Chinese Ceramics and the Art of the Leiber Handbag

Judith Leiber among her Asian-Inspired Handbags
Launch Slideshow

No other name is more synonymous with the minaudière than Judith Leiber. Known for her artful, elegant and often whimsical handbag designs, her crystal encrusted minaudières have become icons in the world of fashion and design.  Lesser known to the public is the collection of Chinese art acquired by Judith and Gerson Leiber over the course of their lifetime. Through form, theme or motif, it is striking to observe the influence of Chinese art on Judith Leiber’s designs, ranging from distinctively East Asian subjects like the Buddhist lion or ‘lucky cat’ to more subtle references such as Chinese famille-rose patterns. Click ahead to discover the impact that Chinese art has had on the legendary handbag designer.

Inspired: Chinese Art from the Collection of Gerson and Judith Leiber
20 March | New York

 

Image: Judith Leiber with Handbags, 1994. © Gordon Munro /The Leiber Collection

Chinese Ceramics and the Art of the Leiber Handbag

  • SHOWN ALONGSIDE A TIGER-FORM MINAUDIÈRE: THE KELLY ELLMAN COLLECTION
    A 'CIZHOU' TIGER-FORM PILLOW, JIN DYNASTY. ESTIMATE $12,000–15,000.
    One of the clearest ways Judith Leiber borrows from Chinese art can be seen through the translation of Chinese art objects directly into minaudières. The dazzling tiger-form evening clutch mirrors the ‘Cizhou’ pillow dating from the Jin dynasty, also in the form of a recumbent tiger. Its calligraphic painted stripes and piercing eyes have been rendered into graphic lines of jet black Swarovski crystals.

  • SHOWN ALONGSIDE A FIRECRACKER-FORM MINAUDIÈRE: THE GERSON AND JUDITH LEIBER FOUNDATION
    A FAMILLE-ROSE 'FIRECRACKER' BOX AND COVER, QING DYNASTY. ESTIMATE $2,000–3,000.
    The present Qing dynasty famille-rose ‘firecracker’ box and cover, molded as a bundle of firecrackers with patterned brocade cases, finds its companion in the vibrant teal and cobalt firecracker-shaped minaudière.



     



     

  • SHOWN ALONGSIDE A BUTTERFLY-FORM MINAUDIÈRE: THE GERSON AND JUDITH LEIBER FOUNDATION
    A PAIR OF FAMILLE-ROSE BOTTLE VASES, QING DYNASTY, QIANLONG PERIOD. ESTIMATE $4,000–6,000.
    Animals feature prominently in Judith Leiber’s designs, and are also central to the symbols and motifs in Chinese art. Not only cheerful and beautiful, the butterfly-form minaudière echoes the butterflies found on the pair of famille-rose vases. Its Chinese character forms a rebus with the word die meaning "the age of seventy or eighty,” making the butterfly an emblem of longevity. 

  • SHOWN ALONGSIDE A HORSE-FORM MINAUDIÈRE: THE GERSON AND JUDITH LEIBER FOUNDATION
    A RARE GLAZED-BISCUIT 'RECUMBENT HORSE' WATER DROPPER QING DYNASTY, KANGXI PERIOD. ESTIMATE $3,000–5,000.
    Leiber’s bejeweled horse-form clutch resembles the stout horses depicted in her collection of famille-verte biscuit ‘sea horse ’vessels or the present horse-form water dropper, all from the Kangxi period.

  • SHOWN ALONGSIDE A BUDDHIST LION-FORM MINAUDIERE : THE SAINI KANNAN COLLECTION
    A RARE BLUE AND WHITE 'LUDUAN' CENSER, MING DYNASTY, WANLI PERIOD. ESTIMATE $60,000 – 80,000.
    The present crystal encrusted gold Buddhist lion-form bag finds its counterpart in the rare blue and white ‘luduan’- form censer from the Wanli reign.

  • SHOWN ALONGSIDE A GIFT WRAP-FORM MINAUDIÈRE: THE SAINI KANNAN COLLECTION
    A LARGE MOLDED BLUE AND WHITE 'FLOWER BASKET' DISH, QING DYNASTY, KANGXI PERIOD. ESTIMATE $4,000–6,000.
    With length as its principal element, the ribbon is a symbol of longevity in Chinese art, and its Chinese character is also a pun for longevity. Judith Leiber’s gift-wrapped clutch brings to mind beribboned Qing dynasty auspicious emblems, as seen in the Kangxi period ‘flower basket’ dish.

  • SHOWN ALONGSIDE A PINK LOTUS BUD MINAUDIÈRE WITH MULTI-HUED CRYSTAL RHINESTONES AND ROSE QUARTZ LOCK, 1992
    THE SAINI KANNAN COLLECTION
    PHOTO CREDIT: GARY MAMAY
    AN IMPRESSIVE AND LARGE PAIR OF FAMILLE-ROSE 'SOLDIER' VASES AND COVERS, QING DYNASTY, QIANLONG PERIOD, CIRCA 1740. ESTIMATE $250,000–400,000.
    Previously in the collection of Fonthill House, Wiltshire, England, the large pair of 18th century famille-rose ‘soldier’ vases features pheasants amidst a garden setting surrounded by lush flowers and foliage. The knops of these grand vases are repeated in Leiber’s lotus bud-form minaudière, seen even in the articulation of the curved petals.

  • SHOWN ALONGSIDE A BLACK SATIN CHINESE HAND-WARMER, 1981
    THE GERSON AND JUDITH LEIBER COLLECTION
    PHOTO CREDIT: GARY MAMAY
    A BRONZE HANDWARMER AND COVER, ZHANG MINGQI MARK, LATE MING DYNASTY. ESTIMATE HK$80,000 — 100,000. LOT SOLD FOR HK$1,780,000.
    The influence of Chinese art permeates through Judith Leiber’s repertoire of designs, which range from the elegantly understated to the whimsically wonderful. The present black satin ‘Chinese handwarmer’ purse reflects the sophisticated elliptical shape and intricate cover of the late Ming dynasty bronze handwarmer from the collection of Ulrich Hausmann, sold in our Hong Kong rooms in 2014.

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