> 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
These first years are experimental, with pieces of all shapes. Qianlong who succeeds Yongzheng in 1735 CE is just as demanding as his father. To please him, they must constantly bring novelties that match his ambitious role as Son of Heaven, accumulating the styles of all dynasties and integrating the new European trends.
In the early 1740s Tang Ying's expertise in Jingdezhen has no limits. The most complicated pieces are technological syntheses that require a long succession of firings at the risk of a low yield.
In a memorandum submitted to Qianlong in 1743 CE, Tang Ying apologizes for the small amount of units produced in the new style of double vase, only nine. The inner part is enclosed in the outer vase with a distance of about 3 to 4 cm between their walls. The outer vase is pierced by large holes of various elegant shapes that allow the peeping to the inner part. The exterior is decorated with the same profusion as more classical imperial pieces.
Qianlong does not request the impossible. He authorizes to complete in pairs those models that had been produced in single pieces before suspending this technique sine die.
A reticulated vase with pairs of fishes surfaced in Middlesex in 2010. 40 cm high, it mixes archaic, Song, Buddhist and rocaille inspirations, juxtaposing the classic celadon and the modern yangcai in a yellow ground with sgraffiato. The inner wall is a blue and white in Ming style. After 30 minutes of bidding, Bainbridges's hammer fell at £ 43M, £ 51.6M including the premium, but the payment failed and the sale was cancelled. Here is the link to the 2012 report by The Telegraph before the sale was cancelled.
In 2010 nobody had considered the catalog of the exhibition in New York in 1905 of a Japanese collection where its pairing piece had been photographed and described. This vase has resurfaced. It was sold for HK $ 150M from a lower estimate of HK $ 50M by Sotheby's on October 3, 2018, lot 3001. It differs from the Middlesex specimen by a rarer variant of the reign mark and so may be the master item produced for that pair.
1752 100 Birds
2021 SOLD for RMB 266M by Poly
The technology of the double vase nevertheless remained appealing for offering the most favorable auspices. Such pieces may be identified as turning heart bottles.
One of them, 63 cm high, is among the most massive in that category. The outer belly features a flying phoenix in a scenery. The open work matches the details of the landscape in irregular shapes, which is an additional feat with a higher risk of deformation during the firing. The rotation of the inner cylinder reveals the flock of ten species of auspicious birds in their flight facing the phoenix as a symbol of the harmonious balance of yin and yang.
The Divine Mother Empress Dowager Chongqing was held in very high regard by her son the Qianlong emperor and her 60th birthday in 1752 CE was one of the most lavish events of his reign.
The Imperial archives record that, on the fifth month of Qianlong's 18th year, the emperor commissioned Jingdezhen to fire a turning heart bottle with fighting dragons which was delivered by Tang Ying in the 11th month of the next year after 18 months of labor.
The yangcai vase with the phoenix was not documented. It was certainly prepared in the same period for a filial presenting to the empress dowager who was known to enjoy the story of the '100 birds'. It was sold for £ 330K by Christie's on June 15, 1999, lot 99, and for RMB 266M by Poly on June 7, 2021, lot 5153.
1761 Panier de Fraises des Bois by Chardin
2022 SOLD for € 24.4M by Artcurial
Following the path opened by Adriaen Coorte around 1700, Chardin opts for the simplest geometric tabletop compositions in a contrasted light in front of a dark raw background.
Le Panier de fraises des bois, oil on canvas 38 x 46 cm, was released for the Salon de 1761 and illustrated by Saint-Aubin in the livret of that exhibition. It displays a stack of wild strawberries as a spectacular conical tabletop in a basket. That vivid red fruit had been Coorte's preferred pictorial theme.
The composition is completed on the table by a glass filled with limpid water, and by two ornamental cut off flowers, two cherries and a peach. Chardin had skillfully added an upper layer of red lacquer to link together the grainy berries while he left slightly unfocused the carnations.
Recognized as a masterpiece of Chardin's maturity offering a perfect sharp viewing from an ideal distance of 5 m away, Le panier was kept in a private French collection since 1862. It was sold for € 24.4M from a lower estimate of € 12M by Artcurial on March 23, 2022, lot 15. Please watch the video shared by the auction house. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
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.
1787 US Constitution
2021 SOLD for $ 43M by Sotheby's
The text was immediately edited in 500 copies for the use of delegates and congressmen. No public release was suitable at that time as it still had to be ratified by the federal Congress and the states. The 6-page 41 x 26 cm document printed by John Dunlap in partnership with David Claypool includes in appendix the list of delegates who voted for it and a copy of Washington's letter urging the ratification by the Congress.
This original US Constitution is still in force today without fundamental changes. Such an unprecedented longevity is due to the remarkable political insight of the delegates who prepared it under the leadership of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton and to the foreseen capability to amend it as necessary.
Thirteen copies are surviving. One of them was sold for $ 43M from a lower estimate of $ 15M by Sotheby's on November 18, 2021, lot 1787. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
This piece is the top highlight from the collection of S. Howard Goldman and his widow Dorothy. It is sold for the benefit of the Dorothy Tapper Goldman Foundation whose aim is to advance the principles of America’s founding documents through educational programs. Mrs Goldman introduces her collection and educational purpose in the video shared by Sotheby's.
From the same collection, a copy of the first separate printing of the so called Bill of Rights was sold for $ 1.53M from a lower estimate of $ 700K by Sotheby's on November 23, 2021, lot 71.
This 3-page 34 x 21 cm document is dated August 24, 1789. It was prepared for proposing to the Congress a resolution of amendments to the US Constitution. Such articles had been desired by US citizens for preventing the government to infringe the basic individual rights. They were approved on September 26, 1789 and constitute the Third to Twelfth Amendments.
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.