435), (image right, Lot 3589, estimate on request). From the renowned collector Robert Chang, this finely potted jar is painted in rich, saturated cobalt of inky-blue tone with areas of ‘heaping and piling’ to depict a striding three-clawed Makara dragon with a long snout, curled horns pointed back to its sinuous, muscular upper body and forelegs, jaws open wide with a floral sprig extended from the tongue. There appear to be only two other Xuande marked jars of this extremely rare pattern, one in the Palace Museum in Beijing, China, and one in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge in the UK.
From the Qianlong period (1736-1795) is an extremely rare, very large famille rose mille fleurs double-gourd vase, Qianlong iron-red six-character seal mark and of the period (1736-1795). This was part of the famed Fonthill Heirloom Collection, a collection amassed by Alfred Morrison (1821-1897), who had one time owned some of the most important Qing ceramics collections in the West. Standing at 22 5/8 in. (57.5 cm) high, this impressively proportioned vase has a millefleures pattern that is among the most complex and pleasing to the eye produced in the 18th century, known only on a small quantity of Imperial porcelains. (image left, Lot 3648, estimate: HK$18–22 million/US$2.4 – 2.8 million.)
Another highlight is an extremely rare falangcai bowl, Qianlong blue enamel four-character mark and of the period (1736-1795). (image right, Lot 3650, estimate: HK$10–15 million/US$1.3–1.9 million). Falangcai wares decorated in the palace workshops were among the rarest and the most prized by collectors from the Qing dynasty. This bowl was formerly in the collection of Japanese collector Chutaro Nakano (1862-1939), who was from an important land-owning family in present-day Niigata prefecture from the middle of the Edo period onwards. The bowl is exquisitely enamelled around the sides on a vibrant blue ground with four pairs of confronted kui dragons, their bodies arched to almost join the tails and wings to enclose a single, whimsical flower sprig, while the interior is decorated with peony and orchids. Only one other bowl of this rare pattern is known at the Guimet Museum in Paris and it was almost certainly made as a pair to the bowl offered in the current sale.