US$550k Chinese porcelain vase from private US collection to lead Sotheby’s London auction

Asian antiques will be auctioned at Sotheby’s London on 4 November.

The Two Americans in Paris, The Collection of Sam and Myrna Myers Sale is part of the Asian Art Week in London, which will see a series of sales and exhibitions continue until 5 November.

The antiques are part of American collectors Sam Myers and his wife, Myrna. Sam was an American lawyer, who first went to Paris for work in the mid-1960s. The couple later stayed and collected Asian antiques for more than 50 years – including porcelain, ivory, jade and Buddhist art during the archaic era to the 20th century.

The sale’s highest valued lot is a blue and white porcelain vase from 13th to 14th century China. It is estimated at £400,000 to 600,000 pounds (around US$550,000 to 825,000 dollars).

Blue and white ‘dragon and phoenix’ meiping | China

Created in Yuan dynasty (1279-1368)
Height: 40 cm

  • Sam and Myrna Myers Collection 

Estimate: £400,000 – 600,000 (around US$550,000-825,000) 

Blue and white porcelain ‘plum vases’ (meiping) are believed to have been used for storing wine, and are found in wall paintings in tombs. This vase is decorated with dragons and phoenix, painted in cobalt blue tones. It is very uncommon to find a piece of Yuan blue-and-white porcelain decorated with both these mythical creatures together.

The Mongol-ruled Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) brought different innovations both in painting and the decorative arts.

One such innovation was when the Yuan dynasty brought in major stylistic and technical influence from their Empire across the Silk Road – blue and white porcelain painted with blue pigment. Unlike other porcelain pieces with more narrow-bodied shapes from other dynasties, this porcelain vase has a wide-mouthed jar and high broad round shoulders.

Most porcelain pieces during the Yuan dynasty did not have Imperial seal marks. It is hard to identify during which Yuan Emperor’s reign the piece was produced.

Scholars made a breakthrough during the 1950s in their research to confirm the existence of Yuan dynasty blue and white porcelain. In 2005, a Yuan dynasty blue and white porcelain piece, with a Guiguzi xiashan image, was auctioned at Christie’s London. It sold for approximately £15.7 million pounds (around US$21.4 million dollars), which shocked the world.

Large mottled green jade cong | China

Created in Neolithic period, Liangzhu culture (circa 3300-2300 BCE)
Height: 37.8 cm

  • Acquired in Hong Kong, 1999
  • Sam and Myrna Myers Collection 

Estimate: £300,000 – 500,000 (around US$412,000-687,000)

Cong can vary enormously in height and diameter ranging from wide, shallow bracelets to tall, narrow tubes found in the present lot.

This cong is exquisitely rendered for its large size. The carving out of jade some thousands years ago would have been labour-intensive and time-consuming, signifying the wealth and social status of its original owners. The Liangzhu culture (circa 3300-2300 BCE) brought about a wide range of jade artefacts, including cong (tubes), bi (discs) and yue (axes), which appear to have served some important ritual or religious functions.

Generally shaped as cylinders that are round on the inside and square on the outside, the form of cong is understood to encompass both heaven and earth, which are associated, respectively, with the Round and Square. According to the Jinsha Site Museum, Chengdu, the round perforation that continues right through the base implies "communicating between the heaven and the earth".

Calcified jade cong | China

Created in Neolithic period, Liangzhu culture (circa 3300-2300 BCE)
Height: 6.3 cm

  • Acquired in Hong Kong, 1995
  • Sam and Myrna Myers Collection 

Estimate: £250,000 – 350,000 (around US$343,000-481,000)

The present piece represents one of the archetypal jade artefacts from the Liangzhu culture (circa 3300-2300 BCE). Cong, with a square outer section around a circular one inside, remain among the most enigmatic objects from ancient China.

They appeared to have served some important ritual or ceremonial purposes among the elites of this early society, who possessed enough wealth and power to command their production. Some of these jade cong, such as the present lot, were originally green; the soft white colour is the result of calcification after being in the ground for thousands of years.

Each corner carved with a human and animal mask design. These stylised faces and pairs of bulging eyes are characteristics of the jade cong created at the time.

Gilt bronze Shakyamuni Buddha with inset stones | Nepal

Created in early Malla period (circa 1200-1482)
Height: 32 cm

  • Rossi & Rossi Ltd., London, 4 December 1995
  • Sam and Myrna Myers Collection 

Estimate: £250,000 – 350,000 (around US$343,000-481,000)

This Buddha sculpture was once owned by prominent British art dealer, Rossi & Rossi. They specialise in traditional and contemporary Buddhist art.

This Nepalese sculpture was styled by a Newar artist – cast in pure copper, and richly gilded. The rounded face exudes a sense of meditative calm with narrowed downcast eyes. The sensitive modelling of face, hands and the powerful physique of the renowned Nepalese early Malla period (circa 1200-1482) gilt copper standing Buddha.

The gilding is now rubbed in various places from handling over centuries, revealing warm, brown tones of oxidised copper beneath. This sculpture was cast without an integral pedestal – a common practice in Nepal.

Auction Details:

Auction House: Sotheby’s London

Sale: Two Americans in Paris, The Collection of Sam and Myrna Myers

Date and Time: 4 November 2021 | 10am (London local time)

Number of lots: 94