There has been a lot of excitement generated around one particular Kangxi porcelain bowl to be offered for sale on 3 April in Sotheby’s Spring Sale series. The enamelled pink-ground falangcai bowl (diam. 14.5 cm) is believed to be the finest example of its type and the only piece ever recorded with this design. From the Kangxi period (1662-1722), there is a yuzhi four-character mark – these marks are closely related to the imperial court. There exists however a closely related example, the pride of the National Palace Museum Taipei, which is painted with different flowers but using the exact same colour ground. Given the rarity of the colours used and the admirable perfection of the firing, it is likely that the two were painted and fired side by side. Thrown and fired by potters at the Imperial kilns in Jingdezhen, the bowls were then painted in the Imperial Palace workshops in the Forbidden City in Beijing, possibly by Jesuits resident at the court of the Kangxi emperor, and fired a second time. The bowl, offered by Sotheby’s, once belonged to the well-known British collector of Chinese artefacts, Henry M Knight (1903-1971) and had one of the best collections of 18th-century Chinese ceramics in Europe. The bowl has a provenance that can be traced back to the 1930s in Shanghai. It has not been seen on the market for over 30 years – the estimate is on request, but it is believed it will attract offers over HK$200 million and the auction house hopes it will soar well over this estimate and beat the current record for Chinese ceramics, a Ru guanyao brush-washer, from the Taiwanese Le Cong Tang Collection, which was also sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in October 2017 for over HK$294 million.
Other highlights include two sets of brocaded ‘Leperello’ albums of an illuminated wisdom sutra, from the Prajnaparamita Sutra, commissioned by the Xuande emperor (r 1426-1435), from the Ming dynasty (estimate on request). Qian Weicheng, the highest-ranking candidate in the official examinations, was a favourite of the Qianlong Emperor, and was always selected to accompany the Emperor on official grand Southern Inspection tours, during which the Emperor would don the attire of a commoner and conceal his imperial identity. Hence, the piece is a vessel of nuanced political statement as it asserts the Qianlong Emperor’s ownership and reign over the vast wealth of lands in China. This scroll was recorded in The Sequel to the Previous Collection of the Stone Canal Pavilion, and was originally kept in the Ningshou Gong of the Forbidden City. It was then bequeathed by the last Emperor Pu Yi to his younger brother Pu Jie in the early 1920s, in an attempt to curb the rampant theft of Palace treasures by court eunuchs. Other highlights include a cloisonné enamel ‘Lotus’ jar, Ming dynasty, Yongle/Xuande period (est HK$20-30 million); a ruby-ground yangcai vase, seal mark and period of Qianlong (est $40-60 million); and a blue and white ‘dragon’ moonflask, seal and mark of Qianglong (est HK$15-20 million).
A highlight of the Chinese Works of Art sale on 3 April is the Qing-dynasty Ten Auspicious Landscapes of Taishan by Qian Weicheng (1720-1772),commissioned by the Qianlong emperor, an ink and colour on paper handscroll (est HK$50-70 million). The Fine Chinese Paintings sale is on 2 April with the highlights including a large splashed ink landscape by Zhang Daqian, Spectacular Mountains in Spring Snow from 1967 (est HK$28-40 million) and the ink and colour on paper hanging scroll Scholars Trekking in Snow Mountains by Fu Baoshi (1904-1965), estimate on request.
Sotheby’s Hong Kong Chinese Works of Art Spring Sales 2018 , from 31 March to 3 April (excluding wine), 2018 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, sothebys.com
Bonhams’ spring series includes Ritual + Culture: Fine Southeast Asian Arts on 29 March, Fine Classical Chinese Paintings from the Zheng Zhang Zhai Collection on 3 April, and Fine Chinese Paintings on 3 April. Highlights of Ritual + Culture, Fine Southeast Asian Arts on 29 March includes many of the major Southeast Asian modern and contemporary painters, including Affandi, Hendra Gunawan, Lee Man Fong and Cheo Soo Peing. Lot 1 is The Puppeteer by Hendra Gunawan (1918-1983), estimated at HK$1.4-1.7 million and Twin Doves by Lee Man Fong (1913-1988), which has an estimate of HK$280-400,000. The top lot is Roller Coaster, EXPO ’70, Osaka by Affandi (1907-1990) that has an estimate of HK$4-6 million. In the modern section, is the twin lot by the Belgian artist Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merpres (1880-1958), Five Balinese Ladies by the Pond and Portrait of Ni Pollok, estimated at HK$120-150,000. Sculpture in the sale includes 8th and 9th century Hindu and Buddhist Javanese sculptures as well as works of art from Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, including Don Son culture bronzes from Vietnam and a pair of Thai adorants from the Ayutthaya period, 17th century, which have an estimate of HK$200-250,000.
On 3 April, the highlight of the Fine Chinese Paintings is a 10-leaf Chinese painting album by Yun Shouping (1633-1690) that was recently discovered in Australia.
Hong Kong Spring auctions results will be reviewed in the May 2018 print edition of the newspaper.
Bonhams, sales on 29 March and 3 April, at One Pacific Place, 88 Admiralty, bonham.com