This novelty item has just turned up at Hannams Auctioneers in the UK: a can containing air from Hong Kong from before the Chinese takeover of July 1 1997. It may well be of limited use but it has a certain historical charm! Very difficult to find another!
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.
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.
A rare Chinese towel rack and washbasin stand Photo Auctionata
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
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.
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 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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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Click images for more information on the sale and lots featured in this article
A RARE BLUE AND WHIT… January 21 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza Lot 15
A MASSIVE BLUE AND W… January 21 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza Lot 19
A FAMILLE ROSE PUNCH… January 21 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza Lot 37
AN ELEPHANT SAUCE TU… January 21 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza Lot 49
A RARE MASSIVE SEATE… January 21 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza Lot 50
A RARE DATED DUTCH MARKE… January 21 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza Lot 64
A VERY RARE GRISAILLE ‘L… January 21 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza Lot 69
A RARE FAMILLE ROSE EURO… January 21 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza Lot 159
A LARGE ‘LAMBERT’ DISH
January 21 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza Lot 175
Chinese Export Art January 21 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza Sale 11640
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
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.
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.
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.