Important Chinese Art including Jades from the De An Tang Collection and Gardens of Pleasure – Erotic Art from the Bertholet Collection

Important Chinese Art including Jades from the De An Tang Collection and Gardens of Pleasure – Erotic Art from the Bertholet Collection

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 3656. Gardens of Pleasure, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period | 清康熙 〈愉悅滿園〉 一冊八幀全 設色絹本.

Property from the Bertholet Collection 貝氏情色藝術珍藏

Gardens of Pleasure, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period | 清康熙 〈愉悅滿園〉 一冊八幀全 設色絹本

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Property from the Bertholet Collection

Gardens of Pleasure

Qing dynasty, Kangxi period


清康熙 〈愉悅滿園〉 一冊八幀全 設色絹本

a complete imperial album of 8 paintings, ink and colour on silk

39.5 by 55.5 cm

Collection of C.T. Loo (1880-1957), Paris, and thence by descent.


Michel Beurdeley, in collaboration with Kristofer Schipper, Chang Fu-Jui and Jacques Pimpaneau, Chinese Erotic Art, Rutland, 1969, pp. 74-76, 96, 103, 113-114, and 116.

Ferdinand M. Bertholet, Les Jardins du Plaisir: Érotisme et art dans la Chine ancienne / Gardens of Pleasure: Eroticism and Art in China, Paris, 2003 (rev. English ed., Munich, Berlin, London, New York, 2010), pp. 6, 10, 17, 70-89.

Ferry M. Bertholet, Concubines and Courtesans: Women in Chinese Erotic Art, Brussels, 2010, pls 42 and 68. 

Michel Beurdeley,Kristofer Schipper、張馥蕊及班伯訥合撰,《雲雨》,拉特蘭,1969年,頁74-76、 96、103、113-114及116

貝索烈,《Les Jardins du Plaisir: Érotisme et art dans la Chine ancienne / Gardens of Pleasure: Eroticism and Art in China》,巴黎,2003年(英文再版,慕尼黑、柏林、倫敦、紐約,2010年),頁6、10、17、70-89

貝索烈,《Concubines and Courtesans: Women in Chinese Erotic Art》,布魯塞爾,2010年,圖版42、68

The lovers of this album, young and joyful, set themselves apart from the promiscuous couples commonly seen in erotic paintings of the time. The silky drapery, exquisite jewellery and tasteful interior design undoubtedly indicate an imperial context. Only hands skilled enough to serve the court could have painted these charming scenes with such great detail. The present album, stylistically linked to the late Zhe School, is most likely to have been produced at the Qing Imperial Academy of the Kangxi Emperor. It is arguably one of the finest Chinese erotic artworks.

The figures are naturalistically rendered with facial features that conform to the traditional ideal of beauty. The actions are passionate but without haste. Most are partially undressed as if caught in a fleeting moment during their affectionate exchange. A couple of them seductively gaze out at the beholder as if signalling a personal invitation (the third and fourth scenes).

The luxuriant plants imply the different seasons: spring with peach blossom, magnolia and hydrangea, summer with lotus and wistaria, autumn with rose and chrysanthemum, and winter with narcissus and prunus. The paintings are further enhanced by rich symbolism throughout the album. The arrival of spring and the idea of romantic love, for example, is evoked by a pair of swallows in flight above a young couple below the willows (the second scene), and in the polygynous scene, a watermelon and a lotus root symbolise fertility (the fourth scene).

Albums such as the present example were used as guides for the newlyweds or as instruments of arousal. There is a playful detail in one of the leaves as the duo is depicted as enjoying an erotic album leaf of a similarly posed couple (the sixth scene).

Upon close examination it is apparent that the intimate acts are carefully staged, framed by the furniture and architectural elements of the royal pavilions and gardens. All the scenes are semi-private, shielded by trees and rocks. The compositions are outstanding, for harmony is achieved through the balance of lines as well as colours. Top-quality pigments such as malachite, lapis lazuli and vermilion are applied judiciously in order to highlight selected elements. The colouration is mostly well preserved despite the passage of time.

The majority of painters working in the Qing Imperial Academy under the Kangxi Emperor were from southern regions such as Zhejiang and Jiangsu, hence the name nanjiang (‘southern craftsmen’). James Cahill notes that these painters “constituted the Academy, and brought to it their highly developed skills and urban repertories” (Pictures for Use and Pleasure: Vernacular Painting in High Qing China, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 2010, p. 35). Jiangsu painter Gu Jianlong (1606-1687 or later) is recorded as appointed painting attendant (zhihou) in the early Kangxi period. During his decade of service at the court, he is believed to have painted an extant series of two hundred illustrations to the late Ming erotic novel Jin ping mei [The plum in the golden vase], presumably for the Emperor (ibid., p. 59).

Another skilled painter from Suzhou, Xu Wen (active 1690-1722, d. 1724), whose artistic repertoire includes erotica, was once summoned to court to participate in the painting project for the Kangxi Emperor’s sixtieth birthday. An erotic album by Xu, with clever use of compositional space and the utmost attention to detail, displays an artistic style not dissimilar to the present example. The album was exhibited in A Selection of Calligraphy and Paintings from the Collection of Mr and Mrs Ullens de Schooten of Belgium, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2002, pp. 52-53, and illustrated in Pictures for Use and Pleasure, op. cit., fig. 2.3.

The present album was formerly in the collection of C.T. Loo (Loo Ching Tsai, 1880-1957). Born into a scholarly family in Zhejiang, Loo was educated in Shanghai before moving to Paris at the age of 20. In 1902 he established ‘Ton Ying’, a private trading company with Zhang Jingjiang, the commercial attaché to the Qing Minister in France, and contributed to the financing of the Xinhai Revolution which ended imperial rule. With access to treasures from the Qing court collection, and agents not only in Beijing and Shanghai but also in the interior cities, he was the unrivalled buyer of Chinese art of all periods throughout the 1920s and 1930s. He originally set up a gallery in Paris, but after the First World War he also opened stores in Fifth Avenue, New York and became a major supplier to museums throughout the US, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.







另一位知名蘇州南匠,徐玟(活躍於1690-1722年,1724年卒),擅長繪畫範疇包含春畫。康熙六十大壽之際,曾受詔入宮,參與萬壽節相關繪畫。徐氏所作一冊春畫,構圖巧妙,細節豐富精彩,類同本品,展出於《比利時尤倫斯夫婦藏中國書畫選集》,故宮博物院,北京,2002年,頁52、53,亦刊於《致用與娛情》,前述出處,圖2. 3。