Unusual Chinese furniture coming up on Auctionata

Berlin-based internet auction sales platform Auctionata (www.auctionata.com) have some interesting items of Chinese furniture on their Treasures of Asian Art sale this coming Monday, January 25..

Two pieces seem to us to be particularly interesting: Lot 61, an 18th or 19th century daybed, and Lot 84 an 18th or 19th century ornamental towel rack and basin.


Day bed to be sold by Auctionata  Photo Auctionata

The daybed is the type of furniture known in China as ‘luohanchuang’, or Luohan bed. As is typical for such a piece, it has a revolving, moveable armrest and boasts a large rectangular reclining area. Dimensions are 88.5 (height) x171 x71.5 (depth) cm. The stepped backrest is a feature which lends it great style and the wood is most attractively grained. Apparently, The metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a similar example and the late connoisseur Robert Hatfield Ellsworth illustrated one in Chinese Furniture (New York 1971). Othe sources accompany the catalogue entry.

daybed dtlDetail of the daybed to be sold by Auctionata.       Photo Auctionata

Lot 84 is a rare towel rack and washbasin stand, probably either 18th or 19th century. It is well carved with floral ornamentation and carving of noble ladies. An adjustable stand is crafted with six wheel-shaped spokes. Dimensions are 153.5 x 63 x 39cm. Again, the online catalogue supplies references for further reading.

towel rack and stand

A rare Chinese towel rack and washbasin stand     Photo Auctionata

Christies post tips on collecting Chinese export ware

In the 1700s, ‘Made in China’ was the ultimate mark of sophistication for Western por celain collectors. Here, Christies specialist Becky Maguire gives 7 tips for building a collection of Chinese export ware in a wide range of styles in advance of their important January 21 sale in New York.

 1. Chinese export porcelain isn’t just blue and white


A famille rose punchbowl, circa 1785. Estimate: $5,000-8,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

 Most of us think first of the ubiquitous blue and white when we hear ‘Chinese export’. We’ve seen it in Whistler and Sargent portraits, at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, in Amsterdam townhouses and in our grandmother’s pantries — and bulk-ordered blue and white porcelain decorated with generic mountain landscapes did comprise the overwhelming majority of China Trade cargoes.

But the other 2 per cent — largely colourfully-enamelled wares — were at the top of the market and remain so today. Made over three centuries and with decoration ranging from Chinese myths and legends to exotic botanical blooms, ‘famille rose’ and ‘famille verte’ enamelled porcelains appeal both to specialised collectors and to those looking for high quality decoration for their interiors.

A large ‘Lambert’ dish, circa 1722. Estimate: $5,000-8,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

2. Let armorial porcelain tell its stories of the 18th century elite

It’s the Chinese export ‘private trade’ porcelain, those pieces specially commissioned by Dutch and English East India Company directors or investors, by European royals and aristocracy or by Yankee merchants, that really makes collectors’ hearts beat faster. And at the top of the ‘private trade’ list is armorial porcelain, the great dinner services, tea services and decorative pieces made to order with European coats-of-arms. These pieces reflected the absolute latest in fashion, not just in their decorative borders but also in their forms, which evolved as trends emerged and as 18th-century cuisine developed.

Armorial porcelain can connect you directly to important personages of the day: Louis XV of France, Catherine the Great, the ‘Princely’ Duke of Chandos and many, many more had Chinese armorial services. This very large dish is from a set made for wealthy London merchant Sir John Lambert, who ordered it at the peak of his power, just before his fortune collapsed in the famous 1720 South Sea Company ‘bubble’.

3. Find fascinating — and amusing — social history in porcelain


A very rare Grisaille ‘London Hospital’ bowl. Second half 18th century. Estimate: $20,000-30,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York


A particularly charming and even quirky Chinese export category is known as ‘European subject’. These wares were painted to order in China after popular Western paintings and prints, with scenes ranging from literary to topographical, mythological or historical, up to and including political cartoons.

A rare dated Dutch market shipping plate, dated 1756. Estimate: $10,000-15,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

A rare famille rose ‘Don Quixote’ soup plate, circa 1740. Estimate: $15,000-25,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

This year’s Chinese export sale is particularly rich in this category, which was the focus of the Jefferson Miller collection. A very rare bowl shows the newly built London Hospital, while a plate painted with an image of the Dutch ship Vryburg was commissioned by Captain Jacob Ryzik, as its inscription notes. Another very rare plate is finely enameled with Don Quixote and the faithful Sancho Panza.


4. Palace porcelains for penthouses


A massive blue and white five-piece garniture. Kangxi Period (1662-1722). Estimate: $70,000-100,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

Large-scale pieces — what I call ‘country house’ porcelain — decorated the great 18th-century European houses and has just as much impact in a modern penthouse or loft today. Large pairs of Chinese export jardinières or floor-standing vases, like the famous ‘soldier vases’ that stood guard in the palace of Augustus the Strong, King of Poland, were equally at home in an Amsterdam townhouse or a Gilded Age Newport ballroom; their timeless elegance suits any era’s interiors.

A super example from our January sale is this massive garniture, with its vibrant cobalt blue and classic shapes. Very difficult to produce in a simple wood-fired kiln, costly to buy and expensive to ship, large-scale Chinese export pieces are sought by new and established buyers.


6. Look for relationships with European silver

A pair of large famille rose coffeepots and covers, circa 1740. Estimate: $12,000-18,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

A rare blue and white Monteith. Kangxi period (1662-1722). Estimate: $30,000-50,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

Chinese export made in European shapes is another category that we find mirroring changing Western tastes through the decades. Modelled after fashionable silver forms, these wares include soup tureens, coffee and tea pieces, candlesticks and candelabra, ewers and basins and wine coolers. With a fascinating mix of Chinese-tilted decoration and Western form, European-shaped wares appeal to the decorative arts sophisticate but are also just easy to like and to live with.

Look for quality of modelling and rarity of form, as well as attractive decoration and good quality enameling or painting. European-shaped pieces are well-represented in our sale by this pair of coffeepots with bird-head spouts and a very rare and handsome blue and white monteith bowl.


7. Build your own porcelain menagerie

A rare massive seared hound, 18th century. Estimate $50,000-80,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

A rare famille rose European couple, circa 1770. Estimate: $15,000-25,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

Lastly, we have the very appealing category of birds, animals and figures. Chinese potters had a long tradition of modelling lifelike ceramic figures to accompany an important dead person in the afterlife, and a special affinity for these sculptures in porcelain.

Eighteenth-century Europeans were captivated by the porcelain exotic birds, court figures and then-unknown pug dogs made in China, and these models soon became highly desirable as decoration for grand European houses. Smaller figures were often scattered on dinner tables (as nascent German porcelain factories quickly realised), while large Chinese animal-form tureens were borne into the dining room emitting steam.


An Elephant sauce tureen and cover and two stands, circa 1785. Estimate: $50,000-70,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

The Chinese export sale this month boasts such rarities as a near life-size hunting hound and a sleepy elephant tureen from the well-known Sowell Collection, as well as a sweetly smiling Dutch couple, her dress perhaps a little more Chinese than was intended when the order was made.


For more features, interviews and videos, visit Christie’s Daily

Click images for more information on the sale and lots featured in this article

Asian Art in London 2016 to start on November 3

aal logo

This is by way of an important diary note. Asian Art in London dates for 2016 are November 3-12. There are, of course, no details about any associated events at this time. They will emerge rather nearer the date and we shall post them as released.


The 2015 Asian Art in London Gala Party at The Mandarin Hotel in Knightsbridge.      Photo by Paul Harris



Unusual Chinese Art Image 69 Time to bring out the red lanterns

red lanterns

It’s time to bring out the red lanterns again as Chinese New Year approaches This colourful image showing lanterns at an un-named location was published last week in The Peoples Daily. Just in case you do not have a diary note, Chinese New Year falls on February 8 this year.   Picture courtesy The Peoples Daily.

Compton Verney Chinese collection reopens March 19


Compton Verney pictured last week    Photo Paul Harris

We can confirm that Compton Verney House in the remote Warwickshire countryside is closed. We know because we went there last week to find the closed sign and the building shrouded in scaffolding . . . our fault, of course, because we had only quickly scanned the Google advertisement for Compton Verney, which displayed opening times but did not appear to refer to the closure.

Compton Verney’s Chinese galleries contain one of the top three Chinese art collections in Europe, according to its website (an interesting claim as The British Museum and The Musuem of East Asian Art would seem to possess considerably more works and there are other significant holdings in France and Portugal). For last year’s opening in March 2015 the Chinese Collection has been re-displayed, which has seen the gallery spaces transformed with new low level cases making the works more accessible; dramatic lighting to reveal the striking patternation on the surface of the bronzes, and more interpretation to help visitors to Compton Verney understand and appreciate the true extent of the collection.

The collection centres on magnificent bronze ritual vessels which, from as early as 1500 BC, the ancient Chinese buried with their dead. As in Ancient Egypt, the Chinese of the time believed that the dead required food and wine to sustain them in the afterlife, and resolved that this sustenance should be served in vessels appropriate to their status and wealth.SONY DSCSome of the most extraordinary bronzes ever cast were made by the Chinese for this purpose.The vessels here were produced over a period of over 1500 years under many different Chinese rulers, and date from the early Shang Dynasty (about 1700 to 1050 BC) to the Han Dynasty (206 BC to AD 220). The collection also includes pottery pieces, such as a set of twelve painted pottery equestrian figures made for placing in a tomb to guard the deceased.The new thematic presentation of the collection sees five different areas explored:

1 Introduction revealing the historical and cultural significance of the collection and setting it into the context of Chinese culture.  This section has also been accentuated with loans of pottery from the British Museum and jade from a private  collection which illustrate that the forms and designs of the works in Compton Verney’s collections continued to be seen in Chinese culture for many thousands of years and were repeated in many different materials
2 Food, wine and ritual revealing the use of many of the vessels and their significance as burial items
3 The Horse focusing on the magnificent three foot high heavenly horse and Tang horse figures
4 Mirrors showing bronze mirrors decorated with scenes of the cosmos and the afterlife
5 Animal patterns revealing the animal designs used on many of the vessels and their cultural significance

Compton Verney House, in its day, was a stately home in the Downton Abbey mould designed by the eminent Scots architect Robert Adam, amongst others over the centuries. More recently, it was bought in a dilapidated state by the Peter Moores Foundation in 1993. Peter Moores was the Chairman of the football pools empire known as Littlewoods and, as a result, a fabulously wealthy man. He used his enormous wealth to create a house which would supply the public with music and visual arts and it is now operated by The Compton Verney House Trust.

We have made a diary note to return in April. We shall return and you will be able to read about our visit here . . .


Museum of East Asian Art in Bath is only UK museum solely devoted to the genre



View of the second floor of the Museum of Asian Art in Bath (Ming & Qing)     Photo Paul Harris

Possibly one of the UK’s least well known museums, The Museum of East Asian Art in the city of Bath is not one to be missed by the serious sinophile collector. Located in an elegant Georgian townhouse just across the road from the rather more famous Bath Assembly Rooms, hundreds of pieces of East Asian art (principally Chinese) are on permanent display over three floors of the building.

Owned by an educational charity, it is said to be the only museum in the UK solely dedicated to the appreciation of Eastern arts and cultures. Items on display range from the neolithic era right up to the 1990s. What is really interesting about this museum is the consistency of the quality of the items displayed, be they porcelain, metalware or organic materials like rhinoceros horn, ivory, bamboo and other woods. The Museum, which opened in April 1993, has been endowed by the well known local collector and retired solicitor, Mr Brian McElney, and the items on display represent the fruits of a lifetime of collecting.

Mr McElney is the author of several books which are for sale at the Museum. A number are on special offer at this time and we were able to obtain, at just £15 each, his lavishly illustrated tomes on Chinese jades and the Chinese export trade prior to 1700. These are the sort of volumes you would expect to pay at least £50 to purchase from a specialist book dealer!

Below we illustrate a few of the items on display which particularly interested us on our recent visit.


The Museum of East Asian Art, Bennett Street, Bath   Photo Paul Harris

There is also currently on display an exhibition of contemporary Chinese ink paintings by artist Wu Lan-Chiann, which continues on until May 15. It is her first solo exhibition in the United Kingdom, although she has previously shown in Taiwan, the US and Japan. Her work is notably accomplished and is presented in an entirely comprehensible stylistic form which should appeal to a wide variety of art lovers.


Reflections of the Past by Wu Lan-Chiann (detail) 1999


A most beautiful imperial yellow glazed miniature garlic mouthed vase  Photo Paul Harris


An attractive pair of green glazed bowls, Yongzheng mark and period   Photo Paul Harris


A turqoise blue brush rest (Qing dynasty)       Photo Paul Harris


One of the most curious items in the Museum, a carved ivory portrayal of revolutionary Red Guards in undergrowth firing a Soviet era machine gun (not a howitzer as captioned). Probably dating from around 1970, this would not, of course, be available for sale these days despite the fact it is wonderfully carved and of a somewhat unexpected subject.    Photo Paul Harris