Top 5 Lots from the upcoming Sotheby’s Chinese art sale

By Aaron De Silva 27 May, 2017
Chinese antique teacup, Sotheby’s Chinese art sale

Of Culture and values

The French industrialist Emile Guimet (1836 – 1918) was an avid traveller and connoisseur of art, particularly Chinese and Japanese art. His passions led him to establish the Guimet Museum of Asian Art in Paris. It’s one of our favourite museums in the city, and certainly one of its finest. Naturally, we were thrilled to learn that this Sotheby’s sale of Chinese art is highlighted by two Imperial Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) jade seals from Guimet’s personal collection.

But that’s not all that jade aficionados can look forward to. There’s also a collection of archaic jades assembled in Hong Kong from the 1960s. If you’re a tea connoisseur, a collection of Yixing stoneware from a prominent English collection awaits. For lovers of the muted, minimalist Song Dynasty (960–1279) aesthetic, a selection of Song ceramics is up for sale. A total of 483 lots will go under the hammer come 1 to 2 June during the Sotheby’s Chinese art sale. Here are the top five that are expected to fetch the highest bids.

Lot 577
Estimate: HK$2 million – HK$3 million (S$360,000 – S$530,000)
From Emile Guimet’s personal collection comes this pair of jade seals that once belonged to the Daoguang Emperor. The sixth emperor of the Qing Dynasty, he reigned from 1820 until 1850. Carved out of the same stone, and polished smooth, the seals are surmounted by pixiu (mythical beasts). The seal faces sport the baiwen style (literally, ‘white characters’, as the seal imprints in red leaving white characters). One reads Daoguang yubi – (treasure inscribed in the hand of the Daoguang Emperor) while the other reads Zhengzai yangmin (the way of governance lives in nurturing people).

Antique wooden table
A Huanghuali and Burlwood recessed-leg table; Pingtouan 17th Century

Lot 660
Dimensions: 78 x 106 x 48cm
Estimate: HK$1.2 million to HK$1.8 million (S$210,000 – S$320,000)
Simple of form, lightweight and versatile, tables of this type are depicted in Ming and Qing art as altar, painting and side tables. This particular example is noted for its attractive use of contrasting woods: huanghuali for the frame, legs, waist and spandrels; and burlwood for the top panel. It once belonged to Lionel Phillips, an Australian diplomat stationed in China in the 1940s and 1950s. Phillips brought this piece back to Australia with him in 1952.

ChineseAntique teapot
An inscribed Yixing Stoneware bamboo stone-dipper teapot and aover; Qing Dynasty, Jiaqing – Daoguang Period, incised By Qu Yingshao

Lot 511
Estimate: HK$800,000 — HK$1.2 million (S$142,000 – S$213,000)

Qu Yingshao (1780 – 1849) was somewhat of a polymath, excelling at art forms such as seal carving and bamboo painting. He was most renowned for using Yixing teapots as a canvas for incising calligraphic script and designs derived from paintings. This classic ‘stone-dipper’ shape is an innovation of Qu’s, its extended flat surface an ideal medium for such expression. The inscriptions translate to ‘fragrant tea vessel’ and ‘can not be without this bamboo teapot for one day’. Indeed, this was how its former owner, Hong Kong collector Luen Chai, must have felt.

Chinese antique teapot
An inscribed documentary Yixing stoneware teapot and cover; Qing Dynasty, Jiaqing Period; dated 1815

Lot 514
Estimate: HK$800,000 — HK$1.2 million (S$142,000 – S$213,000)

This teapot, with its distinctive flattened cylindrical form, offers an invaluable insight into the lives of early 19th century literati. The inscription indicates that the piece was made to commemorate a literati tea-tasting party in the Autumn of 1815. The party took place at the official residence of Chen Mansheng, with 15 guests in attendance. Chen, a renowned scholar-painter from Zhejiang province, was appointed magistrate of Liyang in 1812. This piece is the provenance of Hong Kong collector Y.F. Yang.

Chinese antique cup
Inscribed rhinoceros horn ‘Pine Tree’ libation cup; 17th Century

Lot 645
Estimate: HK$600,000 — HK$800,000 (S$106,000 – S$142,000)
Height: 17.5cm

Rhinoceros horn cups are more commonly known for their wide, flared rims and narrow feet, in line with the natural tapering form of the horn. But this exemplar boasts a wide foot, suggesting that the animal was of significant heft and thus rare. The rich, dark honey tone of the patina is another attractive feature. The cup’s enormity is emphasised in the robust design of gnarled pine trees emerging from a rocky outcrop. Symbolically, this represents an auspicious scene of longevity and venerability.

Sotheby’s Hong Kong
One Pacific Place
88 Queensway
Admiralty Hong Kong
Hong Kong

26 – 28 May, 10am – 6pm;
29 – 31 May, 10am – 7pm

1 Jun, 2pm (Lots 301–509)
2 Jun, 10am (Lots 510–627)
2 Jun, 2pm (Lots 628–783)