S otheby’s is delighted to present six items from the celebrated Eberhardt collection. The star lot of the group is the magnificent Shang dynasty bronze ding food vessel with a pictograph, formerly in the collections of T.Y. King and H.E. Alexandre J. Argyropoulos. The prominent eyes of the animal masks, together with the crisply cast cicadas, declare its ritual significance during the glorious time of the Shang dynasty. The sale also includes a few Western Zhou dynasty bronzes, such as a mask-decorated gui food vessel and a pair of horse bridle ornaments. Julius Eberhardt’s passion in early Chinese art was not limited to archaic bronzes only, and his eclectic interest is represented by two artefacts from the Neolithic period in this sale: a smoothly polished pale celadon jade cong and a painted pottery jar with minimalist features of a bird.
Julius Eberhardt (1936-2012), an acclaimed Austrian architect, had been fascinated by the art and culture of ancient China since the time of his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. The pursuit of his interest, however, was interrupted after he took over his father’s construction business, which grew multifold in the following decades. He returned to this interest only late in life, after a trip to the Far East. Being particularly intrigued by the early dynasties of China’s past, he assembled at the end of the 20th century a major collection of Chinese works of art ranging from the Neolithic (from the 4th millennium BC) to the Tang (618-907), including the present selection of archaic works.
As he derived immense pleasure himself from this collection of ancient Chinese works of art, Julius Eberhardt was determined to share it with others. Aware of the paucity of similar material in his native Austria, he set up a private museum in Vienna (fig. 1) with the intention to make the collection available to scholars and researchers. The museum, generously appointed, exquisitely and sensitively layout, and accompanied by a small library, was open by appointment and offered a congenial environment to enjoy and study these objects. It was the first major private collection of ancient Chinese art to be assembled and made public in Austria. Part of his endeavour to make his collection available to the public was his commissioning of a bilingual (German-English) catalogue which was published in 1999, with a first addendum in 2004, and a second one being planned at the time of his death (Regina Krahl, Sammlung Julius Eberhardt. Frühe chinesische Kunst / Collection Julius Eberhardt. Early Chinese Art, 2 vols, Hong Kong, n.d.  and 2004, fig. 2). Like the Museum, the books were produced to a very high standard, thanks to his longtime advisors Lothar and the late Christina Wesemann.
Among the many fine works of art he acquired, his greatest coup was undoubtedly the acquisition of the Argyropoulos bronzes from J.J. Lally & Co, New York, which would be star items in any collection of Chinese art and became the core and pride of the Eberhardt collection. H.E. Alexandre J. Argyropoulos (1894-1978), descendant of a renowned Byzantine family from Constantinople, was the Greek ambassador to China after World War II. The top lot of the present sale is also formerly in the Argyropoulos collection.
In 2013, Sotheby’s had the honour to offer a tightly curated group of ten archaic bronzes from the Eberhardt collection, which was met with enthusiasm by collectors and scholars alike (fig. 3). Led by the early Western Zhou dynasty Zuo Bao Yi Gui from the Argyropoulos collection which fetched over 6.6 million USD, the sale is considered as one of the landmark auctions in the field, in par with the Albright-Knox auction at Sotheby’s in 2007.
艾君透過收藏中國古代藝術品獲得了無窮的樂趣，是以設法想將這份喜悅與眾共享。鑑於家鄉奧地利可供硏究中國古代藝術的資源有限，他決定於維也納創建奧地利首座私人中國古代藝術博物館（圖一）。博物館館藏豐富，布局別出心裁，並設有小圖書館，為學者們提供了適意的研究環境。為了給予大眾更多欣賞藏品的機會，艾君更於1999年出版德英雙語版藏品圖錄，並於2004年出版附錄（康蕊君，《Sammlung Julius Eberhardt: Frühe chinesische Kunst［朱利思．艾伯哈特藏品集：早期中國藝術］》，全兩卷，香港，1999及2004年，圖二）。直到2012年艾君離世之時，附錄次卷還在籌備當中。有賴於艾君兩位顧問羅特和克麗絲娜．維斯門夫婦的長期協作，圖錄出版及博物館活動皆遵循嚴格的學術標準。