Christie’s Kicks off London Sale Week with Ceramic Treasures from East Asian Collection

Christie’s kicked off its London Sale Week with a single-owner sale featuring 24 pieces of exquisite treasures from a distinguished East Asian Collection. The sale achieved a satisfactory 80 percent sold by lot even though the cover lot, a small pink ground famille rose moonflask with a seal mark in iron-red of Qianlong period, was unsold.

Leading the sale was a rare ding ‘lion’ pillow from Song to Jin dynasty (960 - 1234). Ding ware is grouped as one of the Five Great Kilns in China, alongside Ru ware, Jun ware, Guan ware and Ge ware. The pillow is modelled with a eadrest carved and incised to the top with scrolling peonies, above a recumbent lion with the mouth open and the tail detailed with stylized scrolls.

Chinese pillows were traditionally solid and hard, made of a wide range of materials like bamboo, jade, wood and bronze. Ceramic was one of the popular materials in making pillows. In China, lion-shaped ceramic pillows were particularly popular during the Song-Jin period. Lions were always regarded as auspicious and noble creatures, often depicted as guardians, and symbolizing both harmony and protection against evil spirits, along with blessings and high rank.

Started at £55,000, the pillow ignited a frenzy of interest with 25 bids from bidders in the room, telephone bidders and online bidders. The pillow was hammered down at £280,000 and sold for nearly £345,000 (US$465,000). The winner was a telephone bidder.

The second top lot was a lime-green ground famille rose twin handled vase, 19.8cm tall, inscribed with Jiaqing six-character seal mark in iron-red of the period (1796-1820). The vase is decorated with auspicious symbolisms, including bat (representing happiness), peach (representing longevity) and lotus (representing continuity), forming the rebus for 'May happiness and longevity continue for years to come'.

The bulbous body and tall flaring neck are elaborately enamelled with colourful lotus blooms, bats and peaches, all set against a lime-green ground and separated by bands of ruyi heads, key fret and foliate scrolls. The neck is further decorated with a pair of animal mask handles suspending gilt rings. The spreading foot is encircled by foliate borders, below a band of overlapping blue and pink lotus petals rising from the lower body of the vessel. The interior and base are decorated with a turquoise enamel.

After receiving six bids, the vase was hammered down at £90,000 and sold for £112,500 (US$152,000) with premium included.

Ranking on the third was a small cloisonné enamel pear-shaped vase, Hu, from the Qianlong period. Estimated at £50,000 - 80,000, the 11.2cm-tall vase was hammered down at £78,000 and sold for £97,500 (US$131,000) with premium included.  

The present lot has an archaistic decoration that includes golden-olive taotie masks, as well as subsidiary taotie masks in blue. The decoration and shapes were inspired by ancient bronzes and reflect the fashion for archaism during the Qianlong reign. They also display the highest quality of craftsmanship that seems to apply to all Qianlong cloisonné enamel vessels bearing the same cast mark.


Top three lots

A Rare Ding ‘Lion’ Pillow, Song-Jin Dynasty (960-1234)

Lot no.: 5
Sotheby's London, 12 November 2003, lot 130.
Estimate: £80,000 - 120,000
Hammer price: £280,000
Price realized: £344,750

A Lime-Green Ground Famille Rose Twin-handled Vase
Jiaqing Six-character Sealmark in Iron-red and of the Period (1796-1820)

Lot no.: 20
Height: 19.8cm

  • Acquired in Taipei circa 2003

Estimate: £80,000 - 120,000
Hammer price: £90,000
Price realized: £112,500

A Small Cloisonné Enamel Pear-shaped Vase, Hu
Qianlong Four-Character Mark Cast in Relief within a Square and of the Period (1736-1795)

Lot no.: 3
Height: 11.2cm

  • Sotheby's New York, 31 May 1989, lot 30
  • Christie's New York, 20 September 2005, lot 113

Estimate: £50,000 - 80,000
Hammer price: £78,000
Price realized: £97,500

Auction summary

Auction house: Christie’s London
Sale: Rarity and Refinement: Treasures from a Distinguished East Asian Collection
Lot no.: 24
Sold: 19
Unsold: 5
Sold by lot: 79%
Sale total: £1,352,875