Imperial cloisonne treasure from Dorset manor house leads at Rosebery’s

Rosebery’s December sale of Fine Art will include what is believed to be a very unusual 18th century Imperial cloisonné enamel hat box.

chinese cloisonne hat box

From a Dorset manor house, the item has been in a family with strong diplomatic connections since the 1920s. The box was originally made during the 18th century, known as being the most prolific period for cloisonné production in China. Crafted through a process of firing glass to create vitreous enamel which is placed within a wire framework, the object is then fired again in a kiln to produce the finished cloisonné piece.

This opulent example is decorated with a central flower enclosed within bands of stylised scrolling foliage, bats and clouds. As with many other examples of Chinese artwork from the period, bats are included to symbolise happiness, joy and good fortune, and the clouds are an auspicious symbol meaning longevity in good fortune. The wooden frame for the box is thought to be constructed from zitan, an extremely rare red sandalwood derived from a slow growing tree which makes it a sought after commodity for furniture.

the auctioneers believe that this item must have Imperial provenance. Rosebery’s Asian Art specialist Peter Greenway said yesterday: “The quality of the materials used in crafting this box would suggest that it is was created for the Forbidden City. The cloisonné itself is made to such a high standard that I would imagine whoever made it would have had to make and reject a number of panels before they had a finished piece that was good enough to be sent to the Emperor or his court. The superiority of the materials used, and the time taken to produce it, would suggest that nobody in 18th century China would have been able to afford it outside the Imperial palace.”

This stunning box, Lot 1578, carries an estimate of £15,000 – 20,000.

From the same private UK collection is a rare Chinese red cinnabar lacquer quatrefoil music box and cover, and also from the 18th century. The common ore of mercury, cinnabar is most popularly known for its use in Chinese lacquerware, the process of carving art from layered lacquer. Initially popular during the Song Dynasty, it was used widely throughout Asian countries including China, Japan and Korea.

Chinese Red Cinnabar Lacquer Box and Cover

The lacquer is produced from the resin of the rhus verniciflua trees found in southern China. Recognised by its striking red colour, which intensifies during the layering process, this deeply carved box is decorated with figures in a landscape and animals including deer and herons. Inside is a gold four character Chinese mark which translates to “Precious Music Box”. A rare and interesting piece the box is estimated to sell for £10,000 – 15,000.

Held at Roseberys saleroom in south London on December10, the sale will be on show prior to the auction on Friday 5 – Monday 8 December

Qianlong vase more than doubles low estimate at Peter Wilson’s

It always looked like a winner in the advance publicity and, despite some infelicities in the condition department, today it more than doubled the low estimate put on it by Cheshire auctioneers Peter Wilson. Their large (46.5cm high) Doucai ‘Lotus and Bats’ Qianlong vase was knocked down for £350,000 on the hammer in their Nantwich saleroom. It was estimated at £150,000 – 200,000.

Doucai 'Lotus and Bats' Chinese Vase. Qianlong Seal Mark

The Qianlong Emperor was thought by many to have been responsible for Chinese porcelain reaching its technical pinnacle for firing and design. This superb example was decorated with Doucai enamels embellished with gilt paint and a sumptuous lotus flower head with scrolls and bats. The Qianlong seal mark painted in blue was reckoned to be correct for the design. The interior of the vase base and lid are enamelled in turquoise. However, the finial was a later replacement.

The consignee is, apparently, a direct descendant of a shipping merchant based in Liverpool. The vase was brought back in one of their ships directly from China and remained within various branches of the same family up until the sale.

Qianlong seal

Qianlong seal mark to the base


Vase neck

Two cracks to the neck of the vase did not appear to worry bidders . . .

Vase lid

Nor the visible chips and bolt showing on the cover

Vase cover

Chips visible to cover





Russian general’s collection of Chinese jade surfaces in Derbyshire

Rural Derbyshire may seem an unlikely location for a large collection of Chinese jade to surface, but Hansons Auctioneers & Valuers have uncovered such a hoard following a valuation day at their Etwall rooms.

Around 50 pieces of carved Chinese jade have been found in a single collection. A spokesman for the auctioneers said: “We expect worldwide interest, since the collection was formerly the property of a military gentleman, General Theodore Rubiec Masalski.” Masalski was a General in the army of the last Tsar and fought in the Russo-Chinese War in the closing years of the 19th century.

masalski jade An unusual Chinese jade of a lion cub biting its nails to be sold at Hansons

General Rubiec Masalski, who spent many years serving in China, moved from Russia to Poland following the Russian Revolution, and his collection has been passed down through descendants since his death in the 1920s.

Masalski021 General Theodore Rubiec Masalski

Highlights of the collection include a figure of scholars dating to the Qing era, and a pebble jade carving of a lion cub biting its nails, which is from the Qianlong Dynasty.

The collection is expected to fetch well into five figures when it is sold in Etwall, Derbyshire, on December 3. A listing of the items to be sold can be seen on

‘Most expensive Chinese work of art ever sold at auction’

thangka_auction  The thangka sold a few hours ago Courtesy South China Morning Post

He’s done it again! Mainland tycoon Liu Yiqian, founder of Shanghai’s Long Museum, has smashed his own world auction record with the HK$348.4 million acquisition of a 600-year-old embroidered silk thangka at the Christie’s auction today in Hong Kong. HK$ 348m. equates to around US$45 million.

The purchase is said to set a new record for any Chinese work of art sold by any international auctioneer, breaking the record Liu set in April when he spent HK$281.24 million on the Meiyintang Chenghua “chicken cup”.

The massive piece, known as a thangka and sized bigger than a king-size bed, was entirely worked with silk embroidery, depicting Raktayamari, ‘The Red Killer of Death’, a meditational deity in Mahayana Buddhism. Made on command of the Ming dynasty Yongle Emperor, the thangka is the only one of its kind in private hands, according to Christie’s. The two other known examples are both kept in the Jokhang Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet.

“It is a national treasure,” Mr. Liu, the billionaire collector who owns two Long Museums, told The Wall Street Journal. “We need top art works for our museum.”

The thangka, which is three metres tall and two metres wide, was made in the Yongle period (1402 – 1424) of the Ming Dynasty. The imperial embroidered silk item came from an American private collection and had a pre-sale estimate of around HK$80 million, excluding buyer’s premium. The final price of HK$348.4 million included the buyer’s premium.

Liu, chairman of the Sunline Group in Shanghai, is one of the most flamboyant Chinese art collectors. He founded the Long Museum in Shanghai with his wife Wang Wei, also a well-known figure in the art world.

Liu, who successfully won the thangka by phone after a 22-minute bidding competition at Wan Chai’s Convention and Exhibition Centre, said the thangka will remain in his museum for years to come.

Liu caused controversy earlier this year when he drank tea from the historic “chicken cup”. He has an estimated personal wealth of around a billion US dollars.

L&T presents a collection of collections

L&T 269 2

Tang horse from the Max Lowenson Collection

Edinburgh-based auctioneer Lyon & Turnbull presents something of a collection of collections in next week’s Asian sale which takes place in St Neots, Cambridgeshire rather than in Edinburgh.

The 552-lot sale draws from a number of private collections. In addition to two unspecified Scottish private collections, there are items drawn from the collections of the late Scottish romantic novelist (Lady) Mary Stewart, the Leonard Gow Collection, the Alexander Ritchie Collection and two Tang horses from the Max Lowenson Collection.

The two magnificent prancing Tang horses from Max Lowenson’s collection are 50cm high and have been tested by Oxford Authentication (Lot 269).  Lowenson (1875-1947) was born in Riga, Latvia, moved to live in Wales and travelled extensively in the course of his business interests throughout Europe and the Far East. He was an avid collector of Chinese art, particularly Han and Tang pieces. Many were bought from great country house sales during the first half of the 20th century. The Tang horses are estimated at £20,000-30,000.

L&T 269

Lot 269 Tang horses

The collection of Glasgow shipping magnate Leonard Gow was renowned during the 1920s and 30s. At one time, he was known to possess the finest collection of Kangxi porcelain in Britain. He also collected some later pieces and it is a selection of these which is included in the sale. For anyone wishing to acquire something with an impeccable provenance, this is a splendid opportunity to buy. Gow was a man of great taste and only acquired the very best. There will be available a magnificent pair of Kangxi blue and white covered jars (Lot 351) estimated at just £3-5,000 which should do well.

L&T 351

Lot 351 A pair of Kangxi covered jars

Mary Stewart was a legendary figure to those who enjoyed romantic fiction. It is not generally known, however, that she collected Asian works of art buying from dealers like Hugh Moss and Sydney Moss. She collected a wide range of pieces ranging from snuff bottles to early Ming wares. Lyon & Turnbull draw buyers’ attention to a Quianlong Buddhist lion (Lot 217) estimated at ££20,000-40,000, and a Ming or Qing chimera (Lot 212) estimated at £8-12,000.


L&T 212 L&T 217

Two pieces from the Lady Mary Stewart Collection: 217 and 212

The sale takes place next Tuesday December 2 at Crosshall Manor, St. Neots ( Explaining the move to the south from the company’s Edinburgh base, L&T’s Head of Asian Department Lee Young says, “With a substantial proportion of buyers located within London and surrounding areas, in addition to the incoming buyers from China and Hong Kong, St Neots is conveniently located just 50 minutes by train from London Kings Cross to make it easier for interested parties to attend the sale. If this formula proves to be successful we would certainly plan to make this a regular service offered by Lyon & Turnbull to help our buyers.”

Chinese-French artist Sanyu hits top spot at Christie’s Hong Kong

Buyers snapped up works by Japanese and Southeast Asian artists at Christie’s evening sale in Hong Kong on Saturday, totaling 635 million Hong Kong dollars (US$82 million), the auction house’s second-highest total in the city for Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art.

potted peonies

Potted peonies by Sanyu, painted 1940s/50s

But demand for some top Chinese artists, including Zeng Fanzhi and Zhang Xiaogang,  is cooling somewhat, as China’s anticorruption campaign weighs on demand for expensive items, taking some froth out of the art market, according to experts.

Christie’s said 89% of the 81 lots offered were sold at Saturday’s autumn auction. Eleven artists set personal records, including four from Japan, four from Southeast Asia and two from China.

The most expensive painting of the evening was “Potted Peonies” by Chinese-French artist Sanyu (Chang Yu, 1901-1966). The painting, with a realized price of HK$56.1 million, including commissions, depicts white peonies and black leaves against a dark-brown fiberboard, with small ancient coins scattered like fallen petals near the flower’s white pot, giving the work an auspicious look. The painting, which was sold to a Taiwanese couple, had a hammer price of HK$49 million, versus a pre-auction estimate between HK$30 million and HK$40 million.

sanyu French-Chinese painter Sanyu

Sanyu was trained in Chinese calligraphy in his youth and picked up the styles of         Picasso and Matisse after moving to France. “The French-trained Asian artists have struck a perfect balance between the East and West,” said Eric Chang, deputy chairman of Asia at Christie’s. “They are becoming more sought-after among collectors.”

Growth continues at

Remarkable growth continues at This site, which was started only in October 2013, has grown dramatically in just over a year. According to figures released by the site’s host, during the month of October 2014 it received 445,461 hits and 50,904 visitors.

The site’s founder, Paul Harris, said yesterday, “The growth of this site has been steady month on month with occasional spikes. People interested in Chinese art from all over the world are now focusing on and we anticipate this growth will continue. I would like to thank all our readers in the UK, China and elsewhere.”


Paul Harris in The Coldingham Gallery in the Scottish Borders Photo Lucy Harris is operated by Paul Harris Asia Arts Group which also includes,,, and manages as part of its contract to represent the Shanghai sculptor Chen Dapeng in the UK. Paul Harris is an accredited lecturer on art subjects with The National Association of Decorative and Fine Art Societies (NADFAS)(



Largest ever Asian collection to be auctioned will show in London next month


Robert Hatfield Ellsworth 5th Avenue Apartment

Most of the items for sale come from James Hatfield Ellsworth’s 5th Avenue 22-room apartment, the scene of many glittering parties.


 The renowned Asian art collection of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, who passed away in August 2014, is to be put for sale by Christie’s in March next year. It is, apparently, the largest collection of Asian art ever to appear at auction – some 2,000 objects – and will only be sold online in live auctions taking place during Asian Art Week in New York. However, Christie’s are to tour the contents of the auction internationally and it will be possible to see this remarkable collection at Christie’s in London (St. James’ Street) between December 15 and 19.

Widely recognized throughout Asia and the Americas for his ground-breaking role in the study and appreciation of Asian Art, Mr. Ellsworth was a distinguished connoisseur who opened new arenas of collecting to Western audiences and built a successful business purveying the very finest works of art to his generation’s foremost collectors. His personal collection of over 2,000 items was assembled over a lifetime and widely recognized as the most important grouping of Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian sculpture, paintings, furniture and works of art. To celebrate this exceptional collection and the generous and benevolent man behind it, Christie’s is organizing free public exhibitions and a special five-day series of auctions and online-only sales to be held during Asian Art Week at Christie’s New York in March 2015. A global tour of highlights from the collection kicks off November 21 in Hong Kong, and will continue to stops throughout Asia and Europe prior to the New York sales.

 About Robert Hatfield Ellsworth

Few individuals have made such an invaluable contribution to the study and appreciation of Asian art in the West than Robert Hatfield Ellsworth. Embracing ancient bronzes and Ming furniture, fine jade, Modern Chinese painting, and Himalayan, Indian, and Southeast Asian works of art, Ellsworth was fully immersed in every facet of the Asian art historical canon. His prolific contributions to Asian art mark him as one of the last true connoisseur-dealers, an icon of scholarship, personal magnetism, and cultural philanthropy. Among his accolades, Ellsworth was made an honorary Chinese citizen in recognition of his scholarship, philanthropy and cultural preservation efforts, and was named an honorary consultant and curator of the Beijing History Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts in Hoffei, near Huangshan.

Born in New York in 1929, Mr. Ellsworth displayed an unwavering curiosity and devotion to objects from a young age. As a child he collected Chinese postage stamps and as a teenager, he began ‘flipping’ Asian objects he collected for a handsome profit. Ellsworth’s dealing garnered him a sizable personal collection; at just nineteen years old, he was already selling snuff bottles to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

After architectural training at the Franklin School of Professional Arts, and further studies in Bern and Lausanne, he returned to the United States from Europe in 1948 and went to work for antique dealer Frank Stoner, whose firm specialized in English and German ceramics, and through Stoner, he met the Asian art dealer Alice Boney, who took on Ellsworth as a protégé and, ultimately, dear friend.

In her Park Avenue apartment, Boney greeted visitors wearing luxurious silk robes and antique jade jewelry — a habit Ellsworth himself later adopted.  Mr. Ellsworth’s own Fifth Avenue apartment was a testament to his mentor’s vision of the connoisseur-dealer: Asian art melded so effortlessly into the surroundings that buying and selling become a refined, even pleasurable experience. Using works from her own collection, Boney taught her pupil how to identify the marks of date, value, and beauty that made collectors eager to possess one of her objects.

During a brief stint in the United States Army in the early 1950s, Ellsworth took advantage of his stationing in Honolulu, Hawaii, to re-start his career in the field of Asian art. When he returned to New York in 1960, Ellsworth partnered with the New York dealer James Goldie. Their gallery, Ellsworth & Goldie, offered traditional English furniture and decorative art alongside works of Asian art. When Goldie retired in 1970, Ellsworth took the business solo, moving to a historic townhouse on East 64th Street before purchasing the Fifth Avenue apartment that would become his home and gallery.

Robert Hatfield Ellsworth by Gene Maggio, NY TimesEllsworth pictured in his 5th Avenue Apartment by Gene Matteo  of The New York Times in 1980

Ellsworth’s career as an independent dealer fortuitously coincided with the opening of relations between China and the West and his business grew as trade increased. Although he had visited Hong Kong regularly for nearly thirty years — the collector also kept an apartment in the Kowloon district — he was thrilled at the opportunity to discover the riches of Mainland China. He was the first American art dealer to visit the newly opened China, giving him unparalleled exposure to the best in Chinese art and antiquities.

Later in his career, Robert Ellsworth came to build a reputation as a passionate preservationist of some of China’s most important cultural heritage sites. In 1992, the collector made his first visit to Huangshan, an area in the Anhui province, and undertook the restoration of a beautiful and decaying family temple called Baolunge, which was constructed during the Ming Dynasty. He recognized the importance of continued preservation efforts throughout China, and became a staunch advocate for the many cultural heritage sites under threat from development and dilapidation. He established the Chinese Heritage Art Foundation in Hong Kong to amass a donor base to support future heritage projects across the country.

About The Collection

The sumptuous interior of Mr. Ellsworth’s own 22-room Manhattan residence displayed the collector’s obsession with Asian art — as well as his signature elegance and joie de vivre. Fine Chinese furniture and sensual Indian bronzes mingled effortlessly with the best in Western design and decoration.  His apartment became a gathering place for clients, academics, and members of the international bon ton. It was a unique, glamorous world of commerce and pleasure, the product of a decades-long journey in fine art.

CHINESE FURNITURE: Ellsworth was one of the first Westerners to champion the beauty of Chinese furniture, foreseeing the popularity of sleek, minimalist interior design in the late twentieth-century. His love of Chinese furniture grew throughout his career and culminated in the landmark 1971 text, Chinese Furniture: Hardwood Examples of the Ming and Early Ch’ing Dynasties. Dedicated to Alice Boney and illustrated with many works from his personal collection, the book has become the standard reference for dealers and collectors.

A true scholar as well as a connoisseur, he continually revised his methods of dating and identification as the category of Chinese Furniture grew in popularity.  After Brooke Astor funded a new Chinese courtyard at New York’s Metropolitan Museum in 1977, Ellsworth gifted two hardwood wardrobes, a three-drawer alter coffer, and four chairs incised with calligraphy to the new space.

In 1982, the collector returned to Hawaii to catalogue the Chinese furniture collection of the Honolulu Academy of Arts, one of the primary centers for the study of Asian furniture in the United States. Fourteen years later, he collaborated on a special Chinese-English catalogue of the collection of Mimi and Raymond Hung, which included fine examples of Classical Chinese Furniture.

MODERN CHINESE PAINTINGS: Mr. Ellsworth’s greatest scholarly contribution to Asian art was his reevaluation of Modern Chinese painting, a period covering the 19th and early-20th centuries that had been largely ignored by critics and academics. Ellsworth revived an entire field of art historical scholarship and created an entirely new category in collecting. He became the first individual to assemble a comprehensive holding of paintings by the great Modern Chinese masters, and pushed art historians to concede that Chinese painting had not simply ‘ended’ in 1800.

 Robert Hatfield EllsworthEllsworth’s home was a place of pilgrimage for collectors of Asian art for decades right up until his death in August 2014

Throughout the 1960s, Ellsworth continued to expand his collection of Modern Chinese works, acquiring a substantial batch of 19th century paintings he believed warranted further scholarship. At one point, Ellsworth’s collection of Modern Chinese art grew to nearly 500 works, the largest assemblage outside of China. With a trove of paintings at his disposal, Ellsworth recognized that 19th century Chinese painters were actually the forerunners to the bold, energized compositions found in the twentieth century. In 1987, he revealed the results of his decades-long investigation into Modern Chinese painting in Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: 1800–1950, a groundbreaking multi-volume project. Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy revitalized an entire art historical period, shedding new light on works that had been previously ignored by curators and collectors.  In 1985, Ellsworth donated some 471 works of later Chinese painting and calligraphy to New York’s Metropolitan Museum, a testament to the collector’s belief that his source material should be available to everyone.

Cataloguing and complete details of the Collection of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth will be announced in January 2015.

Auctions and Online-Only Sales: March 2015 at Christie’s Rockefeller Center

Global Tour Dates and Locations:

  • Hong Kong: 21 – 25 November, Hong Kong Convention Centre
  • Shanghai: 6 – 11 December, Christie’s Galleries at Ampire House
  • Tokyo: 11 – 12 December, Christie’s Galleries
  • London: 15 – 19 December, Christie’s King Street
  • Beijing: 15 – 20 December, Christie’s Galleries at the Imperial Club
  • New York: March exhibition, Christie’s Rockefeller Center



‘Chinese Art in Scotland’ to abandon US dollar

The online UK retailer of Chinese porcelain, paintings and decorative items Chinese Art in Scotland (, which has long time priced its stock in US dollars, is to revert to UK sterling pricing.

A spokesman said yesterday, ‘The US dollar has strengthened against the pound sterling dramatically in recent months. In our view, the dollar is now overvalued and evidence has emerged, speaking recently to Chinese dealers, that they are actively discouraged now by dollar pricing, associating it with poor exchange rates. Both income from actual sales and potential sales have accordingly been affected.

‘We have several hundred items for sale online and by December 1 all will be re-priced using the £sterling.’


The ‘Chinese Art in Scotland’ Home Page

There was a time a few years ago when Chinese buyers were more familiar with the US$ than any other foreign currency. As China has internationalised in its approach to foreign trade, the benefit of using the $ has been diminished.

Fourth time around for blanc de chine at Marchant’s

Showing at their Kensington Church Street gallery, is Marchant’s selling exhibition of blanc de chine . . . and not for the first time. This is Marchant’s (founded 1925) fourth exhibition of the same name, previous exhibitions having been held in 1985, 1994 and 2006. The current exhibition, which started in time for Asian Art in London, runs until November 28

Almost ten years in the planning, visiting collectors and travelling the world, the extensive exhibition contains 132 pieces of Ming and Qing blanc de chine figures and vessels, mainly from private European collections.  Twenty-eight of these pieces come from the collection of Captain J. Meuldijk, The Netherlands, including the remarkable He Chaozong Guanyin, no. 1 which is in the £80 catalogue and also illustrated on the back cover. They also have three other examples by this famous potter, who is highly regarded in China. The superb Damo no. 11, also from the Meuldijk Collection, is on the front cover.

Marchant_1 Blanc de chine_TEXT_Page_009_Image_0001

The He Chaozong Guanyin (Catalogue No.1) 23cm. high, three-character seal mark impressed on the back  For sale at £180,000

Museums, collectors and dealers have long been fascinated and intrigued by the wonderful porcelain produced at Dehua in Fujian Province, China. From the late Ming Dynasty, the rich thick cream glaze and sculpted figures and vessels have been eagerly sought. Precise dating is difficult, as in most cases reign marks are absent. Dating pieces from unearthed tombs has been a great help, as has the identification of seal marks impressed in the back of figures or the base of vessels.

Provenance is always regarded as a key factor at Marchant’s. Marchant believe knowing the names of previous owners, be they dealers or collectors, is an essential part of their history, and, of course, a guide to authenticity.

Further information on the website,