Jade exhibition marks ninety years in business for Marchant . . . and still going strong

Marchant jade 3This year, London Chinese art dealers Marchant are celebrating 90 years in business, having started up back in 1925. Despite the passage of the years, it is still very much a family business, four generations on. And so, coinciding with Asian Art in London (November 5-14), they have just announced a major selling exhibition of some very fine jade pieces.

Apparently, there will be some 90 pieces in the exhibition, and the accompanying book, comprising animals, pendants, vessels, bracelets, buckles, snuff bottles and objects for the scholar’s desk. Several are Imperial pieces and four have Imperial marks.

On the front cover of the associated book is the Hodgson Rhyton, one of the most important jades Marchant has ever handled. It was exhibited at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1975 in their important landmark exhibition Chinese Jade Throughout the Ages. Published alongside the piece is related correspondence from Sir Harry Garner, academic and author of many publications on Chinese art.

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The Hodgson Rhyton sold by Marchants to The Victoria & Albert

Jades in the exhibition date from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) to the Qing but the majority are Qianlong (1736-95). Of particular interest, from the collection of the Marquis and Marquise de Ganay, is the water buffalo with a boy seated on its back. There is also a pair of white jade cups with their original stands in the form of lotus petals, dated from the 18th century. They come from an important Swiss collection purchased by Marchant in the 1950s.

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A pair of white jade cups from an important Swiss collection

The exhibition takes place from November 3-20 at 120 Kensington Church Street. The book available at the exhibition costs £80.

10cm. bowl sold for half a million at Woolley & Wallis


A 10 cm. doucai lingzhi bowl: all-in price a shade under half a million pounds sterling

Last week’s Woolley & Wallis sale provided some very good results for the Salisbury auctioneers. A particularly successful result was achieved for a very small Chinese doucai lingzhi bowl estimated at £100,000 to £150,000 and which got £340,000 on the hammer. The end price was just short of half a million as the item was subject to 20% VAT, with premium (and VAT on premium) all to be added, bringing the ultimate cost to over £480,000.

Just 10.4 cm. in diameter, the bowl in question bore a six-character mark to base and was of the Yongzheng period (1723-35). Reputedly acquired in Hong Kong in the 1950s or ’60s, it was bought by a private Chinese collector.

Small Yongzheng cups and bowls are becoming quite a profitable speciality at Woolley & Wallis. Only last November a pair of doucai lingzhi wine cups were sold for a premium inclusive price of £378,200 in the Salisbury rooms.


Jasmine, a Chinese telephone bidder for Woolley & Wallis, pictured with one of the jardinières. The pair sold for £150,000 hammer.

Another high achiever at the sale was Lot 325 – a fine and rare pair of Chinese ImperiaI pale celadon jade models of jardinières. Qianlong, they were particularly rare and beautiful,the flaring bodies raised on three short feet, each jardinière issuing a gilt metal blossoming spray, one of prunus, the flowers in white jade, coral and enamel, the other peach, its flowers and leaves in agate and hardstone, with smaller petals in kingfisher feather, each with a small bird perched in its branches, its body adorned with kingfisher feathers. At the bases rockwork, flowering rohdea, narcissus, nandina (the holy bamboo) and lingzhi fungi are depicted in lapis lazuli, red coral, amber and spinach-green jade, the jardinières each raised on an elaborately carved reticulated five-legged zitan stand, and bearing paper labels for John Sparks Ltd. They were 32.5cm and 31cm respectively, 39cm and 37.5cm overall.

Estimated at £40,000-60,000, they went to £150,000 hammer. Thirty-five lots from the collection of Robert Frederick Hathaway (d. 1991) of Cape Town, South Africa, sold for £240,000 representing a 100% sold rate. The total for the 2-day sale was a very respectable £2.7m.

Woolley & Wallis lion dog roars away at £110,000

330 Woolley Wallis

A fine Chinese white jade carving of a Buddhist lion dog, attributed to the Qianlong period (1736-95) roared away on the first day of the Woolley & Wallis Asian Sale, reaching £110,000 against an estimate of £30-50,000.

A well modelled piece, the beast crouching, its head turned to the right and its ears flattened against its head, with a curling mane and a bushy tail tucked beneath its hind legs, its backbone finely defined, and its teeth bared, it was presented on a hardwood stand carved with lingzhi and pine. Most significantly, in terms of the price it reached, there was affixed a paper label for The Queen Amelia of Portugal Collection.

It was from an English private collection but, before that, was most probably in the collection of Queen Amelia of Portugal.

Princess Amélie d’Orléans (1865-1951), married Carlos, Prince Royal of Portugal in 1886, to become the last Queen consort of Portugal. She was patron and founder of the National Association against Tuberculosis, and was actively involved with other social issues and organisations. Despite this, she was at times criticised for her financial extravagances. In 1910, the Portuguese royal family were exiled to France following the death of Amélie’s son, Manuel II of Portugal, and the subsequent formation of the first Portuguese Republic, and she spent the remainder of her life there.


Allure of jade tempts buyers

Sothebys001-1-300x200 Hutton-Mdivani necklace

The best jade pieces continue to tempt buyers to dig deep in their pockets – especially those in China – despite ups and downs in the market and changing tastes. There have recently been some outstanding prices achieved at auction.

In April of last year, Christie’s in London sold a relatively simple jade necklace featuring two rows of jadeite beads with an art deco diamond clasp for £49,875 (US$77,630) against an estimate of £5,000-6,000. The following May, Sotheby’s in Hong Kong very comfortably exceeded pre-sale estimates with a jadeite bangle selling for $HK1.2m. (estimate 200-250,000), and a jadeite and diamond ring fetching a cool million Hong Kong (estimate 350,000-500,000).

This year, the attention of jade enthusiasts will be directed to an outstanding jadeite necklace (jadeite is reckoned to be the very best type of jade) known as the Hutton-Mdivani necklace and which used to be the property of the heiress Barbara Woolworth Hutton. It will be exposed for sale in April in Hong Kong by Sotheby’s in the Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite Sale and Sotheby’s anticipate it reaching more than US$12m. It was last sold at auction in 1988 in Hong Kong when it fetched US$2m. It was then the most expensive piece of jadeite jewellery ever sold.

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Barbara Hutton wearing the necklace to be sold by Sotheby’s Hong Kong Sotheby’s

The importance of the necklace is not just attributed to its intrinsic beauty, but also to the likelihood of its Imperial connections. Sotheby’s suggest that ‘considering the impressive size and quality [of the beads] it is likely they would have been presented to the Imperial court . . . ‘. The auctioneers go on to assert that they could ‘possibly’ have been removed from the Imperial Palace during the instability of the late 19th century. What is known for sure is that when the beads surfaced in Europe at the end of the 19th century they were fashioned into the present necklace by Cartier in Paris.

Although, it remains a matter of supposition as to whether the beads originated from the Qing Imperial court, the necklace is indubitably a remarkable and most beautiful creation. Establishing the worth of more minor pieces remains, however, very much a subjective thing. Speaking to The New York Times, Vicki Sek, head of jewellery at Christie’s in Hong Kong, observed, “There is no formula to value jadeite. Obviously, there is the colour and shade, but you have to factor in the translucence and the material. It’s really a combination of the three.” Tackling the issue of colour, she revealed further complexities. “What is considered a good green colour is difficult to explain. At the top, we have what we call ‘vivid emerald green’, then there is ‘brilliant green’, ‘intense green’ and ‘apple green’ .”

Tricky, eh? Miss Sek admits that this is a form of internal grading at Christie’s, forms of which are used at other auction houses. It is nothing like rating gold or other precious stones. There is no carat system. To complicate matters further, jade does not just come in shades of green but also in lavender (currently popular); red and yellow (the result of oxidation and colour-inducing impurities); black (a deep green, the result of high iron content); and white (lacking colouring impurities).

Translucency is also categorised by most auction houses. At Christie’s they use ‘glassy translucent’ (the best), ‘highly translucent’ (next best) and ‘opaque’, which means you can’t see through the stone and, accordingly, it is not rated nearly so highly.

Real jade is now getting rarer and demand is rising, especially from China where it enjoys mystical properties. Most often it is cut and polished without facets, and the base flattened. This maximises the colour and the piece is then known as being in ‘cabochon’ style, much sought after by true collectors.