13 Exquisite Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art to Buy Now

Launch Slideshow

One of the world's oldest art making traditions, Chinese ceramics and other works of art have been cherished through the centuries for their beauty and significance. Today they hold exceptional status among collectors, who praise their rich variety, technical mastery and cultural achievement throughout China's long history. Sotheby's May auction presents Chinese pottery to suit every taste, accompanied by jades, gilt-bronze figures, paintings, furniture and other treasures that will only become more prized over time.

Important Chinese Art
16 May | London

13 Exquisite Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art to Buy Now

  • A yellow-ground underglaze-blue “Gardenia” dish, Zhengde mark and period. Estimate £50,000–70,000.
    The gardenia (zhizi) is a flower very rarely depicted on Chinese ceramics and known almost exclusively from this dish’s design. It is not immediately associated with any auspicious meaning, but the highly fragrant flowers were popular with ladies to wear in the hair, and were used for flavouring tea and for preparing cosmetics. This dish is particularly rare for its large size and six-character mark on the base, and only one other example appears to have been published, excavated in Beijing and now held in the Capital Museum, Beijing. 

    Important Chinese Art
    16 May | London

  • A large finely carved polychrome lacquer “Chun” box and cover, Qianlong mark and period. Estimate £110,000–150,000.
    Finely crafted with a carefully composed auspicious design, this vessel belongs to a group of boxes produced at the height of lacquer carving during the Qianlong period. Layer upon layer of lacquer has been patiently applied to build up a thick surface through which the craftsman has meticulously carved the textures of different elements of the complex design, from the delicate softness of the petals and clouds to the naturalistic full central figure of Shoulao and the sway of his clothes. 


  • Lin Fengmian, Lady with a Mirror. Estimate £150,000–200,000.
    Capturing the essence of both Eastern and Western art in order to achieve a new synthesis, Lin Fengmian pioneered the development of modern Chinese painting. This painting belongs to his ‘Lady’ series, and shows the influence of Modigliani and Matisse in the forms which have been rendered with a sense of spontaneity – a nod to the traditional ideals of the Chinese literati painter.

  • A rare blue and white “Peony” bowl, Xuande mark and period. Estimate £80,000–120,000.
    Perfectly formed in its ergonomical shape and delicately painted with vibrant cobalt blue, this bowl is a charming example of the outstanding imperial wares characteristic of Xuande porcelain. Bowls of this form are described as jing shui wan (pure water bowl) which were filled with water and used during prayers for purification. The small size and rounded shape allowed it to be held comfortably in one’s palms.


  • An archaic bronze pouring vessel, Yi, Western Zhou dynasty. Estimate £50,000–70,000.
    With deep, crisply moulded grooves covering its surface to both echo and accentuate its form, this vessel is a handsome example of yi produced in the late Western Zhou dynasty. The boat-shape form together with a U-shaped spout appears to have been derived from earlier gong vessels, and was remodelled with a deeper body and four dragon-shaped scroll legs. Bronze yi was used together with water basins (pan) in ritual ceremonies for the cleansing of the hands. 

  • A large, magnificent and rare blue and white “Lotus” moonflask, Qianlong seal mark and period. Estimate £1,000,000–1,500,000.
    Grand in stature and magnificently decorated, this moonflask represents the height of porcelain production at the Jingdezhen imperial kilns during the Qianlong reign. Large vessels required the highest level of technical skill only to be found amongst the potters working here, under the instructions of Tang Ying (1682-1756), the preeminent and most accomplished superintendent at Jingdezhen during the early Qing period. 

  • A rare purple-splashed “Junyao” bubble bowl, Song/Jin dynasty. Estimate £150,000–200,000.
    Potted and glazed to sit effortlessly in the hand, this striking bowl epitomises the aesthetic and literati spirit of the Song dynasty. Its simple yet robust form and bold, irregular purple splashes had an immense appeal to the literati and nobility of the time due to their simple yet flamboyant, calligraphic effect, giving each vessel decorated in this manner its unique design.

  • A fine and rare carved “Ding” “Lotus” bowl, Northern Song dynasty. Estimate £260,000–300,000.
    This bowl is a fine example of Ding ware, evident in its masterful potting, swiftly and confidently carved design and exquisite glaze. Ding ware is renowned for its thin potting and fine white body, which does not require a coat of slip to appear white after firing. The restrained, yet flowing lines of the carved decoration successfully capture the spirit and grace of the lotus flower, like brush strokes in contemporary ink painting, while accentuating the refined quality of the porcelain body. 

  • An Imperial famille-rose “Eighteen Luohan” vase,
Qing dynasty, Qianlong period. Estimate £100,000–200,000.
    Exceptionally rare, the delicately painted scene of the eighteen luohan engaged in various activities in an idealised landscape on this vase demonstrates not only the accomplished brushwork of the artisans but also their ability to conceive the finished product before beginning to throw the vessel on the wheel. Luohan, or arhats, were the disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha. No other closely related example appears to have been published, although a very similar vase, but painted with a landscape, now resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Although they attained Buddhahood during the course of their lives, they chose to postpone Nirvana and remain on earth to protect and defend the Buddhist Law until the advent of Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future.


  • A rare “Jizhou” “Phoenix” vase, Yuan dynasty. Estimate £100,000–150,000.
    Jizhou vases decorated with this elaborate phoenix design are rare, and the present piece is particularly notable for its rich black-coffee brown glaze that provides a striking contrast with the two pairs of phoenix in white reserve. The four birds appear animated with the details of the flowing feathers and eyes painted in swift brushwork.

  • A gilt-bronze figure of Buddha, Ming dynasty, 16th-century. Estimate £30,000–50,000.
    The pose of this figure, with his right hand in the earth-touching position, recalls the precise instance of triumph over Mara where Shakyamuni experiences his Great Enlightenment. The lotus flower on which he sits symbolises purity and echoes the event that has taken place: just as the lotus rises from muddy water, one can work through their own limitation towards enlightenment.

  • A pink-ground Famille Rose vase, Jiaqing mark and period. Estimate £40,000–60,000.
    This finely enamelled vase follows in the Qianlong style, suggesting that it was possibly made within the first decade of Jiaqing's reign, when the influence of potters working for his father, the Qianlong emperor, remained strong. The individual elements of this vase have been carefully chosen for their auspicious significance: the shou characters rendered in gilt represent good fortune, while the ruyi heads mean 'as you wish.'

  • A Rare "Jian" "Hare's Fur" Tenmoku Bowl, Song dynasty. Estimate £40,000–60,000.
    This bowl is outstanding for the glossiness of the rich black that is accentuated by the fine straight streaks that slice through the surface. Black tea bowls were particularly appreciated in Buddhist monasteries, where tea was drunk for its beneficial effects on body and mind as well as ritually offered to the Buddha. The seemingly humble aspect of black tea bowls made them particularly appropriate in this context. The groove below the rim made them comfortable to hold; their heavy potting had an insulating effect, keeping the tea inside hot while protecting the fingers outside from the heat, and their dark interiors made for a striking contrast with the white froth of whipped tea.



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