T he name Joseph Lau resonates with collectors around the globe and it is one that stands for excellence. Chinese art stands at the genesis of Joseph Lau’s adventure with art and it is on Chinese art that he cut his exacting eye before expanding his horizons. At the age of 27, Lau walked for the first time into a Sotheby’s preview in 1978, just before a time many consider to be the first golden age of Sotheby’s Hong Kong when the celebrated collections of J.M. Hu, T.Y. Chao, Paul and Helen Bernat and the British Rail Pension Fund came to market. During the following ten years, Lau assembled one of the finest collections of Chinese porcelain ever, articulated around masterpieces, each representative of the best of a certain period and type, and handpicked from the most prestigious collections.
The blue and white jar decorated with two makara dragons chasing each other appears to be unique and the powerful style of the painting and brilliance of the cobalt pigment epitomise the very finest that early Ming dynasty porcelain is so known for. The type of dragon that is represented on this jar is typical of Tibetan Buddhist iconography and the jar would once have adorned the hall of an imperial temple, most probably in the capital.
The blue and white dish decorated on the outside with dragons represents an exceedingly scarce example of the Chenghua reign more than half a century later, the most celebrated period in the Ming dynasty among porcelain connoisseurs. The creaminess of the white porcelain, infinitely soft tones of cobalt blue and the sensuous touch of the glaze on this dish are all trademarks of the wares from this most desirable period of which only two dozen examples survive to this day.
Among the Qing porcelains, the Lau collection includes a magnificent large famille-rose dish from the Yongzheng period decorated with flowering and fruiting peach branches which hails from the illustrious collections of Baron Iwasaki and Barabara Hutton. The peach, with the subtle shades of its skin, was the perfect subject matter for porcelain painters at the imperial kilns to experiment with the possibilities of the famille-rose pigments. A small number of comparable examples have survived to this day but the rendering differs on each and every example.
The very private collection of Chinese art of Joseph Lau occupies pride of place among the very finest ever assembled in the field and will delight connoisseurs of Chinese porcelains. This selection of beautiful pieces is an opportunity for the most discerning collectors to acquire a piece from his celebrated collection.
Chairman, Sotheby’s Asia
Gems of Imperial Porcelain | Private Collection of Joseph Lau