Later Chinese bronzes, referring to bronze items created between the 10th and 19th centuries and is a category of Asian Art where exceptional examples can still be found at reasonable prices. The category also shed light on the interconnections between different genres of Chinese art and many of the items will reward the shrewd intuitive eye of an intrepid buyer.
A Chinese bronze 'rams' incense burner. Qing Dynasty. Estimate: £4,000 – 6,000
The search for a mark-and-period Xuande bronze censers is considered the holy grail for Chinese bronze connoisseurs. This search is made challenging because no definitive Xuande period bronzes exists. However, cloisonné enamel censers marked from the Xuande period have survived in the Imperial Collection in Beijing, with a variety of examples displaying different mark formats.
This simple censer is unusual because of its slender form and the rare two-by-three format of the Xuande base mark, which diverges from the standard three-by-two format seen in other Chinese bronze incense burners.
The two-by-three format of the Xuande mark has been found in period porcelain. Therefore, the tantalising question is… could this be a Xuande period example of a bronze censers?
A Chinese bronze silver-inlaid figure of Guanyin. Qing Dynasty, 18th / 19th century. Estimate: £5,000 - 8,000
The application of silver inlay to bronze is a pain staking process but the result is visually impactful, particularly in some examples of Buddhist iconography, which has made it an important area within the field of Chinese bronze collecting. This piece is marked Shi Shou, the most famous artist in the medium. Its attenuated form and impressive size combined with the delicacy of the figure’s face and the lifelike way in which the billowing gown has been captured perhaps exhibit some of the hallmarks of the original artist.
A Chinese bronze silver and parcel gilt 'goose' water dropper, late Ming. Estimate: £1,000 – 2,000
The naturalistic modelling and meticulous detail of the bird, which fits neatly into the hand, gives this piece an aesthetic refinement which is characteristic of scholarly accoutrements so loved by the literati of Imperial China. The incised feathering decoration has been heightened by silver and gold to create the shine of real feathers, bringing the essence of nature to the scholar’s desk. This is a particularly fine example and can be compared to lot 333 from Sotheby’s, 2014, Later Chinese Bronzes from the Collection of Ulrich Hausmann.
A Chinese gilt-bronze turquoise-inlaid 'Luduan' incense burner. Qing Dynasty, Qianlong period, or later. Estimate: £20,000 – 30,000
The Imperial majesty of this piece is perhaps self-evident, but similar examples are known from the Chinese Imperial Collection, like R.L. Thorp, Son of Heaven: Imperial Arts of China, 1989, p 40, nos 33-34, where an example from Qianlong period in the Shenyang Imperial Palace Museum is illustrated.
The luduan, or Chinese unicorn, symbolise the emperor's wisdom as a virtuous ruler mandated from Heaven and the symbol is considered a multilingual bastion of truth capable of travelling long distances. The luduan inclusion as incense burners, flanking the Imperial throne is naturally a symbolic choice and holds an important place within the pantheon of Imperial court paraphernalia.
An Imperial Chinese famille rose 'hundred boys' lantern vase, and cover. Qing Dynasty. Estimate: £6,000 – 8,000
The theme of a 'hundred boys' was very popular in the Qing and Ming dynasty, representing the desire for many sons to continue the family line and ensure prosperity and stability. The 'hundred boys' refers to King Wen of the Zhou dynasty who had ninety-nine sons and adopted one more to make one hundred. The motif indicates the wish for prosperity and encompasses recurring themes such as the images of children imitating adults, which reveals the ambitions of the literati class for their sons to achieve high intellectual status and future success. Various examples of the decoration can be found dating to the Jiaqing period, however, the present example is rare for retaining the original cover.
With the consolidation of the Chinese export art market, there has been a shifting focus to rare and exceptional examples. Alongside this, there is a growing appreciation among Chinese buyers for pieces which exhibit Chinese taste.
Two Chinese famille rose saucer dishes. Qing Dynasty, Yongzheng period. Estimate: £300 – 500
The depiction of a shepherdess with goats is a theme which may have entered China from the West, with an example of an European-subject bottle featuring a pastoral scene with three goats found in the Palace Workshops in Beijing. Interestingly the symbolism of the three goats or three rams (sanyang) represents a change of fortune, with the arrival of Spring and the New Year, however the dish in this lot contains a Chinese shepherdess rather than a European women and there are only two goats present. This interpretation is not uncommon, with the subject of a Chinese lady with two goats found in Chinese reverse glass paintings, see for example:
A Chinese famille rose punch bowl. Qing Dynasty, Yongzheng period to early Qianlong period. Estimate: £800 – 1,200
The Chinese ‘Canton’ punch bowl of the Qianlong period is one of the most familiar forms of Chinese export art with these porcelain bowls being fired in Jingdezhen, and enamelled in Guangzhou, before being exported to the West. The figuration and colouring of this example are exceptional and indicate an early date during the period.
A Chinese canton enamel famille rose 'cherry pickers' chocolate cup and trembleuse stand. Qing Dynasty, 18th century. Estimate: £3,000 – 5,000
This bowl is a perfect symbiosis of East and West. The design on the exterior of the bowl is taken from a painting called ‘The Cherry Pickers’ by the French painter, Antoine Baudouin (1723-1769). The painting was popularised through an engraving by Nicolas Ponce (1746-1831), which inspired European porcelain manufacturers to copy the scene. The same scene occurs on Chinese famille rose porcelain made for export to European markets. This piece is an exceptionally rare bowl because it is painted enamel on copper, which is significantly more complex to make than porcelain.
A Chinese silver ‘bamboo’ kettle, stand and warmer, by Wang Hing. Qing Dynasty, 19th century. Estimate: £1,000 - 2,000
Within the field of Chinese export silver Wang Hing was one of the leading silversmiths working in late Qing and Republication Era China. The repoussé work is exceptional here, with the complex shape of the kettle beautifully showcasing the high relief work and densely patterned design.
A Chinese ruby-ground 'lady and boy' bowl and cover. Qing Dynasty, Yongzheng period. Estimate: £1,000 – 1,500
Ruby coloured enamel was an innovation of the Yongzheng period. The ruby-back dishes, enamelled in ruby pink on the exterior of the body, and often enamelled in the interior with a figurative scene or floral design, are considered amongst the finest porcelain produced for export and certainly of imperial quality. This jar and cover, of Western form, depicts a figurative scene in the Chinese taste.
Our May Asian Art sale, will take place over the course of one-day, on the new sale date of Sunday 10 May at 9am. Please contact Head of Asian Art, Lazarus Halstead with any questions about the sale.