S otheby’s is privileged to present a diverse assemblage of rare and exceptional Chinese archaic bronzes, jades, ceramics, porcelain and other works of art from distinguished museum and private collections. Leading the sale will be the Guo Ji Shi Zi Zu Hu from the late Western Zhou dynasty, a rare Xuande mark and period blue and white ‘dragon’ ‘dice’ bowl, and an unique hand-painted daguerreotype of Prince Sengge Linqin by Lai Chong dated to 1853, the earliest known dated photograph by a Chinese photographer. Other highlights include a group of remarkable jades and porcelains deaccessioned by the Speed Art museum, a selection of important archaic bronzes from the Maclean Collection, a rare and inscribed archaic bronze zun from the early Western Zhou dynasty, and a fine Qianlong mark and period blue and white ‘fruits’ meiping.
Considered one of the most important and significant archaic bronzes within the field of antiquarianism, the Guo Ji Shi Zi Zu Hu passed through a circle of prominent collectors and literati, including Wu Yun (1811-1883), Li Hongyi (1831-1885) and Zuo An (1864-1885), providing a glimpse into the spirit and zeitgeist of antiquarianism in China in the 19th and early 20th century. The hu was excavated from Fengxiang, Shaanxi province, during the Qing dynasty, and was most likely already discovered by the end of the Qianlong reign.
Lot 233 | The Guo Ji Shi Zi Zu Hu, Late Western Zhou dynasty
Late 9th or 8th Century BC
Objects created specifically for use on the scholar's desks can be traced to at least as early as the Han dynasty. During the mid- to late Ming dynasty, the full repertoire of jade scholars' objects was developed, and by the Qing dynasty had come to include brushpots, brush rests, wrist rests, brushes, brush washers, water droppers, scroll and paperweights, as well as larger objects for display on the desk. The following group of jades from the Speed Art Museum, Louisville (lots 201-226), represents a small selection of exquisite scholars’ objects that would have been displayed, cherished and enjoyed in a scholar’s studio during the Qing dynasty.
The Speed Art Museum, Louisville is the oldest and largest museum in Kentucky. Founded by Hattie Bishop Speed (1858–1942) as a memorial to her husband, James Breckinridge Speed (1844-1912), in 1927, the museum has grown to encompass a collection of artwork from across the world. Major donors of Chinese art include William H. and Sophia H. Harrison, who donated many jades previously in the T.B. Walker Collection, and Dr. Preston Pope Satterwhite (1867-1948), who was also a collector of fifteenth- to seventeenth-century French and Italian decorative arts and a prominent benefactor of the museum.
To compile a collection of Chinese archaic bronzes as comprehensive and varied as that of Barry MacLean is a remarkable feat. It is weapons and tools made of bronze that define the Bronze Age – as against the Stone or the Iron Age – but the repertoire of ancient China’s bronze casters was vast. To showcase their ingenuity and inventiveness is clearly what Barry MacLean had in mind, when he assembled this group. The classic ritual vessels and bells that were used in the ancestral ceremonies of the Shang (c.1600-1046 BC) and Zhou (1046-221 BC) dynasties always occupied an exalted position among China’s works of art; but as the collection aptly documents, bronze craftsmen equally devoted their care and creativity to the production of luxuries for daily use, musical instruments, as well as practical items.
The unique hand-painted daguerreotype offered here is the earliest known dated photograph by a Chinese photographer. Hidden behind the plate is a leaflet fragment with ‘Daguerreotype. From Lai Chong. Photographer. Shanghai-Kuling’ in letterpress. ‘Lai Chong Zhao Xiang Hao (麗昌照相號)’ is written on the reverse in Chinese. While this piece has been previously catalogued and exhibited as by a photographer named Lai Chong, it is now believed that the name refers instead to a Chinese-run photographic studio. Extensive notations in several hands identify the sitter as Prince Sengge Linqin (Sengge Rinchen / Senggelinqin) (1811-1865), a Mongol nobleman who served as the yellow bannerman under the Qing dynasty and commanded the Chinese forces during the Second Opium War. Taken in August 1853 when photography was in its infancy in China, this daguerreotype is a landmark in the history of photography in this region.
Lot 287 | Lai Chong Studio, General Ko-Lin
Dated Xianfeng 3rd year, corresponding to 1853
From the esteemed collection of Luis Virata, these two rare and exceptionally impressive sculptures embody many of the finest qualities of Tang dynasty (618-907) art. The figures are sensitively carved with slender, graceful features. They are remarkably sophisticated in their sculptural quality, their serene and compassionate faces with subtle smiles, voluminous coiffure neatly tied up in a spiral bun, bodies displayed in an elegant swaying pose, exposed torsos adorned with jewelry and scarves, and gracefully draped, thin flowing skirts. This magnificent pair of bodhisattva figures depicts heavenly beings imbued with a sense of human qualities.
Lot 294 | An extremely rare pair of polychrome limestone figures of bodhisattvas