A selection of Chinese works of art from Le Cong Tang, a collection owned by celebrated collector Robert Tsao, realised more than HK$534m (US$68m) in 2017 Hong Kong autumn sales. Two star lots in the season, an Imperial Ru brush washer from the Northern Song dynasty and a Wucai Fish Jar from Jiajing, respectively made headlines at the two leading auction houses.
In the coming autumn season at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, the top lot again falls into an important work of art from Le Cong Tang – a highly important Beijing-enamelled pouch-shaped glass vase, blue enamel mark and period of Qianlong, is expected to fetch in excess of HK$200m.
A highly important Beijing-enamelled pouch-shaped glass vase, blue enamel mark and period of Qianlong, is expected to fetch in excess of HK$200m
The seal mark ‘Qianlong Nianzhi’ is inscribed in flowers
Robert Tsao, the owner of Le Cong Tang
Enamelled vessels in the Qianlong period were painted in Western styles with vibrant colours. Glass vessels were by far the most complex and demanding of all works of art commissioned at the Beijing Palace Workshops. The present one measures 18.2cm in height and is inscribed with a four-character seal mark of ‘Qianlong Nianzhi’ (made in the Qianlong period) on the body.
Pouch shape and ribbon design are popular in vessels made during the Yongzheng and Qianlong periods. Pouch (包袱, baofu) in Chinese is a homophone of ‘a package of luck and fortune’ (包福, baofu). This auspicious theme was also favoured by the Qianlong emperor himself.
Glazed in yellow ground, the vase depicts a flying phoenix and peonies. These two motifs can be found in examples of Dingzhou ware and Yaozhou ware in the Song dynasty (960-1279) and throughout Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) dynasties.
The back of pouch-shaped glass vase
The pouch-shaped glass vase belonged to A.W. Bahr (1877-1959) collection
The pouch-shaped glass vase came from the legendary collection of Prince Gong. It later passed through the hands of A.W. Bahr and Paul and Helen Bernat. A.W. Bahr was born in Shanghai in 1877 to a German father and a Chinese mother. He founded the Central Trading Company in 1898 and began organizing various art exhibitions with pieces from his own collection. Before his death in 1959, Bahr donated pieces of his collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
The Paul and Helen Bernat are renowned collectors in Chinese works of art. The Paul and Helen Bernat Galleries at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, was named in their honour in 1990 and houses some of their important collection of Chinese ceramics.
In fall 2000, the pouch-shaped glass vase was acquired by Robert Tsao for a record-breaking HK$24m. After nearly two decades, the vase goes up at auction again at Sotheby’s Hong Kong autumn sales this October, estimated at more than HK$200m, nearly ten folds its value in 2000.
Please stay tuned for other highlights offered at Sotheby’s Hong Kong autumn sales 2019.
A highly important Beijing-enamelled pouch-shaped glass vase
Blue enamel mark and period of Qianlong
- A.W. Bahr (1877 - 1959)
- Paul and Helen Bernat
- Le Cong Tang (owned by Robert Tsao)
Estimate: Expected to fetch in excess of HK$200m
Sotheby’s Hong Kong Autumn Sales 2019
Asia travelling exhibitions:
4 - 22 Septembers | Shanghai, Beijing, Jakarta, Beijing, Bangkok, Singapore, Seoul, Taipei
Preview & auction:
3 - 8 October｜Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre