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

Highlights of 2015 on Chineseart.co.uk

We look back on the year 2015 as reflected by the pages of Chineseart.co.uk

January 2015

London dealer Anita Gray offered this exquisite Kangxi figure for sale. Hardly surprisingly, it was snapped up in a matter of hours!


February 2015

Brought the sale of contents at Eden Hall, in the Scottish borders, by the Rt Hon Lady Loch. There were several items brough back tothe UK from Yuanminguan by the 1st Baron Loch (background and below a pair of sancai roof tiles).

Rt Hon Lady Loch


The month also saw a spectacular, hihgly organised theft from Fontainebleau. Fifteen items were stolen from the Chinese collection, many of which had been looted from Yuanminguan by French soldiers. There has been no sign of them being recovered and the artefacts are reckoned by experts to have been ‘repatriated’ to China.


March 2015

the Shanghai-based sculptor Chen Dapeng announces his participation in the Olympia Art & Antiques Fair, November 2015 (below).


April 2015

We visit the porcelain city, Jingdezhen, for a series of articles. Below, The Jingdezhen Porcelain Orchestra.


May 2015

We ask if Chinese billionaire Liu Yiqian (below) has got his money back from producing copies of his US$36m. chicken cup. He drinks from the original below, and also the boxed reproduction which sells at around $60 !

wpid-liu-drinks-from-chicken-cup-lr.jpg.jpeg wpid-chicken-cup-boxed.jpg.jpeg

June 2015

We reported from Taipei on the chronic overcrowding at The National Palace Museum.

National Palace Museum (6)

July 2015

We turned our attention to the Chinese fashion industry in our article The Traditional Etihc in Chinese Fashion goes International. Below is Guo Pei’s stunning twist on Chinese blue and white porcelain. Also fashion label Doudu’s ‘Bodybelt’, a modern piece of lingerie based on traditional underwear.

guo pei hk fashion wk


August 2015

We published this photogrpah of a painting offered for sale at the June Olympia Art & Antiques Fair: the mystery gil with the penetrating gaze, artist unknown. Nobody volunteeered any information who she might be!



September 2015

London dealers Marchant, Kensington Church Street, celebrated their 90th anniversary with a collection of magnificient jades they had handled over the years.

Marchant jade 2

October 2015

A top Chinese official warns on the widespread destruction of the country’s cultural heritiage at the hands of tomb robbers and property developers. Below a photograph of the unique colonial style Arxan Shan Railway Station in northern China, destroyed by property developers.

 arxan shan railway station

November 2015

Chinese sculptor Chen Dapeng celebrates the opening of his first exhibition in London The Winter Olympia Art & Antiques Fair. His 200 sq m stand was organised by his UK agents Paul Harris Asia Arts. His bust of HM Queen Elizabeth II (below) proved controversial and received massive TV, radio and press coverage. It was, however, only one sculpture out of almost fifty works on display.

Paul-Olympia 29


December 2015

The Berlin-based online auctioneer Auctionata put up a small Kangxi dragon vase for sale estimated at euro 5-10,000. It started at 5,000 and rose giddily to the heights of euro 875,000 – almost a million dollars.

lot lot34 dragon vase cu


Staggering $1m. for Kangxi meiping dragon vase at Auctionata

lot 34 dragon vase

Earlier this week we picked out from the Auctionata Chinese sale, which took place earlier today, a Kangxi meiping blue and white dragon vase which we liked http://chineseart.co.uk/uncategorized/kangxi-dragon-vases-continue-to-challenge-the-collector/ . Estimated at around 5-10,000 euros,Lot 34 duly started at 5,000 euros before being knocked down online for a staggering 875,000 euros (around $1 million).

lot lot34 dragon vase cu

Detail of Auctionata’s million dollar vase

The vase in question was remarkably similar to another Kangxi dragon vase knocked down by Lyon & Turnbull at their December 3 sale last year. There were two differences from last year’s vase: the elevation of the head of the dragon and the arrangement of the mark to the base.

At the time of the L&T sale, it was generally thought that the hammer price of £240,000 must surely represent the top of the market. Today’s was almost three times last year’s record . . .  .

Kangxi dragon vases continue to challenge the collector

lot lot34 dragon vase cu

Lot 34 in Auctionata sale of December 18 Meiping dragon vase detail

Just over a year ago, on December 3 2014 auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull at Crosshall Manor, Cambridgeshire, sold a Kangxi meiping vase 23cm. in height and with dragon decoration for £240,000 hammer. It was something of a surprise because it was estimated at £2,000-3,000, which was probably just about right as a selling price for a pretty but modest vase which had, historically, suffered damage. However, it came with a missive which revealed that it was a gift to its erstwhile owner, the late Lady Stewart, from her respected Hong Kong dealer (who sold her much of her very fine snuff box collection), Hugh Moss. This excellent provenance duly propelled the price into the stratosphere. There was much merriment in the room as it was knocked down to telephone bidder . . .

In case you were outbid on that vase, there is what might be good news. A very, very similar one comes up for sale on Friday on Auctionata (Berlin), lot no. 34. It is estimated at around euros 10,000. It is of the same form (meiping), same height (23cm.) and is also decorated with a very similar dragon design, but which is not exactly the same. To the base, however, there is a very different mark: a horizontal in-line mark as opposed to the two column vertical mark on Lady Stewart’s vase.

lot 162 L&T dragon vase

The Lyon & Turnbull vase

lot 34 dragon vase

 Auctionata vase

During the Kangxi period vases were made in this style in blue and white, as well as in copper-red. They are not that common, however, these days. Auctionata, in their catalogue notes aver, ‘Meiping Vases with such [a] brilliant painting and bearing the mark of the Kangxi Emperor are very rare. A very similar vase is illustrated in: Elias, A Dealer’s Hand: The Chinese Art World through the Eyes of Giuseppe Eskenazi, New York 2013, p. 345, fig. 423. Another closely related example is in the collection of the Shanghai Museum and was exhibited in the exhibition Sovereign Splendor in 2011. Cf. Eliëns (ed.), Keizerlijk porselein uit het Shanghai Museum, Zwolle/The Hague 2011. Furthermore, other related versions can be found in some of the best collections of Chinese porcelain worldwide. Cf. a vase from the Palace Museum in Beijing, illustrated in Kangxi Yongzheng Qianlong, Hong Kong 1989, p. 23, pl. 6 and one from the Wang Xing Lou Collection, illustrated in Imperial Perfection, The Palace Porcelain of Three Chinese Emperors, Hong Kong 2004, no. 1.

‘The five-clawed dragon continued to be an Imperial symbol throughout the Qing Dynasty. The depiction of the dragon as on the present vase is characteristic for the Kangxi period, which is exemplified by a fierce and dominant demeanour adding a stronger impression of authority and majesty. This representation is shown by the detailed painting of the head and the scales, which demonstrates a development of the later Ming Dynasty versions. The full-faced view of the dragon already existed in Ming times but was extremely popular in the Qing Dynasty, distinguished by a greater feeling of vitality and a warlike spirit. ‘

We have compared both vases from photographs (we have only handled one and that was the Lady Stewart version). They are both equally well painted using the skills developed over the centuries by Chinese craftsmen. Such skills are, of course, extant to this day, particularly around Jingdezhen where exquisite work is achieved. Of the two marks, however, we much prefer the mark on the one sold by L&T last year. In our view, there is considerably less assurance in the creation of the in-line mark. As one expert put it, “The writing of the mark suggests someone trying to write in somebody else’s style, whereas the Stewart mark looks like someone just writing who has done it a thousand times.”

Marks, of course, are a tricky area and experts will often disagree on the very same mark. It is only our opinion and is not to demean what looks like a very pretty vase! As ever, it is a matter of caveat emptor . . .

lot162 mark cu   lot 34 draogn vase base

The marks to base: above, top The late Lady Stewart’s vase  Above Auctionata vase

Literature: Vgl. Eliëns (ed.), Keizerlijk porselein uit het Shanghai Museum, Zwolle/The Hague 2011. Vgl. Elias, A Dealer’s Hand: The Chinese Art World through the Eyes of Giuseppe Eskenazi, New York 2013

Condition: The vase to be sold this week is in good condition with a minimal chip on the underside of ring stand, barely visible to the naked eye. The height measures 23 cm.


Small but perfectly formed, Chinese snuff bottles are taking off . . .

Schnupfer_corrected The snuff box in Europe

Snuff was discovered at the end of the 15th century by Christopher Columbus and his fellow adventurers as they roamed the western side of the Atlantic. But snuff took a while to take off in China. The earliest recorded date on a Chinese snuff bottle is 1644 but they would really take off in the 18th century..While 17th-century Europeans stored their powdered tobacoo in boxes, the humidity in much of China (and the lack of pockets in Chinese garments) necessitated a handheld, airtight repository — and thus the snuff bottle was born.

These tiny vessels were the focus of “Small Delights: Chinese Snuff Bottles,” a yearlong show at The Metropolitan Museum of Art earlier this year. Some of the most sought-after examples exhibited came from the imperial workshops of the Qianlong emperor, a noted patron of the arts.

They were never particularly valued. Indeed. upon meeting a friend or acquaintance in the street it was customary to extend one’s arm (your supply of stuff being secreted in the sleeve) and snuff bottles and contents were duly exchanged.

However, that appears to be changing significantly. Three or four years ago it was relatively easy to pick up interesting Chinese snuff bottles for around £50, sometimes even less. If you hoped to ride a snuff bottle bottle boom, there can be little doubt you are too late.

Several provincial sales this autumn have highlighted the increasing value of Chinese snuff bottles. Two we have been at – Woolley & Wallis in November and Lyon & Turnbull earlier this month – evidenced vastly increased prices for these alluring small objects. To a certain extent, provenance at both auctions played a part although Mary Stewart, the romantic novelist whose collection was dispersed at L&T, was hardly renowned before her death at a world-class Chinese collector. However, she did have good dealers lurking in the background. At the Woolley & Wallis sale some snuff bottle lots got up to 20 times their estimates.

A sale last week online, however, underlines what might confidently be termed an emergent trend. Even more sensational results were achieved by Berlin-based Auctionata.

With intense bidding for every single item, ‘Exceptional Snuff Bottles from a Spanish Collection’ was Auctionata’s first auction to sell out entirely, leading to an impressive overall result of € 161,652 (incl. buyer’s premium).

The auction presented 64 snuff bottles from a private collection in Spain. The small, yet artfully crafted vessels attracted bidders with their impressive diversity of designs and precious materials such as agate, jade, overlay glass and porcelain.

For nearly four hours, Auctioneer Philipp von Hutten and Auctionata’s Senior Specialist for Asian Art, Dr. Arne Sildatke, presented the small but fine artworks to 498 users from 28 different countries. Throughout the auction, bidders from China, Thailand, United Kingdom, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany engaged in heated bidding contests which resulted in hammer prices that surpassed the estimates by far. The most sought after object of the night was a shadow agate snuff bottle with a bird motif and a dark-brown and black grain and a stopper of gilt brass with filigree decoration and round turquoises from the Qing dynasty, which ultimately sold for € 15,600. Another highlight was a shadow agate snuff bottle with telief handles from Qing Dynasty in light brown with a dark brown to black veining which sold for € 11,400 (all prices including buyer’s premium).

The reasoning behind the increased demand for these small but usually perfectly formed objects is hardly difficult to divine. They represent eminently portable wealth. And there is, of course, a pent up demand for wealth which might be transferred across certain national borders without tiresome duties and taxes, and retained as an apparently unostentatious way of investing ones wealth.


Shadow Agate Snuff Bottle with Birds, Qing Dynasty

Agate, light brown with a dark brown to black veining. Stopper of gilt brass with filigree decoration and round turqouises and bone spoon. Height: 7 cm.

Sold for € 15,600 (incl. buyer’s premium)


Unusual album of paintings by Chinese artists comes up for sale

It is extremely rare for an album of watercolour paintings featuring the work of many different Chinese artists to come onto the market.

Auctionata_121214_Lot49_GUAN Liang, LI Keran, et al., Album with Paintings, 20th C.

Online auction house Auctionata (www.auctionata.com) will be offering just such a rarity in their sale on December 12 at 1800 hours Central European Time.

The item for sale is a private album of paintings from the estate of the well-known German illustrator Werner Klemke (1917-1994) who lived inside the so-called Iron Curtain in East Berlin. Klemke was an artist himself who had a great interest in Chinese culture. He undertook several trips to China and built personal friendships with many renowned Chinese artists and he collected many precious artworks.

Auctionata_121214_Lot49_GUAN Liang, LI Keran, et al., Album with Paintings, 20th C._3

Klemke also invited many of many Chinese artists to his home in East Berlin and had all his visitors sign and draw in a guestbook/album, which he kept in his office. This album is thus filled with personal messages and spontaneous drawings by many artists, among them Li Keran, Guang Liang, He Tianjian and many other artists. The peculiar status of the then East Germany uniquely facilitated this exchange between artists living under restrictive regimes. It is highly unusual to have works of so many artists within a single lot, that enjoys a very personal history and flawless provenance.

Auctionata_121214_Lot49_GUAN Liang, LI Keran, et al., Album with Paintings, 20th C._5


Online auctions for collectors of Chinese art

online auctions1 Online auctions become ever more popular. Personally, I am reluctant to commit to purchases that I, or my trusted agent, have not handled but such auctions do often provide an opportunity for the odd cheap ‘scoop’. Here are some sales from UK-based online auctioneers. Caveat emptor!

In 2008, online service provider Artnet launched the world’s first major online art marketplace. In 2010, Chinese auction house China Guardian Auctions followed, setting up the first Chinese auction site, which sells everything from art to stamps to an autographed Lionel Messi polo shirt.

Major Western auction houses have started getting in on the online marketplace as well. Christie’s in 2006 began allowing users to watch auctions live and bid online. The company took virtual auctioning a step further by launching online-only auctions in 2011. Its first such event—a four-day sale of “The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor” that ran at the same time as a live auction at Christie’s New York—generated more than 57,000 bids and $9.5 million. The house has continue online-only auctions; last year it sold an original Apple-1 computer in an online sale for $387,750.

“The potential for growth for Christie’s [online] is exponential because of the number of active buyers and interested buyers,” Christie’s CEO Steven Murphy told The Wall Street Journal earlier this year. “Online provides us with the means of connection with them that is far more facile than bricks and mortars.”

It also remains to be seen whether a marketplace that is known to be overflowing with fakes can convince buyers of art that they’re getting the real deal.

“It’s hard for you pay tens of thousands dollars to buy a fine art piece without viewing it in person,” the former Christie’s Chinese art specialist said. “Above all, you need to know which work is real or not. Trust is very important.”

Most auction houses these days engage an outside company to broadcast their auctions ‘live’ as they happen, often with pictures as well as sound. As a result, a group of ‘middlemen’ has arisen and not only do they undertake the technical side of ‘live’ auctions but they also promote them on their own websites. They also promote other auctions which do not take place ‘live’ but which are timed, i.e. they have a closing time and date at which point the highest bidder gets the lot or lots he/she has bid for. Some other auctions are not public auctions in the traditional sense but just take place online.

There a number of places you might visit to find out what is going on in the sphere of online auctions:




online auctions2

It is also worth having a look at a relatively new website AuctionMyStuff started by former Sotheby’s man Patrick van der Vorst with £100,000 seed capital from the two members of TV’s Dragons Den team of investors. It aims to be ‘approachable’ from the point of view of both buyers and sellers. Based in London, it draws on an international team of auctioneer-experts for the purpose of valuing and selling art and antiques.

Auctionata who have their base in Germany are very active. Have a look at www.Auctionata.com

Their 2014 auctions included Tibetan Art (January 17), and Asian Art (March 7).

September 2014 sees an important series of auctions:

September 4 Treasures of Asia

September 25 Buddhist and Indian art

September 26 Important Asian Art

and October30 Asian Art from Berlin (128 lots)

December 2014 sees a series of important online auctions at Auctionata

In the three livestream auctions ‘Exceptional Snuff Bottles from a Spanish Collection’ and ‘Important Chinese Furniture’ and ‘Important Asian Art’ on December 11 & 12, 2014, Auctionata will present outstanding pieces of Asian Art.

The first auction ‘Exceptional Snuff Bottles’ on December 11 at 6 PM CET will offer more than 60 rare snuff bottles from a private collection in Spain. The artfully crafted snuff bottles, which had been used for storing powdered tobacco since the early Qing Dynasty, are particularly impressive in their diversity of materials and designs.

The subsequent auction ‘Important Chinese Furniture’ at 8 PM CET will present rare Ming Dynasty furniture from the estate of a German diplomat. The outstanding highlight of this auction is an impressive Zitan Altar Table QIAOTOUAN from the 16th/17th century. Further highlights include a set of four Huanghuali armrest chairs, crafted in the 17th century, a 16th century Huanghuali altar table with floral carving and a rare Huanghuali daybed LUOHANCHUANG with original arm- and backrests, decorated with finely carved reliefs.

The auction ‘Important Asian Art’ on December 12 at 6 PM CET will then present works by important Chinese artists such as QI Baishi, LI Keran or GUAN Liang. One outstanding highlight of this auction is a private album of paintings from the estate of the well-known illustrator Werner Klemke (1917-1994) from East Berlin, which is filled with personal messages and spontaneous drawings by LI Keran, GUANG Liang, HE Tianjian and many other artists.

For more information, see the online catalogues:

‘Exceptional Snuff Bottles’ on December 11 at 6 PM CET

‘Important Chinese Furniture’ on December 11 at 8 PM

‘Important Asian Art’ on December 12 at 6 PM CET


London auctioneers 25 Blythe Road have online Asian Art sales.25blytheroad.com

London firm The Auction Room have some Asian items in various sales/ www.theauctionroom.com

McTears, Glasgow Gallery 1842 tend to sell unsold lots online after their advertised live auctions which can be accessed online as well as in the room.

Lauritz.com Denmark mounted the important Auction of Chinese Artifacts from the private collection of the Danish Collector Sophus Black  in March 2014. Follow them on www.lauritz.com

CJM Auction Centre, Scunthorpe Clocks, Pocket Watches & Oriental Porcelain View took place in April 2014. Sale was handled by bidspotter.co.uk.

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