> 1711 The Workshop of the Jesuits
2018 SOLD for HK$ 240M including premium
The activity is developed in a workshop of the Forbidden City under the direct control of the emperor. A new glassmaker arrived in 1695 brings with him the enamels invented by Glauber to create splendid colors with colloidal gold. The glass pieces colored with the enamel of the foreigners (in Chinese: falangcai) serve as diplomatic gifts.
The potters of Jingdezhen were working with the limited color range of the wucai for a purpose of productivity. It was tempting to apply the new colors to the porcelain for bringing more luxury to the pieces for the personal use (yuzhi) of the emperor. Chinese craftsmen joined the Jesuits of the imperial workshop around 1711 to develop a mixed technology.
Chinese porcelain was unknown in Europe and the Jesuits considered it impossible to affix the enamel over the glaze. They were supplied from Jingdezhen with incompletely glazed pieces to paint the outside wall and the base with the colors unavailable at Jingdezhen. A second heating completed the process.
One of the rarest ground colors of the falangcai is a pink with colloidal gold. Two 14.7 cm diameter bowls, each one decorated with four lobed cartridges showing flowers in front of a blue sky, were probably made side by side. They carry the yuzhi mark of Kangxi. The floral themes are however different, attesting to a close cooperation between Chinese and European artists. The bowl kept at the National Palace Museum in Taipei follows the traditional Chinese auspices of the four seasons.
The other bowl is of European decoration, displaying flowers without symbolic meaning and a perspective effect that is not usual in traditional Chinese art. It will be sold by Sotheby's on April 3 in Hong Kong, lot 1. Please watch the short video shared by the auction house.
The yangcai will be the complete mastery of the falangcai process at Jingdezhen around the sixth year of the Yongzheng emperor, 1729 CE. The participation of foreigners will no longer be necessary.
1726-1732 The Badminton cabinet
2004 SOLD 19 M£ including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
In 1726 the 3rd Duke of Beaufort, aged 19, makes his tour of Italy. He is extremely rich and desires to build an art collection. His stay in Florence was very short. It seems likely that a pre-existing project for a monumental piece of furniture was offered to him. He orders this piece, of which he has followed the make by his agents.
The piece of furniture is delivered to him in 1732. It will be known as the Badminton cabinet from the residence where the 3rd Duke installed it and where it stayed until 1990.
It was sold twice by Christie's : on July 5, 1990 for £ 8.6M including premium and on December 9, 2004 for £ 19M including premium, lot 260 (not illustrated online). It was acquired at this latter sale by Prince Hans Adam II von und zu Liechtenstein to become the central piece in the collection of pietra dura works in his private museum.
The Badminton cabinet is a piece of furniture with four superimposed ebony segments over eight pilasters, for a total height of 386 cm including the Beaufort coat of arms in finial. It is 232 cm wide and 94 cm deep.
The assembly of this piece is a tour de force of joinery. It is sumptuously decorated on front and lateral sides in pietra dura and semi-precious stones with floral themes including birds. The upper segment consists of a clock whose dial is later. The allegories of the four seasons in gilt bronze surround the clock.
#ThrowbackThursday The Badminton Cabinet was sold in July 1990 in London. Commissioned in 1726 by Henry Somerset, 3rd Duke of Beaufort, it took 6 years to make & was regarded as the greatest Florentine cabinet of its time. It is on display at the Liechtenstein Museum in Vienna. pic.twitter.com/fTdEaJAm4e— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) April 16, 2020
1737 Falangcai on Glass
2019 SOLD for HK$ 207M including premium
Enamel on glass is the most difficult technique. Each color demands a different baking to be lively, and a little overheating above the enamel melting point damages the glass. The term used is falangcai as for porcelain. The imperial archives do not mention any glass falangcai before 1705. The surviving pieces from the reigns of Kangxi and Yongzheng are incredibly rare.
When he succeeds his father, Qianlong is overflowing with enthusiasm for all forms of art. He expects from his workshops unprecedented technical achievements along with decorations of utmost finesse and originality.
On the 22nd day of the 1st month of the 3rd year of his reign, in 1737 CE, the archives record the presentation to the emperor by three eunuchs of a glass vase shaped like a pouch. This blue vase is immediately returned to the workshops for being copied. It did not survive.
Two glass falangcai with a bright yellow enamel background certainly correspond to this commission. Slightly different in shape and completely different in the decor, they were not scheduled as pendants. All other glass falangcai of this form were failed or broken.
These two pieces are of the largest dimension for this technique, 18 cm high. The pleated ovoid shape imitating the silk is knotted by a ribbon in high relief which very elegantly clasps the upper part of the purse. The imperial mark appears within a flower.
Both objects belonged in the nineteenth century to an imperial prince. They were sold separately by Sotheby's in 1988. One of them, with a dense set of twelve dragons, is now to the collection of the Hong Kong Museum of Art.
The other piece is the best achievement. Its colors are brighter. The picture with two phoenix twirling amidst flowers is very pleasant with flamboyant plumages. The rim is crenellated. Nicholas Chow, chairman of Sotheby's Asia, considers that it is the most important Qing artwork in private hands.
This glass pouch was sold for HK $ 24M including premium by Sotheby's on October 29, 2000, worth US $ 3.1M at that time. The post sale press release announced it as the record for both a falangcai and a Chinese glass. It will be sold by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on October 8, lot 1. The press release of August 28 announces an expected price in excess of HK $ 200M. It is narrated by Nicholas Chow in the video shared by The Value.
1743 Qianlong reticulated vase
2010 UNPAID at £ 43M plus a buyer's premium of £ 8.6M, at Bainbridges
1747 The Grand Parade of Qianlong
2011 SOLD 22 M€ including premium
The objective is achieved: the power of the young emperor is not disputed. To the delight of current enthusiasts and historians, Qianlong was to become the most important art collector and patron of all time.
At the tenth year of his reign, Qianlong wants to fix the memory of this great revue. He orders the artist Jin Kun to realize four huge scrolls on silk with the help of the official court painters. Fifteen months later (1747 in our calendar), the four works are ready to be assembled in their presentation boxes.
These paintings show the festivities in a chronological order. The second, 68 x 1757 cm, is kept at the Palace Museum in Beijing. The third, 68 cm x 1550, was sold HK $ 68M including premium by Sotheby's on October 8, 2008. The catalog of that sale indicated that the other two were lost.
A miracle happened. No. I do not believe in miracles.
The market for ancient Chinese art has been so boosted for two years (indeed from after the scandal of the bronzes of the Saint-Laurent - Bergé collection) that the treasures come out of the attics: the fourth scroll is retrieved!
With the same height as the others, it is the longest: the incredible multitude of troops occupies 18 m of image. A primer including testimonials and seals increases this length to 24 m, on a diameter of 12 cm when rolled.
This treasure is estimated € 2M, for sale by Marc Labarbe in Toulouse on March 26.
POST SALE COMMENT
The scroll was sold € 17.8 million before fees, 22 million including premium.
The significant difference in price with the auction of 2008 is mainly due to the cultural awakening of China for the most outstanding treasures of its history.
This new price is perfectly understandable and deserved.
1765 Portrait of a Champion by Stubbs
2011 SOLD 22.4 M£ including premium
Made around 1765, the oil on canvas for sale by Christie's in London on July 5 is certainly more outstanding. It is estimated £ 20M. This is the portrait of a horse named Gi mcrack, who was winning most of the races where he was engaged.
This broad composition, 102 x 196 cm, simple and effective, is divided into two parts. On the left, Gimcrack shows his beautiful profile, surrounded by a coach, a stable boy and a jockey.
A race is held on the horizon, on the right. A horse is far ahead of his three followers. He is also Gimcrack, of course. He is therefore shown twice on that image that had everything to flatter the sponsor of the work, Lord Bolingbroke, owner of the champion.
Stubbs is very accurate in anatomical detail, but still shows horses galloping with their four legs flying above the ground. This feature, which can be excused one century before the studies of Muybridge, applies here only in the background and provides this work with an undeniable poetic dimension.
POST SALE COMMENT
Sold £ 22.4 million including premium, Gimcrack has once again won his race.
1768 A Venitian Masterpiece by Francesco Guardi
2011 SOLD 26.7 M£ including premium
In Venice indeed, in the late 1760s, the uncontested master of the genre, Canaletto, is aging. He died in 1768.
It is certainly no coincidence that the most achieved works of Francesco Guardi date from the same period: Canaletto's position on the market was to be taken.
In this time of greater maturity, Guardi executed very few large paintings. The view from the Rialto Bridge, an oil on canvas 120 x 204 cm, for sale by Sotheby's in London on July 6, is exceptional. It is estimated £ 15M.
As ever, the architectures are much detailed. The dense and gentle animation is typical of Guardi, but the cloudy atmosphere and contrasting sunlight are worthy of Canaletto. This work was sold in 1768 : to an Englishman, of course.
It is shown in the press release shared by Artdaily.
POST SALE COMMENT
This exceptional painting was sold £ 26.7 million including premium, in the upper range of the estimates that had been ambitious yet.
1768 From Both Sides of the Rialto
2017 SOLD for £ 26M including premium
They show the commercial district of Venice, the Rialto, on the Grand Canal on both sides of its spectacular single arched covered bridge which housed shops. Through his picturesque animation and his luminosity, Guardi appears as a worthy continuator of Canaletto.
The sequence of monuments is correct but these panoramas are too wide to respect a unique perspective. The large format brings an abundance of details and an exceptional vision of the Venetian atmosphere.
Guardi worked from the collection of his autograph drawings and the modifications made to the monuments do not allow to date his paintings with accuracy. We will consider 1768 for this pair for two reasons. The death of Canaletto in April certainly generate great ambitions to Guardi suddenly becoming the best supplier of the tourists. The first owner was a young British aristocrat who had his tour in 1768, arriving in August in Venice.
The pair was separated in 2011. The view taken northward was sold by Sotheby's for £ 26.7M including premium on July 6, 2011. The view in the reverse direction is for sale on July 6, 2017 in London by Christie's, lot 25. The press release of 5 April announces that it is expected to exceed £ 25M. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
Qianlong - The Vase with Pheasants
2011 SOLD 200 MHK$
The vases, snuff bottles and brushpots made during his reign reach a high degree of perfection. Shapes are Eastern but the subjects and compositions, sometimes, are European.
The enamels with European themes are named Falangcai ("foreign color"). A beautiful porcelain vase of this type is estimated HK $ 180M, for sale by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on April 7, lot 15. On a white background, its exquisite painting shows a couple of pheasants on a nest. The balance ot the curves between the bottle and its neck is perfect.
It is 20 cm high, bears the Imperial mark and is illustrated in the press release shared by Artdaily.
POST SALE COMMENTS
Too expensive. Unsold.
Yes it was expensive, but a buyer was tempted. The press release from Sotheby's told that this vase has been sold HK $ 200M privately after the sale.
Traditionally, such announcement includes fees.
Qian Long Yu Bi Zhi Bao
2016 SOLD for € 21M including premium by Pierre Bergé et Associés
narrated in 2020
One of the most prestigious was the Qian Long Yu Lan Zhi Bao, meaning The Treasure Carefully Examined by the Qianlong Emperor. For example, the scroll of the Banquet of the Victory, sold for € 6.1M including premium by Christie's on November 22, 2005, had been awarded this mark.
Even higher in that hierarchy, there was the Qian Long Yu Bi Zhi Bao, the Treasure from the Imperial Brush of Qianlong, reserved for paintings and calligraphy made by the emperor himself. This mark was equivalent to a signature.
On December 14, 2016, the Pierre Bergé et Associés auction house sold for € 21M including premium a Qian Long Yu Bi Zhi Bao seal. Please watch the video shared by Hôtel Drouot.
This large seal 10.5 x 10.5 cm with an overall height of 9 cm was made of beige and red steatite from Shou Shan. Its decoration is a work of art loaded with symbols.
The upper part, 5 cm high, shows a knot of no less than nine closely entwined dragons pursuing the sacred pearl which is clearly visible and accessible right in the middle of the group. This figure symbolizes the imperial authority at its highest level. It surmounts a 4 cm carved base made up of a frieze of stylized dragons in the archaic style.
1791 The Pearls of Queen Marie-Antoinette
2018 SOLD for CHF 36.4M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
During early phase of the Revolution, Marie-Antoinette who is still the Queen plans to flee to Austria. In January 1791, helped by her chambermaid, she prepares a cassette with her favorite jewelry. The jewels reach Vienna but the king and queen are arrested in Varennes in June 1791.
In 1795 Madame Royale, the only survivor of the children of the royal couple, is freed from the revolutionary prisons and goes into exile in Vienna. The emperor Franz II returns the jewels to her while keeping the rubies in compensation for a pension granted to the princess. In Madame Royale's legacy in 1851, one third of the jewelry is attributed to her niece Louise, Duchess of Parma.
Around 1930 Marie-Anne of Austria, wife of the acting Duke of Parma, describes in an inventory four jewels in pearls and diamonds of which she attests that they come from Marie-Antoinette. These pieces, which had never been published or exhibited, were included in the auction of the royal jewelry from the Bourbon-Parma collection by Sotheby's on November 14, 2018.
Lot 97, a three-row pearl necklace with a diamond clasp, was sold for CHF 2.3M including premium over a lower estimate of CHF 200K. The next two lots, a necklace and a pair of earrings, were sold for CHF 450K each including premium.
Lot 100 was a 15.90 x 18.35 x 25.85mm drop shaped pearl assembled in a pendant with a large diamond clasp and a bow of small diamonds. This interesting souvenir of a queen who had desired to live in the utmost luxury was sold for CHF 36.4M including premium over an estimate of CHF 1M to 2M.