A magnificent single-owner collection of Oriental works of art - gathered over 30 years - is expected to attract worldwide interest in The Chinese Auction on July 29, 2021.
The collection includes everything from carved seals and ceramics to paintings, watches and cufflinks. It offers a rare opportunity to acquire richly historical objects chosen with a collector's academic knowledge and artistic eye for beauty.
Here, the owner of the collection explains how his interest in Fine Art objects began and picks out 10 of his favourite items – with a little flexibility! He found it almost impossible to narrow down his choices to just 10.
The Collector’s Background
I am an Oxfordshire-based collector who has lived in Hong Kong and Japan for more than 30 years. Working for a multi-national company I travelled the world, Asia in particular. I was a senior executive of companies in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Japan and Far East Russia.
I had a keen interest in fine art and antiques from a young age, and at university created a Fine Art Society. With this background it was no surprise that on moving to Asia I quickly built an antique collection based on analysing extant pieces, studying them within their historical, social and geographic context, as well as appreciating their underlying aesthetic.
I studied Chinese landscape painting and calligraphy in a high pedigree school in Hong Kong and have works on permanent display in the UK. My interests enabled both me and my spouse, who has also exhibited Chinese paintings, to forge friendships with other collectors and artists and I continue to make ceramics today.
Hansons says: 'This background information helps buyers understand the range of interests and outstanding and rare quality of the scholarly pieces and fine works on offer. The pieces have been obtained in Asia from leading auction houses, known and respected dealers and, for newer pieces, directly from the artist.
Top 10 Chinese Auction Lots
As a lifelong passionate collector, interested in the socio-geographic-historic-economic background of every piece, as well as their aesthetic, many coming from friends, and being a potter and painter myself, it is extremely hard to choose favourite pieces. However, particularly meaningful to me are the following items.
Li Gui Jun Portrait
The contemplative, almost Vermeer masterly quality, to the Li Gui Jun portrait. I bought this directly from the Gallery that Li Gui Jun had passed the piece to for sale, and at the time of purchase I was closer to the age of the sitter. But as she stays young, I have grown older, and the mirror brings a contemplative reflection of not just her but my life since then.
Paintings/seals by Feng Kang Hou and Peng XiMing
At the risk of cheating the top 10 slightly, I must include the paintings and seals by Feng Kang Hou and Peng XiMing. I sat at the same desk as Professor Feng in one of the Books to learn Painting, Calligraphy and Seal Carving. The seals, particular a pair of stones, which guide on small seal carving along one side, and the paintings and calligraphy mean a great deal to me. Both artists were truly outstanding, and it was an honour to study their works just a generation away. Professor Feng carved the national seal of Taiwan. Peng XiMing was described by Zhang Daqian, for example, as ‘one of the best in the past 300 years’. The piece combining works of both Professor Feng and Peng XiMing is naturally overwhelming.
Seal Stones Drink In Your Soul
Seal stones feel as if they have your soul in them as they drink in their environment and, like jade, respond positively, like a favourite pet, to handling. It is so hard to choose between pieces having tried, miserably, to carve seals myself, and particularly when you weigh and consider the wide range of seal-stone types, their harmonious outside carving, outstanding seal carving and who they belonged to. Again, at the risk of choosing too many – especially as I have already brought Professor Feng’s pieces to your attention, I must choose two: (i) the stone with an exquisitely carved lion at the top – carved by Zhang Daqian’s brother and based on lion that were kept in the family garden, and (ii) the Ming dynasty Jade horse – itself a masterpiece of great value to which words from one of my favourite poems has been added.
One of the earliest types of Chinese script, one Professor Feng was famous for, and in a script that I followed myself with a piece on permanent exhibition, is known as Bronze Script. This naturally brings the elegant and calm 3,000-year-old Bronze Ding with the inlaid Bronze Script calligraphy, to the fore as a favourite. The linking of ancestors (through the calligraphy) and fire and steam from cooking reminds both of our mortality, the holding of history and that our sense of elegance has changed little over the aeons.
Ming Dynasty White Jade Cufflinks
A dear and most gifted artist friend has shared my passion for, and guided me on, Chinese Arts. Her wide range of own works include paintings, bronzes, stamps (try smelling the tea stamps!), through to jewellery. Of her design pieces I must highlight the collection of fine and rare cufflinks. Each piece a treasure, exclusively and sympathetically designed by her, and set in white and yellow gold. Given their quality it is hard to choose one or two (or even three or four) pieces, but such an accolade must go to the Ming Dynasty White Jade creatures set in yellow gold, the white jade rectangles (is it mutton fat jade preferred by the Qianlong Emperor) in yellow gold, and the two pairs of highly prized deep green jades. And that leaves everything from… chicken blood stone in yellow gold, blue jade, orange jade, lilac jade, yellow jade, turtle shell, coral, an ancient Buddhist amber bead, and even a pair of 1,500-year-old Tang Dynasty animals! Apologies to Cartier, Tiffany and other leading brands that are also included in the collection.
However, before coming to ceramics, and on brands I must mention the two Rolexes. One the first Rolex (cushion back) Oyster from the 1920s, and the other the gold bubble-back from the late 1940s. Looking at the poster of the first Rolex Oyster brings us to this beautiful period.
I have a strong sense of having cheated in choosing more than 10 items but still saddened by the many works that are excluded in this. With just three left I must turn to Ceramics for numbers 7, 8, 9 and 10.
Yongzheng/Early Qianlong Blue Monochrome Bowl And Saucer
The rare, beautiful and perfect condition late Yongzheng/early Qianlong blue monochrome bowl and saucer with JINGWEI TANG ZHI HALL MARKS. A piece to rest in the finest of world collections created at the height of the Ching Dynasty. Visiting Beijing and reading the history of this period brings the piece alive.
Rare Tang Sancai Tripod Jar
Few would disagree that the height of Chinese, if not world, porcelain was created during the Ming ChengHua period. Pieces are both unaffordable and unavailable. Whilst shattered, either because it was not of perfect quality or because it was made after the Emperor’s passing, is a bubble of a piece with lotus flowers Sanskrit characters. Kangxi and Yongzheng copies of this piece sell for huge amounts. But this piece affords an unparalleled opportunity to own something immensely unique. It is understood from the literature that there are just four pieces in existence of this design from this period. One in the Percival David collection, one in the National Palace Museum Taipei, a cracked piece in the Shanghai Museum of Art, and this one.
There are many Han and Tang pieces in this collection and having visited the great museums of China each one holds a special place. Of fondness to me is the small perfect condition Tang Sancai Tripod Jar for which experts would concur on rarity due to the blue splashes.
Song Tea Bowl
My final piece of choice making my 10th item is the fine, rare and perfect condition Song Tea Bowl with papercut resist. With so many fine pieces in the collection the choice is down to a memory of visiting the Dragon Kiln it was made in and comparing the base, indeed warmly bedding the base, with the clay buffer it was fired on.
The Chinese Auction will take place on July 29, 10.30am, at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire. Viewing by appointment is available on Tuesday July 27 and Wednesday July 28, 10am-4pm. To book an appointment, please email Isabel Murtough: [email protected]