US$3.13m Xuande Blue and White Ewer Leads MING: Luminous Dawn of Empire at Sotheby’s New York

Coming to the second day of its auction week, Sotheby’s New York achieved a satisfactory result at MING: Luminous Dawn of Empire, led by top lots like a US$2.6m Blue and White Ewer, Xuande mark and period, and a US$1.1m Gilt-Bronze Figure of Manjushri, Yongle Mark and Period.

Ranking on the top two were both blue and white pieces. An Blue and White Ewer, inscribed with a six-character Xuande mark in the base, carried an estimate of US$600,000 - 800,000. Its provenance traced back to the 19th-20th century, when it was kept in the collection of Gustav Detring (1842-1913).

This ewer is a great example of porcelain example produced from the Imperial Kilns in Xuande reign, the first great era of China’s Imperial porcelain production, when the Jingdezhen kilns in Jiangxi province were strictly controlled by and worked exclusively for the court. The present ewer shape, with its unusual curved, is indebted to Middle Eastern metal prototypes. The body is painted the open blooms including peony, musk mallow, lotus, camellia and chrysanthemum, enclosed by scrolling stems with their characteristic leaves.

Started at US$500,000, the bidding quickly reached the US$1m and the bid increments rose from US$50,000 to US$100,000. The ewer was hammered down at US$2.6m, sold for US$3.13m (buyer’s premium included) to the client represented by Carrie Li, Senior Specialist of Chinese Works of Art.

The second one was a Blue and White ‘Lotus Bud’ Vase from Chenghua period, estimated at US$1m-1.5m. It was previously auctioned at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 1981.  

The painted decoration on the present bottle echoes styles known from the Xuande reign but its shape, with its unexpected, playful, sculptural elements of a lotus-bud mouth and lotus-leaf handles with pierced openings, is innovative with no precedents found.

The bidding started at US$650,000 and soon escalated into a bidding battle between several telephone bidders. When the auctioneer was about to put his hammer down after the bid went up to US$2.3m, a bid offered by a telephone bidder, a new bidder at the back of the room entered the battle and became the sheer winner with a higher bid of US$2.4m.

The third highest price was fetched by a Gilt-Bronze figure of Manjushri from Yongle period, the only Buddhist sculpture offered at the sale. Estimated at US$400,000 - 600,000, this 18.4-cm tall figure depicts the bodhisattva seated in dhyanasana on a double-lotus pedestal. It formerly belonged to Doris Wiener Gallery, owned by Doris Wiener, a specialist in Asian arts.

Buddhist sculptures made in the reign of the Yongle Emperor are one of the most sought-after categories on the market. Made on the orders of the Imperial Court in China during the first half of the 15th century, the figure displayed a style influenced by the art of Tibet, characterized by its delicate appearance, emphasized by the intimate size and exquisitely finished details.

Cheung Kong Center situated in Central, Hong Kong

Offered an opening bid at US$280,000, the figure was hammered down at US$1.1m and sold for US$1.33m with buyer’s premium. The Value has learnt that the buyer is an eminent Hong Kong tycoon.

‘WinterGreen’-Glazed Jar and Cover from Yongle Period went unsold

Five out of 14 lots offered went unsold at the sale, including a ‘wintergreen’-glazed jar and cover carrying an estimate of US$1.5m-2m. The sale achieved 64 percentage sold by lot and a total of US$9.39m.


Top three lots

An Exceptionally Rare and Important Blue and White Ewer
Xuande Mark and Period, Ming Dynasty

Lot no.: 110
Height: 33cm
Collection of Gustav Detring (1842-1913) or Constantin von Hanneken (1854-1925), and thence by descent.
Estimate: US$600,000 - 800,000
Hammer price: US$2,600,000
Price realized: US$3,135,000

An Extremely Rare Blue and White 'lotus Bud' Vase
Ming Dynasty, Chenghua Period

Lot no.: 113
Height: 26.6cm

  • Acquired in New Jersey, circa 1979.
  • Offered at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 24th-25th November 1981, lot 71.

Estimate: US$1,000,000 - 1,500,000
Hammer price: US$2,400,000
Price realized: US$2,895,000

An Exceptional Gilt-bronze Figure of Manjushri
Yongle Mark and Period, Ming Dynasty

Lot no.: 107
Height: 18.4cm

  • Doris Wiener Gallery, New York, acquired between 1965 -1970.
  • American Private Collection, and thence by descent.

Estimate: US$400,000 - 600,000
Hammer price: US$1,100,000
Price realized: US$1,335,000


Top Lot Went Unsold

An Exceptionally Rare 'Wintergreen'-Glazed Jar and Cover
Ming Dynasty, Yongle Period

Lot no.: 105
Diameter: 12cm

  • Important Asian Private Collection.
  • Sotheby's Hong Kong, 8th October 2009, lot 1624. (HK$9,844,000)

Estimate: US$1,500,000 - 2,000,000


Auction summary

Auction house: Sotheby’s New York
Sale: MING: Luminous Dawn of Empire
Auction date: 2018/3/20
Lot offered: 14
Sold: 9
Unsold: 5
Sold by lot: 64%
Sale total: US$9,394,500