Dining on the best porcelain in Shanghai

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A dehua figure graces the prawns Picture by Paul Harris

We had the unique experience this evening of a private dinner party in Shanghai where we were privileged to dine off some of the most exquisite porcelain, much of it a full five or six hundred years old.

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A Xuande duck amidst the meat platter Picture by Paul Harris

Our gourmet host, Taiwan-born film director and man of many talents, Qiu Ying Hong, produced by his own hand the most exceptional meal and served it in the most exquisite aesthetic manner: each charger (themselves several hundred years old) had strategically based ceramic objects of great beauty.

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A celadon dragon guards the pork Picture by Paul Harris

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A 500 year-old piece of blue and white made for the Middle East Picture by Paul Harris

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Dinner party guest Chen Dapeng, who has just announced he is to exhibit at London’s Olympia for the Winter Art & Antiques Show 2015, samples a curried dumpling from a plate graced by a Yixing teapot! Picture by Paul Harris

It was truly an outstanding and memorable evening. We shall post some more photographs over the coming days and weeks. Needless to say, there were no museum curators present! We were not allowed to wash the dishes. We guess the maid was required to wash them by hand . . .

Shanghai sculptor Chen Dapeng announces Olympia exhibition: welcomed by Minister for Foreign Affairs

From Paul Harris in Shanghai SONY DSC The renowned Shanghai sculptor Chen Dapeng today opened a major retrospective exhibition of his quarter of a century of work and took the opportunity to announce publicly that he will exhibit at this year’s Olympia Winter Art & Antiques Fair (November 2-8 2015).

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More than 150 people attended for the announcement and exhibition opening. Minister of Foreign Affairs Xie Wei speaks.

Following his successful exhibition at the Carousel du Louvre in 2013, he now seeks to expose his body of work to the British audience. Several Chinese government ministers and other dignitaries attended the event which was held in the grounds of The Dragon Building in the Songjiang suburb of Shanghai.

The Dragon Building, built in the shape of China’s most significant emblem, was designed and built by Chen Dapeng and, together with other associated buildings, provides studios, workshops, offices and home for the 53 year-old sculptor. More than 150 guests from the media, government, business and academe attended the event which also featured tai chi demonstrations, and traditional Chinese music and dance. It was also attended by Ana Perez Grassano, the Paris-based Argentinian artist who is in Shanghai to paint Chen Dapeng. The event was filmed by Xinhua News Agency and Shanghai Television. It is an integral part of The Shanghai People’s Festival 2015.

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The Minister of Foreign Affairs from the office of the government of Shanghai (now a region of some 25 million people), Mr Xie Wei, welcomed Mr Chen Dapeng’s efforts to export art from China to the west and evinced his support for the Olympia exhibition. Mr Chen Dapeng also publicly announced that Paul Harris Asia Arts (www.PaulHarrisAsiaArts.co.uk) has been appointed to represent him in the UK and to organise his exposure at Olympia. Paul Harris Asia Arts is a sister business to ChineseArt.co.uk.

A 200 sq m series of stands have been booked at the Olympia event and it is thought he may well be the largest single exhibitor at the Winter Art & Antiques Fair, the most significant public exhibition of its type held in the winter months.

Major show by Chinese sculptor Chen Dapeng to open today in Shanghai

From Paul Harris in Shanghai

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Today a major show of the works of Songjian-Shanghai based sculptor Chen Dapeng (www.chendapengsculptor.com) opens in the grounds of the sculptor’s house and studio complex. Dozens of top-level Chinese government, business and academic leaders will gather for the 4pm opening.

Chineseart.co.uk is in Shanghai to cover this event which presages a major London show this November. Our pictures show Chen Dapeng working today on some finishing touches; the grounds of his house dressed for the occasion.

The exhibition is part of The Shanghai People’s Festival 2015 currently running in the city.

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Should the victors return all their loot?

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There was a thought provoking piece in the London Sunday Times a couple of Sundays ago. Columnist Eleanor Mills observed (March 8 2015) that there had been a lot of fuss about whether or not collections looted by former colonialists should be returned to their countries of origin.

“Well,” she comments, “watching the reports in which ISIS is shown desecrating and destroying Assyrian treasures, I am jolly glad that a load of them are sitting safe and beautiful in London. There’s never been a better defence of museums as custodians of the world’s heritage – those beautiful Assyrian lion horses are far safer in Bloomsbury than in the caliphate.”

Indeed. But does the same apply to some rather well known Chinese works of art extant in countries like the UK and France? We recently commented on the BBC radio documentary which deals with the destruction of the old Summer Palace, Yuanminguan. The destruction of this unique site and the appropriation of many great treasures which were exported abroad still raises hackles in China. Many Chinese feel that the matter is still unresolved and that, indeed, there are treasures which are overdue for return to China.

That having been said, many priceless antiques including important furniture and porcelain were destroyed during the 1970s and 80s as the Red Guard rampaged through the country destroying every vestige of bourgeois decadence. As you cast your eyes over the breath-taking Percival David Collection of porcelain in the British Museum, it is difficult not to find oneself in agreement.

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Oil painting by Friedrich Keyl of Looty, taken from Yuanminguan.                       Courtesy The Royal Collection

There were, of course, a few rather more ephemeral items which were appropriated like the Pekinese dog from Yuanminguan, insouciantly named Looty, which was presented to HM Queen Victoria. The painting made of the dog is still in the Royal Collection. The GraniteStudio.org wrote about this in 2009.

Harper’s Weekly via The New York Times Archive, picks up the story:

“He was a very lonely little creature, the other dogs taking exception to his Oriental habits and appearance,** and when the Prince and Princess of Wales returned from the a Continental trip, the latter pleaded with her mother-in-law to be allowed to take Looty to Sandringham.  About six months later Looty’s mate arrived from China, and the breeding of this species of dog became a diversion in fashionable society.”

He became quite a celebrity in his day and certainly has to be recorded as quite the most unusual piece of plunder.

Eventually, of course, his bones may well have to be repatriated . . .

Looty in Imperial Palace Looty, 1865, Sandringham

 

Cinnabar lacquer dish romps home at Beightons

cinnabar lacquer plate     A deeply carved cinnabar lacquer dish, interestingly decorated with poetic script to the base, romped home at fifty times the estimate when it was exposed for sale on Saturday (March 21) at Rotherham auctioneers Paul Beighton. cinnabar lacquer dish The modest catalogue entry gave no hint as to the ultimate result. ‘A Chinese cinnabar lacquer dish. Carved in high relief with stylized peonies and overlapping foliage. Two impressed seal marks and poem inscription in gilt verso, 36cm diameter. Condition Report. To be used as a guide only. Some lacquer crazing to the rear. No chips or cracks to the dish. Estimate £800-1200.’

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Two telephone bidders competed vigorously for the item before it was knocked down at £50,000. It is believed that it went to the UK trade. The success of this lot continues a trend seen recently with smaller provincial auction houses succeeding in raising high prices for individual, desirable lots (most recently last month in Montrose, Scotland where a heavily ‘restored’ moonflask estimated at £20-30 was knocked down for a quarter of a million). This was not a record for Beighton’s. The result did not quite exceed Beighton’s previous cinnabar lacquer price: £55,000 for a Yongle bottle vase just five inches in height but with a collector’s label establishing its provenance.

full_80_3  £55,000 bottle vase

Unusual Chinese art image 57 The model . . . and the vase

Kate Moss by Inez & Vinoodh for Harper Bazaar 2000 viamichaelrecycles

We recently caught up with this image of the famous international model Kate Moss. Interesting in herself  . . .  but what about that fine looking vase to her left, in the background? It looks, er, rather desirable. The photograph is by Inez & Vinoodh for Harper’s Bazaar (2000) who we gratefully acknowledge for thus unusual image. via Tumblr michaelrecycles.

Unusual photo albums of China up for sale

Two photograph albums of unusual views, and people in China, around the turn of the 20th century come up for sale on March 28 at Rob Michiels Auctions in Bruges, Belgium (www.rm-auctions.com).
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One album contains 132 photos of an interesting and extensive trip to China, including Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Tientsin, Canton, Macau, Nanking, Outchang, Wouhou, Chienkiang, and Mongolia,.
Based upon observations in the captions (which are in French), the album possibly was the property of a Belgian official working for the railroad development team of the Beijing-Hankou Railroad, negotiated by the “Belgian Mandarin” Paul Splingaerd, a Belgian official in the late Qing government.
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One of the photos shown is a portrait of Liung Chang, with the caption (in French): Portrait of Liung Chang, vice king (Emperor) of China, with whom I’ve had diner on the 21st of May, 1897. Including many fresh albument prints of high quality, some hand-colored, including very graphic renderings of the everyday life in China at that time as well as portraits of important military officials, with hand-written captions in French.
Also included is a large tryptich of 82 x 20 cm with caption: Vue généralle de la ville d’Outchang sur le Yangtzé ou fleuve bleu de Chine. Another curious photograph is a self-portrait of the owner of the album, dressed as a Chinese and of the type favoured by travellers at the time (see below).
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There are altogether 103 large albumen photograps of ca. 27 x 20,5 cm, 20 mid-sized photographs and 9 small size (ca. 14 x 10 cm)
Estimate: € 5000 – € 7000
The other album, which contains 250 photographs, is a little bit later in date probably around 1910 but contains some extraordinary images. In addition to the usual beheadings and punishments, which so intrigued European visitors, there is an interesting sequence of photographs of a train wreck, possibly as the result of the collapse of newly erected railway infrastructure. Military historians will be interested by photographs of soldiers and munitions, possibly related to civil insurrection in 1910. The album was evidently the property of a Danish person as the captions are in Danish. It is estimated at a more modest Euro 1,500-2,000.
railway accidentTrain wreck in China ca. 1910

Tang taste for the voluptuous revealed

Ben Janssens TEFAF (1)

Going Through Ben Janssen’s handsome 2015 catalogue, just officially launched at TEFAF, we were struck by the elegant simplicity of this Tang dynasty pottery figure of a court lady, most probably someone of great importance.

This charming mid-8th century piece tells us much about the Tang predilection for full-bodied, voluptuous women. The positively plump figure with the hairstyle known as ‘falling horse bun’ (duomaji) represents the apogee of beauty at the time. This concept of beauty is rounded off by cloud-shaped shoes and a high waisted robe which falls in pleats to the floor. The lady represented here might well have been concubine to the Emperor (the painting  Emperor’s Favourite on a Spring Excursion depicts a woman similarly dressed in the form of concubine Madame Guoguo).

You could have a piece of that, so to speak, for 75,000 euros . . . More information at www.benjanssens.com.

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The man who was Emperor Guangxu’s dentist: some thoughts on provenance and an old Shanghai collection

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Some time ago, there was a humorous and very popular little ditty entitled I was Kaiser Bill’s Batman, the implication of which was that it was quite a notable thing to be almost intimately associated with the famous, if not the successful. In the Chinese art business association with a famous owner, and that line of connection being well established and direct, is of prime importance. It is called Provenance.

We were intrigued and not a little amused to note an advertisement a few weeks ago for an auction in far flung Florida said to include ’18 inch vases from the Estate of Emperor Guangxu’s Dentist’. This seemed to be stretching provenance just a little far ( what next, the estate of the Imperial chamber pot carrier?), but it did motivate us to look a little further into who exactly was Emperor Guangxu’s dentist.

The website of the auctioneers, Myers Fine Art, was quite illuminating on the matter. Apparently, Dr James Ward Hall (1849-1908) graduated from Missouri Dental College in 1876. He must have been a dab hand with the old pliers: he was named professor of surgical and operative dentistry just two years later. He moved to Shanghai the same year, and would remain there for the rest of his life, becoming no less than the Imperial dentist, and, indeed, would die in the same year as his most important patient, Emperor Guangxu. Quelle coincidence, as they say.

Guangxu dentist 1880s Shanghai

There are literary references to the extent and quality of his collection of Chinese porcelain, tapestries, incense burners and oil vessels, some, apparently, with Imperial provenance. For sale with the yen yen vases on March 8, were some rather interesting photographs of the interior of Ward Hall’s house, with several displays of blue and white visible as well as some distinctly Imperial looking very large tapestries.

One visitor declared, ‘I never saw or imagined anything so overflowing with attractive things as his house is . . . He has in one room a screen over fifteen feet high dark wood heavily and magnificently carved with dragons, birds, clouds, bats, flowers, etc. and panels of mosaic silk , which looked like the finest embroidery. This came from an old emperor’s palace.’

Guangxu dentist showcase

He was married but the relationship did not survive, whether as a result of Ward Hall’s greater passion for collecting, or his wife’s dislike for China, we do not know. Accordingly, upon his death from ‘hydrophobia’, his sister, Mrs Clifford Hall Jordan of Chicago inherited most of the collection. And so, the exquisite pieces ended up in her family mansion on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Guangxu dentist vases

The vases and photographs came up for sale on March 8 with what seems like a modest estimate of US$2-4,000, but the auctioneer’s website notes that a sales realisation figure is not available. We enquired further by email on this matter but have not heard back . . .

Perhaps, after all, provenance is not everything? Or, maybe, there is provenance and there is provenance. And a dentist doesn’t quite hack it, so to speak.

 

Hong Kong, Maastricht or New York . . . the dilemna of competing events!

Hong Kong, Maastricht or New York? Mid-March is turning out to be a spectacularly busy time if you are interested in Chinese art.

New York Asia Week is swinging into action with exhibitions and auctions a plenty (March 12-22) featuring art old and new.

TEFAF opens tomorrow in the Dutch city of Maastricht (March 12-22) and there will be a variety of top drawer Chinese items on display including those from Ben Janssen (already featured here).

Art Basel runs from March 15-17 in Hong Kong. And there is a new kid on the block in Hong Kong in the form of the large, tented Art Central satellite fair on the harbour front at Victoria Harbour (see an earlier artist’s mock-up below). Art Central runs from March 14-16 and declares it is ‘showcasing the next generation of talent alongside some of the most established contemporary galleries and art spaces from across the globe.’ The VIP preview is tomorrow, March 13 and there will be 75 galleries from 21 countries. Not bad for a first effort from the founders of Art HK. There is little doubt that other satellite events will now multiply creating a sustainable Spring Hong Kong Art Week.

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Mandarin version: Relics of 2nd Opium War and destruction of Yuanminguan on market

1st BARON LOCH巴夏礼和,出生1827-1900 aide LORD ELGIN,他是先锋队英法联军的大将, 他参加了二次鸭片战争,巴夏礼和是英使团派前去清廷谈判的代表,他代领39人前去谈判,被清廷扣留入狱,被关在北京的监狱地牢里,在地牢里,他的手被拧过后背,脚也被拧到后面,手脚悃在一起用锁链锁在柱子上,在狱中叫(铐牛)在狱中他受尽了折磨,其中有20明使者被活活折磨至死,清廷迫于英法的压力,后来释放了巴夏礼和,他出狱后立即返回英军,遂决定报复清廷杀害使节这野蛮行为,极教训中国以后不得蔑视英国极法国,策划了联军火烧了圆明圆,300多名太监宫女死于无辜,英法联军刮分了圆明圆所有的无价之宝……

 

巴夏礼和返回英国后,居住在爱丁堡市郊的别墅里,Drylaw House后来迁移到Edenhall house, 他的第四代重孙子巴夏亨利Henry  Baron,1982年那年是他唯一的女儿出生了,女儿出生后不久,巴夏亨利就死于心脏病,他的妻子The Honorable Lady Loch带着她的女儿一直生活在Eden Hall house。

 

The Honorable Lady Loch 以决定要卖掉Eden Hall house这个别墅,估价是一百二十万英傍,就在2015年3月7号这天,在Eden Hall house 的家中卖掉了家中的家俱字画古懂……

 

保罗哈利斯买到了三件贵重物品,俩件象牙雕刻品,一对天马鼎瓦,跟椐The Honorable Lady Loch 的介绍,这三件物件是1st BARON LOCH 巴夏礼和的物品,

也就是说是在火烧圆明圆时掠夺过来的 ,是见证圆明圆见证历史的宝物,现在保罗哈里斯收藏这这三件宝物,他愿意与所有热爱历史喜欢收藏的各界朋友共同探讨与交流,谢谢 !

This is a Mandarin version of our English posting of March 8 available at http://chineseart.co.uk/auctions/opium-war-chinese-treasures-surface-at-scottish-auction/

 

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Is half a loaf better than no loaf at all? Cut down vase coming up at Tennants

 

Tennants cut down vase

Is half a loaf really better than no loaf at all? This conundrum is brought to mind by a Chinese wucai porcelain vase which is coming up for sale at Tennants (Leyburn, Yorkshire) during their two day Spring Fine Art Sale (March 20/21).

The vase is old, no doubt, and it is suggested it is ‘probably Wanli period’. Of square section, baluster form with mask handles, moulded and painted with dragons, It even boasts a fitted stand. Lot 71 has, nevertheless, been cut down at some point in a doubtless troubled history.

To us, it looks distinctly odd. Aesthetically, it has lost all form and balance and is so obviously cut down that is positively unsettling just to look at! That having been said, it is estimated at £1,500-2,000 and doubtless somebody, somewhere will buy it. And quite possibly for rather more than the estimate.

There are approximately 60 Chinese lots in the sale. We have chosen a reticulated famille noire vase (Lot 102) as our current Object of Desire. The highest estimate for a Chinese lot in the sale is for Lot number 889: an unusual Chinese Imperial polychrome decorated Incense Stand thought to emanate from Shaanxi Province, probably 15th/16th century. The catalogue describes its ‘square top above a red lacquered pierced frieze, raised on cabriole legs with red lacquered pierced spandrels and raised on a later ebonised square base, 60cm by 60cm by 85cm.’ The bibliographic reference ‘See Edwards (Curtis) Traditional Chinese Furniture p.198′ is supplied. It is estimated at £8,000-12,000.

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Tennants Lot 889 Imperial decorated Incense Stand