The Personal Collection of the late Sir Joseph Hotung | Part II: Day
Live Auction: 8 December 2022 • 10:30 AM GMT • London

HOTUNG | 何東 The Personal Collection of the late Sir Joseph Hotung | Part II: Day 8 December 2022 • 10:30 AM GMT • London

T he late Sir Joseph Hotung (1930-2021) collected with an unusually powerful combination of both ‘heart’ and ‘eye’, allied to a strong intellectual focus on the meaning and importance of a piece of art. The decoration of his London home became, as a result, an elegant blend of a Chinese scholarly mind with the aesthetic of an English gentleman that might be said to describe Sir Joseph himself in life.

Following the hugely successful series of auctions in Hong Kong, Sotheby’s is honored to introduce the second part of his remarkable collection which celebrates his lesser-known passion for Western fine and decorative art, coupled with a wonderful array of Asian works which Sir Joseph combined in perfect harmony forming the backdrop of his life in London.

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Auction Highlights

Neolithic to Qing: Chinese Jades From the Collection of Sir Joseph Hotung

‘Initially my principal aim in collecting was to bring together fine objects of spirit and character but, as a happy by-product, the collection has come to reflect China’s cultural history, representing most periods with jades of the highest quality that I could acquire.’
Sir Joseph Hotung

Lot 153, A ceremonial jade blade, Neolithic period, ca. 2500-2000 BC | 新石器時代 玉刀

The late Sir Joseph Hotung had a long fascination with Chinese jades. Respected and revered in the art world for his philanthropy and his large collection of masterworks from different media, Sir Joseph began his search for Chinese works of art in the late 1970s with jades: ‘My very first purchase was a pair of evenly matched white jade bowls of the Qing dynasty. Their stark simplicity, smoothness of surface and purity of stone immediately caught my eye. The extraordinarily tactile quality of jade, so apparent in this pair, is one of the attributes for which jades have always been valued in China. This led to subsequent acquisitions of decorative later Qing pieces, but soon thereafter my interest moved to the archaic, where the message of the carver seems less transparent.’ Decades after his very first acquisition of Chinese jades, this sale presents part of the outstanding collection he assembled over the years, which ranges from the Neolithic to the later periods, representing the full span of the long and remarkable history of jade carving in China. The main part of the collection now rests with the British Museum.

Lot 163, A green jade disc, bi, Eastern Zhou dynasty | 東周 玉璧

Many of the jades offered in this sale, such as the Neolithic ceremonial jade blade (lot 153), the Shang jade dragon pendant (lot 159) and the Eastern Zhou jade cong (lot 170) are included in the exhibition catalogue Chinese Jade: from the Neolithic to the Qing – written by Prof. Dame Jessica Rawson to accompany a special exhibition of the jade collection of Sir Joseph Hotung held at the British Museum in 1995. Rawson, the curator of the exhibition, described in the catalogue how Sir Joseph’s collection ‘is thoroughly representative of most periods of Chinese jade carving, illustrating the different skills employed as well as the significant shifts in function and purpose that took place over the millennia.’

Lot 249, A mottled grey and black jade figure of a foreigner, Yuan dynasty | 元 玉胡人戯獅

With almost sixty pieces spanning thousands of years of Chinese history, this selection of Sir Joseph’s jades allows us to appreciate not only the artistic and cultural importance of jades in China, but also the character, connoisseurship and style of the collector who had amassed them. Shijing (The Book of Odes), a classic work traditionally believed to have been compiled by the Chinese sage Confucius (551-479 BC), states: ’When I think of a wise man, his merits appear to be like jade.’ Here you are invited to discover the unfading beauty of jades, and the jade-like personality of the truly remarkable collector Sir Joseph Hotung.

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Fine English and Chinese Furniture


Sir Joseph built up an unmatched assemblage of some of the best pieces of blue-and-white porcelain, the largest part of which was generously bequeathed to the British Museum. The collection will be housed in the Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of China and South Asia, which was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 2017. Among the highlights from the selection offered here, is an exquisitely painted Transitional period sleeve vase from circa 1640.

Chinese Painting

An Ancient Modernity

Sir Joseph’s collection of pottery and glass ranges from the Neolithic to the Modern British. Unified through simplicity of form, time-worn patina and humble decoration, these vessels speak to each other across continents and over centuries.

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