US$680k Chinese Imperial teapot from important British collection to lead Bonhams London auction

Imperial Chinese antiques from the Parry family collection will be sold on 2 November at Bonhams London. The international auction house will feature a variety of antiques in the sale, including those made out of porcelain, lacquerware and jade.

Most of the collection has a distinguished provenance, and were first owned by two prominent London antique dealers Spink & Son Ltd. and Bluett & Son Ltd. during the early 20th century.

They were then purchased by the Parry family, whose first acquisition was in 1919. The antiques were then inherited for three generations. They remained in the family's collection apart from one time – when six pieces were loaned at London’s International Exhibition of Chinese Art, Royal Academy of Arts, in 1935-36.

A melon-shaped teapot is the sale's leading lot, with an estimate between £500,000 and 800,000 pounds (around US$680,000-1 million dollars). It was created during 18th century China.

Imperial Beijing Enamel Melon-Shaped Teapot and Cover

Blue enamel four-character mark and of the Qianlong Emperor (reigned 1735-1796)
Length: 15 cm

  • Spink & Son Ltd., London
  • Mrs. E. A. Parry (1879-1977), London, acquired from the above on 30 September 1925, and thence by descent

Estimate: £500,000 – 800,000 (around US$680,000-1 million)

This teapot was produced during the Qianlong period (1735-1796). It was made out of enamel porcelain and copper.  

It is one of three examples known to have been created. Two can be found in National Palace Museum, Taipei and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in the United States. The third one, from the Parry family collection, is the only known example to have remained in a private collection until now. 

This antique was once owned by prominent British antique dealer, Spink & Son Ltd., during the early 20th century. It was then purchased by Mrs E. A. Parry in 1925. It is worth noting that the Parry family’s taste was different from most British collectors of the same period. They paid more attention to the craftsmanship and overall beauty of artworks.

The various decorative elements depicted on the vessel combine Chinese and European artistic styles. This can be seen in the richness and variety of the colours – ranging from bright yellow tone, various shades of pink, red, blue, turquoise and brown-black. The European influence can also be seen in the landscape scenes, depicting mountains and lakeside landscapes, flowers and butterflies all on a light-blue background.

These details are separated by pink bands of floral scrolls and between ruyi-shaped borders at the foot and shoulder. The cover is decorated with floral motifs, fishermen and sages within mountainous landscapes. Each section is separated by scrolling leaves, reserved on a yellow background.

Pair of Zitan-Framed Kingfisher Feather-Inlaid ‘Landscape’ Screens

111.2 x 56.7 x 31.2 cm

  • H. E. Monsieur Aleksander Vlangali (1823-1908), Russian Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary in China (1863-1873)
  • Spink & Son Ltd., London
  • Mrs E. A. Parry (1879-1977), London, acquired from the above on 31 July 1926, and thence by descent

Estimate: £120,000 – 180,000 (around US$164,000-247,000)

This pair of screens have a strong provenance – the earliest dating back to the late 19th century. It was owned by Aleksander Vlangali (1823-1908), Minister of the Russian Empire in China from 1863 to 1873.

Both screens show mountainous landscapes and an attendant were inspired by literati paintings and ideals. Images of old trees, bamboo, rocks and retreats created by these scholar-artists symbolised their self-cultivation spirit and literati identity.  These images throve since the early Song dynasty (circa 10th-11th century), as they became metaphors for the well-regulated state.

In addition to the literati landscape paintings, the Qianlong Emperor also showcased himself as a guardian and connoisseur of China’s ancient heritage. He championed archaism as both an aesthetic and intellectual movement. The zitan frames and stands follow the Emperor’s taste for archaism, utilising motifs seen on early ritual bronze vessels such as taotie masks and S-shaped scrolls.

Imperial Inscribed Two Colour Cinnabar Lacquer Carved Brushpot, Bitong

Seal mark and period of Qianlong Emperor (reigned 1735-1796)
Height: 12.2 cm

  • Spink & Son Ltd., London
  • Mrs G. N. Parry (1923-2013), London, acquired from the above on 29 April 1961, and thence by descent

Estimate: £120,000 – 150,000 (around US$164,000-205,000)

This lacquerware’s exterior is carved with a poem in kaishu script, composed by Qianlong Emperor himself. The poem is called Five verses from the small leisure orchard, illustrating a harmonious world under his dynasty’s rule.

During the Qianlong period, the lacquer carving craftsmanship reached its peak. The number and variety of lacquer carvings produced was huge, but lacquerwares with the theme of poetry and prose were still extremely limited for small-sized brush pots and tea bowls.

In 1961, this brush pot was purchased by G. N. Parry, second generation of the Parry family, from the British antique dealer Spink & Son Ltd.

Other highlight lots:

Pair of Imperial Inscribed Cinnabar Lacquer Carved Tea Bowls

Seal marks and period of Qianlong Emperor (reigned 1735-1796), the inscription dated Bingyin year, corresponding to 1746
Diameter: 11.2 cm

  • Parry Collection, London, and thence by descent

Estimate: £100,000 – 150,000 (around US$137,000-205,000)

Imperial Red Lacquer Inscribed Chrysanthemum-Shaped Bowl and Cover

Seal marks and period of Qianlong Emperor (reigned 1735-1796), the inscription dated Spring 1776
Diameter: 10.6 cm

  • Spink & Son Ltd., London
  • Mrs E. A. Parry (1879-1977), London, acquired from the above on 30 June 1933, and thence by descent

Estimate: £100,000 – 150,000 (around US$137,000-205,000)

Pair of Famille Rose ‘Dragon’ Bowls and Covers

Six-character marks and period of Yongzhen Emperor (reigned 1722-1735), with probably later covers and enamels
Diameter: 20.5cm

  • Captain Charles Oswald Liddell (1854-1941)
  • Bluett & Sons Ltd., London
  • E. A. Parry (1879-1946), London, acquired from the above on 12 June 1929, and thence by descent

Estimate: £80,000 – 120,000 (around US$109,000-164,000)

Auction Details:

Auction and Preview Exhibition Location: New Bond Street, Bonhams London

Sale: The Parry Collection of Chinese Art

Auction Date and Time (London local time):

2 November 2021 | 10am

Preview Exhibition Date and Time (London local time):

29 October 2021 | 9am – 4:30pm

30 October 2021 | 11am – 5pm

31 October 2021 | 11am – 5pm

1 November 2021 | 9am – 7:30pm