Highlights from Sotheby’s Hong Kong Chinese Works of Art Autumn Sales 2018

Following the unveiling of a rare Chinese painting Wood and Rock by Su Shi at Christie’s Hong Kong in the morning of 30 August, Sotheby’s also presented four pieces of highlights from the coming Chinese works of art autumn sales in Hong Kong on the same day. The sale series is expected to fetch in the range of HK$1 billion (US$128million). Let us take a look at the four highlights.

The Falangcai Poppy Bowl is a great example of Qianlong falangcai porcelain. The bowl is 11.8cm wide, with a blue-enamel mark and period of Qianlong. It is exquisitely enamelled on the exterior with an intricate design of poppies issuing from rockwork, with a butterfly depicted fluttering overhead. It has a fourteen-character poem ‘Yu Meiren’ (lady Yu) on the bowl. The bowl is estimated to fetch in excess of HK$200m (US$25.5m).

The bowl had been kept in a French private collection and was rediscovered by Julian Thompson, the then-chairman of Sotheby’s Asia. It was offered at a 2003 auction during Sotheby’s 30th anniversary and was sold for nearly HK$29.2m after premium. The bowl has remained in the same collection over the past 15 years.

Nicolas Chow, Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia

In terms of ceramics from the Qing dynasty, Falangcai ranks the highest. And amongst Falangcai ceramics, those that are inscribed with poems are of the greatest value. Thus, this Falangcai Poppy Bowl is a fine example of ‘Guyuexuan’, a Chinese term that describes the most supreme Qing ceramics. Other than a pair of Yongzheng dishes enamelled with poppies, preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, no other example is recorded with this design.

Another highlight is a rare guan lobed brush washer from the Southern Song dynasty. The brush washer is 14cm wide and is glazed in bluish-green colour. It is estimated at HK$80m. It has an illustrious provenance as it belonged to Hong Kong tycoon T.Y Chao and prominent collector Edward. T. Chow.

'Ru, Guan, Ge, Ding, Jun’ are known as the Five Great Kilns which produced Chinese ceramics during the Song dynasty (960-1279). There are still a lot of unsolved mysteries about these five kilns. Some scholars believe that Ru ware was produced during the Northern Song (960-1127) but the production stopped when the court fled South because of wars. When the Song court settled in the south, they started to produce guan ware, which imitated Ru ware. In other words, Ru ware and Guan ware were both made exclusively for the imperial court, one for the Northern Song court while the other one for the Southern Song court.

Different from most guan ware in bluish-celadon glaze, the glaze colour of the present brush washer is more of bluish green, resembling the colour of ru ware. It is possible that this brush washer was made in the early Southern Song dynasty. Ru ware and Guan ware were both fired on spurs and we can find spur marks on the base. For example, the present guan brushwasher has seven spur marks on the base.

We have invited Nicolas Chow, Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, to introduce these two imperial masterpieces. Please stay tuned for our interview.

This side is inscribed with ‘Zhongqiu Tie’ (Mid-autumn Manuscript)

This side is inscribed with ‘Luoshen Fu’

The following two were both from the Qianlong emperor. The first one is an imperially gilt-inscribed jade screen, estimated at HK$40m-60m. It is inscribed with ‘Zhongqiu Tie’ (Mid-autumn manuscript) and ‘Luoshen Fu’, two popular works by Wang Xianzhi. Wang Xianzhi and his father, Wang Xizhi, were both great masters of Chinese calligraphy.

The Qianlong emperor called his study ‘Sanxitang’ (The Hall of Three Rarities), where he kept his precious manuscripts, including ‘Kuaixueshiqingtie’ (‘Timely Clearing after Snowfall’) by Wang Xizhi, ‘Zhongqiu Tie’ (Mid-autumn manuscript) by Wang Xianzhi, and ‘Boyuan Tie’ (A Letter to Boyuan) by Wang Xun. The present jade screen inscribed with Mid-autumn manuscript was also one of the favourites by the Qianlong emperor.

Another piece from the Qianlong period is the Yamanaka reticulated vase. It is a brother vase of the most famous vase in auction history that almost sold for £43m.

The neck and foot of the outer vase are in yellow-ground yangcai, decorated with ruyi, fish, and floral patterns. The word ‘ji’, meaning ‘luck’, is placed at the centre of the neck. Qing, a standing bell, is a homophone of ‘celebration’. This vase is nearly identical to the one sold in 2010 except for a few differences. For example, the vase from Sotheby’s has a border in turquoise ground around the shoulder whereas the 2010 one has a border in gold ground.

Sotheby’s is going to offer over 300 pieces of Chinese works of art across eight sales. The sale series is expected to fetch in the range of HK$1 billion (US$128m). We will share the timetable and other highlights once we have any update from the auction house.

Sotheby’s Hong Kong Autumn Sales 2018

Location: Hall 1, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
Address: 1 Expo Drive, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Viewing: 2018/9/28 - 10/2
Auction: 2018/9/29 - 10/3