Imperial Porcelain Made For The Qing Court To Be Offered By Bonhams In Hong Kong

The forthcoming Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art sale, to be held on 3 December 2015 at Bonhams Hong Kong, will offer a curated sale of fine and rare porcelain and works of art made for the Qing Court, which would have once graced the Imperial palaces.

An exceptionally rare Imperial celadon-glazed olive-shaped vase, Yongzheng seal mark and of the period (1723-1735), is estimated at HK$ 3,000,000 – 5,000,000. It is an outstanding example of innovation and remarkable technical perfection achieved in the Imperial kilns during the Yongzheng period, and no other identical example appears to have been published.

Also in the sale is a very rare Imperial guan-type ‘fish basket’, Qianlong seal mark and of the period (1736-1795), previously part of the renowned collection of J.M. Hu (1991-1995). It is estimated at HK$ 5,000,000 – 7,000,000. Related examples can be found in important museum collections such as the Palace Museum, Beijing and the British Museum, London.

A rare Imperial puce-enamelled blue and white ‘dragon’ moonflask, Qianlong seal mark and of the period (1736-1795), estimated at HK$ 1,500,000 – 2,000,000, was kept in the family for over 100 years, by descent from Colonel W.H. Starr, CB, CMG, CBE, who served in the Royal Army Medical Corps from the 1850s to WWI.

An exceptional finely-inlaid ‘hundred-deer’ zitan box and cover, Kangxi (1662-1722), estimated at HK$ 3,500,000 – 4,500,000, published in 1993 and 2003, demonstrates the highest level of workmanship achieved during the early Qing Dynasty. The brilliance of the master craftsman is evident in how naturalistic the scene appears. The multiple deer depicted on the present box elude to the popular 'hundred deer' motif, bailu, which is a homophone for 'hundred emoluments', representing the wish 'May you receive the hundred emoluments from heaven'. Deer were also regarded as symbols of longevity due to their long life spans and ability to find lingzhi, the fungus of immortality. The decoration on the present box, with deer depicted together with pine trees and rocks that are also symbols of longevity, presents a multitude of auspicious wishes.

A further vestige of the Imperial Qing Court is a rare Imperial gilt-bronze archaistic ritual bell, Qianlong mark and of the period, dated to the 10th year, corresponding to 1745, estimated at HK$ 1,200,000 – 1,500,000. The bells were required by Court protocol for ritual ceremonies and important occasions, including state rituals, Court assemblies, formal banquets and processions of the Imperial Guard. Extremely heavy and expensive to cast, these Imperial musical instruments formed an important part of Court furnishings.

A rare white jade double-sided screen, Qianlong (1736-1795), estimated at HK$ 600,000 – 800,000, is a particularly opulent and skillfully carved example, utilising the precious white jade stone as a pictorial canvas.

An exceptional Chinese ormolu paste-set clock, Qianlong (1736-1795), Guangzhou workshops, is estimated at HK$ 800,000 – 1,200,000. Timepieces provided a bridge between Western and Chinese culture, with the European Jesuits utilising the sophisticated and exotic clocks as a means to gain access to the Imperial Court. The passion for European clocks was embraced by the Qing Court and the Qianlong Emperor, but also extended to imminent officials and wealthy merchants. Clocks were symbolic of the ability to master the time and the calendar; they solidified the Emperor's position as the Son of Heaven of having divine powers and the ability to control the transcendence of time in the universe. They also represented the relationship between time and good governance.

Asaph Hyman, Bonhams International Head, Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, commented: “We are delighted to offer a fine selection drawn upon many distinguished European collections, of Imperial porcelain and outstanding works of art.”

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