A HIGHLY IMPORTANT AND MAGNIFICENT SOAPSTONE SEAL CARVED FOR THE QIANLONG EMPEROR
The Most Recognisable Seal Face in The History of Chinese Art
Prominently Impressed on Many of The Most Important Chinese Paintings in The World
GEMS OF IMPERIAL PORCELAIN FROM THE PRIVATE COLLECTION OF JOSEPH LAU
The Genesis of the Collecting Journey of One of the World’s Most Influential and Visionary Collectors
Sotheby’s Hong Kong Chinese Works of Art 2022 Spring Sale Series is led by a highly important and magnificent soapstone seal carved for the Qianlong Emperor, prominently impressed on many of the greatest national treasures of China. The most iconic among all seals destined for art connoisseurship, this superb imperial seal is the highlight of the Hong Kong chapter of the Dr Wou Kiuan Collection, a series of four single-owner sales to held globally throughout 2022. The Spring sale is also highlighted by a selection of Imperial porcelains from Joseph Lau’s legendary collection, one of the finest ever assembled in the field. The group features 8 pieces of imperial porcelain which were acquired from some of the greatest collections. Adding to this season’s strong line-up of renowned private collections are Qing imperial porcelain from the Marchant Collection, Gardens of Pleasure – Erotic Chinese Art from the Bertholet Collection and Jades from the De An Tang Collection.
This season boasts a striking array of Chinese art from prominent private collections around the globe. The sale includes a superb soapstone seal carved for the Qianlong Emperor that one finds prominently impressed on the most important paintings in the history of Chinese art and it is perhaps the most famous seal impression in the history of Chinese art. In addition, we are privileged to present a selection of porcelains from the collection of Joseph Lau, a name that resonates with collectors around the globe and stands for excellence. Chinese art is at the genesis of Joseph Lau’s adventure with collecting art and it is on Chinese art indeed that he cut his exacting eye.
A Journey Through China’s History: The Dr Wou Kiuan Collection
One of the Last Great Collections of Chinese Art Remaining in Private Hands
After its debut in New York this March, the Hong Kong chapter of the Dr Wou Kiuan Collection will kick off in April with a highly important and magnificently carved soapstone seal carved for the Qianlong Emperor early in his reign, which bears the inscription Qianlong Yulan Zhibao (treasures admired by his Majesty the Qianlong Emperor). The seal is found prominently impressed on countless important Chinese paintings including Fan Kuan’s Travelers Among Mountains and Streams, Guo Xi’s Early Spring, Wang Ximeng’s A Panorama of Rivers and Mountains, and many of the finest paintings by all the great masters, from Emperor Huizong, to Ni Zan, Qiu Ying, Zhu Da, Lang Shining. No other imperial seal to have come to market appears on such a large number of historically important paintings.
The most iconic among all seals destined for art connoisseurship, this seal was carved by a master craftsman working for the Qianlong Emperor's father Yongzheng and grandfather Kangxi. It was selected by Qianlong around 1735-1736 for the all-important purpose of recording the finest works in his art collection. It was extensively used from the early years of the Emperor's reign to the completion of the first catalogue of the imperial collection, the Shiqu Baoji, in 1745. This project of cataloguing and archiving all the extraordinary paintings passed down over the centuries, and having them all impressed with his seal, was a way for the Qianlong Emperor to own Chinese history by leaving his mark on all the works that most profoundly symbolised its glorious heritage, and thus furthering his political legitimacy. The worn characters on the seal face capture all the hundreds and hundreds of embraces this object has had with masterworks of the Imperial collection and testify to the Emperor’s mad devotion for his collection.
After the Emperor's death in 1799, the seal was transferred to the Shouhuangdian, the temple of imperial ancestors which overlooked the Forbidden City. During the years of turmoil towards the end of the Qing dynasty, over 100 years later, the seal made its way to Europe to resurface in 1965 at an auction in Sotheby’s London. It was purchased there by Wou Kiuan and has since disappeared from the public eye for more than 50 years.
Gems of Imperial Porcelain from the Private Collection of Joseph Lau
A Selection of Imperial Porcelain from one of the Finest Collections Ever Assembled in the Field
The 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 Lau’s celebrated collection.
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.
Marchant II – Qing Imperial Porcelain
Following on from the success of Marchant I, which testified to the connoisseurship and discerning eye of Richard Marchant, the carefully curated sequel presents a tight group of exquisite imperial porcelains from the Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong reigns. Encapsulating the firm’s attention to quality, condition and provenance, highlights include both monochrome and enamelled wares, such as a celadon-glazed meiping and a rose-pink enamelled ‘chrysanthemum’ dish from the Yongzheng period, and a very rare ruby-ground famille-rose ‘phoenix’-handled vase from the Qianlong period.
Important Chinese Art including Gardens of Pleasure – Erotic Art from the Bertholet Collection and Jades from the De An Tang Collection
The Important Chinese Art auction presents a tightly curated sale including highlights from two renowned private collections, both of which rank amongst the most sought after within their categories, namely Gardens of Pleasure – Erotic Art from the Bertholet Collection and Jades from the De An Tang Collection. The widely exhibited and published Bertholet Collection presents a group of paintings and works of art, including Gardens of Pleasure, an imperial album of eight exquisitely executed paintings from the Kangxi period, formerly in the collection of C.T. Loo. Similarly, the De An Tang is the only private collection of jade ever to have been exhibited in the Forbidden City, at the Yongshou Palace in 2004, and highlights include a magnificent Qianlong Khotan-green jade boulder gilt-inscribed with six imperial poems and a Ming dynasty large yellow jade figure of a camel from the Gerald Godfrey Collection.
The sale also includes an extremely rare and highly important Northern Wei limestone seated figure of a ‘pensive’ Matreiya formerly from the collections of Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Norman A. Kurland. Other highlights include an extremely rare miniature falangcai ‘boys’ double-gourd vase inscribed with a blue-enamel Qianlong mark, a superb and large blue and white ‘deer’ vase that is reminiscent of Castiglione’s masterwork, and an enchanting group of twenty-one white and green early wares formerly from the collection of Dr Carl Kempe.