The yellow vase, which is decorated with magpies and wisteria, was based on a design reputedly devised by one of China’s most powerful political figures – the Dragon Empress or Empress Cixi, the former concubine who went on to be a powerful influence on two Chinese emperors during the second half of the 19th century.
Lot 128 was a small, blue and white porcelain vase that looked so shiny and perfect it could have come straight from the souvenir shop of a rundown seaside town.
But within a matter of minutes it had sold for £950,000 at Tennants Auction House in North Yorkshire.
Decorated with lotus blossoms and intricate patterns, the traditional eighteenth century Ming-style vase had belonged to diplomat Sir Frances Stronge who served in Peking in 1879 and was passed down through a family in Northern Ireland.
During the early/mid seventeenth century in China, for some fifty years the absence of Imperial patronage meant non-Imperial kilns played a leading role in ceramic production.
This resulted in one of the most dynamic and fascinating periods in China’s porcelain history.
The withdrawal from Jingdezhen’s potters of Court patronage led to a dramatic diversity of production, as the kilns turned their attention to selling both into the non-Imperial domestic market, and into newly-emerging export markets, notably the Dutch and Japanese markets.
Two Unusual Chinese Famille-Rose Gilt Decorated Boxes And Covers. Qianlong Mark And Period. Each realistically molded as a bundle of ten firecrackers in variously patterned brocade cases, secured by a sash tied in a bow, the interior and recessed base enameled turquoise, the base centered with a four-character Qianlong mark in iron-red.
Examples of firecrackers upon which the boxes are based upon are illustrated in a court painting by Giuseppe Castiglione (Lang Shining) and preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing, entitled Emperor Qianlong enjoying himself in Snowy Weather, illustrated in Life in the Forbidden City of the Qing Dynasty, Beijing, 2007, p. 262, pl. 430.
Estimate: $10/15,000; sold for $494,500
Price Realized $1,426,500
The trumpet-shaped neck of the vessel is cast in relief with four dragon-filled blades above a band of birds with backward-turned heads. The mid-section is cast with two large taotie masks above four smaller taotie masks on the spreading lower section. All are divided by plain flanges and separated by bow-string borders. There is a bold inscription cast in the base of the interior. The bronze has a dark silvery-grey patina mottled with areas of blue-green encrustation as well as some azurite and ferrous encrustation.
The inscription cast on the base of the interior consists of a graph within a yaxing followed by seven characters possibly reading lu zuo Fu Xin yi zun (made this vessel for Father Xin.)
The inscription on the wood box is by Hozuma Katori (1874-1954), a prominant Japanese bronze artist of the early 20th century. The inscription is dated to 1943, and provides a complete description of the vessel, and a translation of the inscription.
In terms of shape and design, this imposing vessel is very similar to one of early Western Zhou date from Zhuangbai village, Fufeng, Shaanxi province, illustrated in Zhongguo Qingtongqi Quanji – 5 – Xi Zhou (1), Beijing, 1997. Like the present zun, the Zhuangbai zun features a similar arrangement of bands of taotie masks and birds reserved on a plain ground. The flanges on the Zhuangbai zun, however, are hooked, rather than plain, such those on the present vessel. A late Shang zun of similar proportions and with similar bands of decoration, but reserved on a ground of leiwen, is in the Shanghai Museum and illustrated in Zhongguo Qingtongqi Quanji – 4 – Shang (4), Beijing, 1998, pp. 120-1, nos. 122-4. Also illustrated, p. 124, no. 127, is another zun of Shang date in the Shanghai Museum, which is cast with bands of taotie masks reserved on a plain ground around the midsection and base, but lacks decoration around neck and flanges that accentuate the form of the present zun and the Zhuangbai example.
Just back from viewing Valentines Auction rooms in Shropshire. Initially the sale looked promising from the online catalogue unfortunately the majority of the “Chinese Antiques” were reproduction with wrong descriptions and huge estimates. Buyer Beware
Valentine Auctions Ltd Two Day Sale of Antique, Jewellery, Silver & Collectables
17 Sep 2012 10:30am
18 Sep 2012 10:30am
Cosford Auction Rooms
Lot 677 Valentines Description: Impressive pair of heavily carved Chinese cinnabar lacquer vases probably late 19th C with incised Qianlong mark to base 45cm tall. Estimate: £2,000 – £3,000
(These vases are modern & not worth the 2-3k estimate)
Estimate: 800,000 – 1,200,000 USD
LOT SOLD. 3,498,500 USD (Hammer Price with Buyer’s Premium)
Of square form, the seal surmounted by a pair of well-carved addorsed dragons, each with bulging eyes, flaring nostrils, gaping jaws and bared sharp teeth, the two scaled bodies crouching back on their haunches and pierced through the center with an aperture, the square seal deeply and crisply carved with the characters Ba zheng mao nian zhi bao (Treasure of concern over phenomenon at eighty) the stone of gray-celadon color with opaque mottling and striking dark-gray cloud swirls, with russet enhancing the horns and spines
Length 2 1/4 in., 6 cm, Width 2 1/4 in., 6 cm
The Qianlong emperor often had seals made to mark significant events in his life. The present lot was one of the seals made to commemorate his eightieth birthday in 1790. At that time, Qianlong had already been on the throne for fifty-five years. As a mark of repect, Qianlong decided that he would not reign longer than his grandfather the Kangxi emperor, and planned to hand over the throne in five years. The words Ba zheng mao nian zhi bao (Treasure of concern over phenomenon at eighty) carved on the seal, give us an indication as to Qianlong’s state of mind at the time.
The phrase was inspired by an explanation of the Way of Heaven found in the Hongfan chapter of the Shangshu (Classic of History, sixth century BC), and describes ‘concerned use of the common meteorological phenomena’ as one of the principles to be used when governing a country. As meteorological phenomena affected the lives of the people, Qianlong extended the meaning of the phrase to include concern for the people. It shows that although Qianlong was turning eighty and only five years from retirement, he was still very much concerned about the people in his realm and very involved in the governing of the country.
This phrase resonated with Qianlong and he had a series of over sixty-three seals made with these characters or a slightly shortened version. The present lot is one from this series. Another seal from the series with the same phrase, in green jade and of larger size, with the seal face carved in a different script, was sold in our London rooms, 4th November 2009, lot 136.
The present lot matches an impression in the Qianlong bao sou (Qianlong Treasures: A Catalogue of Impressions of the Qianlong Emperor’s Seals).
The pear-shaped revolving body painted with formal lotus scrolls reserved on a pale-blue sgraffito ground, further reticulated with four evenly spaced gilt-rimmed medallions, each containing a puce-enameled dragon writhing amidst scrolling green clouds, all below a yellow-ground waisted neck painted with alternating bats and lotus flowers below a raised ring and a band of upright lappets beneath the key-fret bordered mouthrim, the angular shoulder further encircled by a blue and orange wan-symbols border, all supported on a similarly decorated waisted foot, the inner cylindrical body painted with the wufu flying amidst tall bamboo and flowering camellia wreathed in clouds, seal mark in underglaze blue. Height 8 1/4 in., 21 cm