Quo-Wei Lee Collection Returns to Sotheby’s Saleroom Following Last Year Success

Last autumn season, Sotheby’s offered a selection of Imperial porcelain and jade from Quo-Wei Lee Collection in a single-owner sale which achieved an extraordinary sell-through rate of 91%. A Ming-style blue and white ‘figure’ bowl was even sold for HK$18.72m (US$2.4m) against its estimate HK$150,000. This year, Sotheby’s presents part two of the sale featuring 43 lots, led by several Qianlong white jade art pieces.

Quo-Wei Lee met Zhu Rongji, the former Premier of the People’s Republic of China. 1993

Sir Q.W. Lee was undoubtedly one of the most remarkable bankers, philanthropists and collectors of his generation. He was notable for his achievements in business and education fields. He served as the Chairman of Hang Seng Bank. In 1988, he was given knighthood under British rule for his contribution to society.

He was also a prominent political figure who served as an unofficial member of Executive Council and Legislative Council. In addition to his extraordinary commitment to excellence in all facets of his professional life, Sir Q.W. Lee was also known for his passion for collecting antiques. He was one of the earliest and most senior members of Min Chiu Society, the group of knowledgeable and respected collectors.

Sir Q.W. Lee served as an unofficial member of Executive Council and Legislative Council

Like its previous sale, the present sale has caught the attention of Chinese art lovers because of the high quality, attractively low estimate and outstanding provenance of items on offer. Here are some exquisite pieces that we pick up from his collection offered at the sale.

A white jade barbed vase, Gu, Qianlong period

A rare white jade barbed vase, gu, with a height of 20.8cm is estimated at HK$3m-5m. The form of this piece draws inspiration from archaic bronze wine vessels, gu, made in the Shang (16th century-c.1046 BC) and Western Zhou (c.1046-771 BC) dynasties. The robust shape of the bronze prototype was transformed into a graceful barbed silhouette that resembles the upper view of an open flower.

The present vase represents one of the most graceful and successful reinterpretation of the bronze gu shape and epitomises the antiquarian nature that characterises jade carvings of this period. An erudite scholar and passionate collector of antiques, the Qianlong Emperor’s love for the past was grounded in his admiration for Chinese history and influenced by Confucian philosophy.

An Imperial inscribed white jade reticulated 'Wulao Tu' brushpot, Qianlong Period

A white jade reticulated 'Bajixiang' bowl and cover, Lian, Qianlong Period, is expected to fetch HK$2m-3m. The present bowl and cover testify the pursuit of harmonious beauty and adroit draughtsmanship in jade carvings during the Qianlong period. Lian served as vessels to carry grooming tools and cosmetics in ancient China. In the Qing imperial court, such bowls were often fashioned from wood, and either adorned with auspicious carved decoration or inlaid with jade. Jade bowls as such would have been a testament to the owner’s family status and wealth, and sometimes formed part of a lady’s dowry.

An Imperial inscribed white jade reticulated 'Wulao Tu' brushpot, Qianlong Period

An inscribed white jade reticulated 'Wulao Tu' brushpot, Qianlong Period, is estimated at HK$2m-3m. Skilfully reticulated, the present brushpot is carved with a continuous scene of the gathering of five elderly gentlemen sheltered by craggy rocks and overhanging trees, complemented by a flowing stream and a lofty pavilion in the background.

As such, this brushpot is like a long scroll with a narrative enfolding around the sides, showing the five venerable scholars travelling through the countryside, enjoying various leisurely activities and the hidden delights of forests and streams. It is completed by an imperial poem written in 1766 by the Qianlong Emperor, titled ti Hetian yu wulao tu ('On the Khotan jade depicting the Five Elders'), praising not only the carving of the figures and the mountains, but also a desirable carefree lifestyle.

Important Chinese Art from the Collection of Sir Quo-Wei Lee II|Highlights      

A Superbly Carved and Rare White Jade Barbed Vase, Gu
Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period

Lot no.: 121
Size: 20.8cm
Provenance: Sotheby's London, 1st July 1969, lot 58.
Estimate: HK$3,000,000 - 5,000,000

An Exceptional and Rare White Jade Archaistic Marriage Bowl
Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period

Lot no.: 130
Size: 22.7cm
Provenance: Christie’s London, 7th February 1973, lot 175.
Estimate: HK$3,000,000 - 4,000,000

A Superb White Jade Reticulated 'Bajixiang' Bowl and Cover, Lian
Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period

Lot no.: 117
Size: 16cm
Estimate: HK$2,000,000 - 3,000,000

An Exceptional Imperial Inscribed White Jade Reticulated 'Wulao Tu' Brushpot Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period

Lot no.: 118 Size: 12.8cm
Provenance: Collection of Percy D. Krolik. Sotheby’s London, 24th February 1970, lot 130.
Estimate: HK$2,000,000 - 3,000,000

A Large Inlaid White Jade Figure of Guanyin
Qing Dynasty, 18th – 19th Century

Lot no.: 125
Size: 27.1cm
Estimate: HK$1,500,000 - 2,000,000

A Finely Carved White Jade 'Pine' Vase
Qing Dynasty, 18th Century

Lot no.: 124
Size: 18.7cm
Estimate: HK$600,000 - 800,000

An Archaistic Spinach-green Jade Box and Cover
Mark and Period of Qianlong

Lot no.: 133
Size: 15.9cm
Estimate: HK$500,000 - 700,000

A Superb Pair of White Jade Bowls
Marks and Period of Jiaqing

Lot no.: 104
Size: 12.4cm
Estimate: HK$400,000 - 600,000

Auction details

Auction house: Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Sale: Important Chinese Art from the Collection of Sir Quo-Wei Lee II
Lots offered: 43
3 October 2019|10am - 5:30pm
4-5 October 2019|10am - 8pm
6-7 October 2019|10am - 6:30pm
Sale date: 8 October 2019|10:40am