As nature's splendors come into view, My heart longs for their rendezvous.
In the realm of "Monochrome" – a term signifying a single hue – lies a beauty transcending mere color, delving into the essence and inherent nature of objects. "Monochrome," the quintessence of all things, bespeaks a world teeming with life, wherein only humans can create: with varying skills come masterful or clumsy works; with diverse temperaments arise the refined or the vulgar. Each object, each vessel, possesses a character that resonates with its creator and collector, and it is within this harmony that joy is born. Wang Yangming, in a letter to his student Huang Mianzhi, wrote: "Joy is the essence of the heart. The benevolent heart perceives all things in heaven and earth as one, unified in harmony, with no separation."
In truth, no chasm exists between humans and objects, yet an affinity must be found. The refined cannot abide the mundane, while the ordinary's possession of elegance leads to the squandering of nature's gifts. Monochrome concerns itself with aesthetics, and in this curated selection, simplicity and grace take center stage. Stripping away ostentation, we seek to reach the heart of Chinese art through a path unencumbered by superficial colors.
「物華」專場的英文 Monochrome 本為單色之意，而意趣遠在顔色之外，近乎器物之本色與秉性。「物華」本意萬物精華，天地生萬物，然而唯有人可以造物：技有優劣，所以物有巧拙；品格高低，所以物有雅俗。一物一器皆有性格，又與作者、藏者相應和，應和之間便生樂趣。王陽明在給學生黃勉之的信中說：「樂是心之本體，仁人之心，以天地萬物為一體，訴合和暢，原無間隔。」人與物之間本無間隔，然而需得匹配，雅士俗物自不相容，凡夫雅物便是暴殄天物了。物華關乎審美，專場選物以簡雅爲主，擯除浮華，是爲諸離色相中直抵初心的方便法門。
The door of Tang dynasty China opened wide to welcome a confluence of cultures, near and far, whose influence runs deep. In those days, emperors esteemed grandeur, adorning their courts with objects wrought from gold, silver, and precious glass, their intricacies resplendent and ornate. Time has borne away these treasures, leaving but a few; yet the legacy of the sancai wares endures, a window cast open on the vast ocean of the past, inviting future generations to gaze upon the splendor of the Tang, the thriving Silk Road culture of the day.
The arts thrived in the Tang era, urging potters to innovate, to embrace new winds and forge their own paths, crafting marvels of technique like imprinting, molding, stippling, appliqué, resist, and marbling. Colors grew richer, hues of yellow, green, and blue prevailing, their pleasing shades dappling light and dark, the dance of change made manifest. Among these, the blue-glazed wares earned the highest esteem, their cobalt first employed in the Tang around the 8th century, an exquisite rarity imported from the Middle East. The tri-colored pottery of the Tang blossomed into a style all its own, a cornerstone of Chinese ceramics that, despite the myriad innovations of the ages, has held its place, enduring through a thousand years.
The Song aesthetic is found in ‘skies clearing after rain’ (Yuyao celadon), and in the ‘delicate shadows cast by rabbit fur on purple-glazed wares’ (Jian wares). Song ceramics strike a subtle balance between complexity and simplicity, finesse and rusticity, elegance and the common touch. The white of Ding ware, the green of Longquan, and the patterns of Cizhou—too much, and they are garish; too little, and they falter. This section presents an array of Tang and Song ceramics from Japanese and international private collections, including several exquisite marbled wares from the Song dynasty.
Marbled wares, first created in the Tang era, borrow techniques from lacquer craft, blending two shades of clay to form the body or applying dual-colored clay strips to the finished vessel, a complex process. Song marbled wares were renowned and predominantly produced in Henan, at kilns such as Dengfeng, Dangyangyu, Baofeng, Xin'an, and Wuxiu. Using different-colored clay, they fashioned patterns of feathers, leaves, wood grain, and clouds. The marbled wares displayed here showcase the artisans' skillful hands, with textures both strikingly distinct and ethereally subtle, as if whispered by passing clouds.
The scholar's study has long been a haven for cultivating one's character, finding solace, and enjoying leisure through the written word. Adorned with books, paintings, and prized curios, it is a reflection of the master's quest for inner spirituality and the pursuit of aesthetics. Skilled in the dance of brush and ink, the scholar's desk is incomplete without a practical pen holder. Crafted from ceramics, bamboo, jade, lacquer, or glass, the holder's adorned patterns bear symbolic meanings, while popular scenes of reclusive scholars in the mountains or historical tales remind us that even when confined indoors, one can still revel in the pleasure of a wandering mind.
Following the success of our May and November auctions in 2022, we are delighted to present the third installment from the Alleyne Collection, featuring thirteen lots (lot 376-388) for the scholars’ table assembled by two passionate collectors since the 1970s. The couple are erudite admirers of Chinese art as well as beneficent donors to the British Museum in London. Highlights of the group include a unique and rare incised yellow-glazed 'peony and chrysanthemum' brushpot from the Transitional period, previously featured in the well-known exhibition Transitional Wares and Their Forerunners and on loan to Ashmolean Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and T.T. Tsui Gallery.