Chinese Art Online
A Private Asian Collection
Online Auction: 21–28 July 2022 • 10:00 AM HKT • Hong Kong

Chinese Art Online: A Private Asian Collection 21–28 July 2022 • 10:00 AM HKT • Hong Kong

C hinese Art Online encompasses a diverse range of early Chinese artworks from a private Asian collection assembled from international auctions and art dealers. The highlight of the sale is a group of archaic bronzes from prominent collections including Eskenazi, Sano Art Museum, Mengdiexuan, Sze Yuan Tang, Muwen Tang and Robert H. Ellsworth. Such treasures are considered the height of metalcraft and artistic expression in an ancient period of history.

Shang and Zhou Dynasties:
Symbols of Power in Archaic Bronze Forms

Each bronze vessel shape had a specific function and fascinating history. Perhaps the most important shape may be the tripod ding, a ritual food cauldron with a deep U-shaped body and supported on three tall legs. This category of vessel features prominently in the legend of China's first dynasty – in which King Yu divided the realm into nine provinces, each represented by one of nine ding. As the dynasty gave way to the Shang and later to the Zhou, the idea of possessing bronze ding had become synonymous with political legitimacy and sovereignty.

Casting and moulding methods during the Shang dynasty marked a significant innovation over the earliest bronze ritual vessels, which were forged by hammer. The new techniques gave rise to more sophisticated, large-scale production, and the development of intricate designs and new forms. The bronze vessels were intended for worship of ancestors, offerings in feast rites, commemoration of important events or various sacrificial ceremonies.

The perfect harmony of form, decoration, and inscriptions on the ritual objects represents the earliest narrative that predates the written word.

Lot 3003 the pair of inscribed 'gong bo' ding represents an unusual sub-group of ding, characterized by its distinctive blade-like zoomorphic legs. The particular group of ding takes inspiration from Neolithic pottery and flourished during the Shang and early Western Zhou dynasties. This symmetry in both form and decorative elements not only offers an aesthetic of balance and proportion, but also suggests a harmony of two realms – a dualism in thought that brings to mind the interaction of art and ritual.

Jue is a wine vessel popular during the Shang dynasty and was used during ceremonial rites for wine libations. The jue has a tripod shape which enables the wine held in the container to be heated. At one end is a long spout to pour wine, and at the opposite end is a pointed tail forming the rim, surmounted by a pair of finials. Lot 3001 is an example cast with two characters reading Fu Yi beneath the handle, which means dedicating this vessel to Fu Yi (Father Yi).

Archaic bronze vessels reflect the spiritual aspirations from the early beginnings of the Shang and Zhou dynasties. While the precise meaning of the objects has obscured through the passage of time, they have become tangible symbols of the interaction between art and ritual. Having an essential function in sacred rites of leadership – of securing harmony between the spiritual and earthly realms – the bronze ritual objects took on the symbolic meaning of political sovereignty and the divine authority bestowed upon ancient rulers.

Highlights of Bronzes from the Eastern Zhou and Han Dynasties

Chariot Fittings

Chariots are deeply ingrained in Chinese culture, they had become one of the most important symbols of status and wealth in China, as chariots could only be used by nobles and high-ranking soldiers.

Exoticism in the Tang Dynasty

The Tang dynasty represents one of the most glorious chapters of China’s history when the country was open to and fascinated by influences beyond its boundaries. New desires were kindled and a stream of novel visual stimuli was imported via the Silk Road. Indicative of the trade route's incredible breadth, the two-hump Bactrian camels, as portrayed in lot 3004, were the preferred means of transport for traders as they were capable of travelling farther distances than the single-hump Arabian camels.

Two large sancai pottery figures of earth spirits, Tang dynasty | ESTIMATE 100,000 - 150,000 HKD (left) & 80,000 - 120,000 HKD (right)

The cosmopolitan nature of the culture is also evident in the extravagant pottery figures commissioned for royal and aristocratic tombs. Production and ownership of these rarified glazed figures were restricted to north China, largely in the areas around the capital cities of Luoyang and Chang’an. This flamboyant interpretation of these guardian figures, as portrayed in lot 3002 and lot 3007, derives from Buddhist art in India. It epitomizes the Tang elite’s admiration of exoticism during the height of its power over Silk Road trade routes. The magnificent mythical figures represent both technically and aesthetically the peak of Chinese tomb figures produced during the Tang dynasty.

Highlights of Stone Carvings

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