See also : Animals China Later Ming Early Qing Qianlong Modern China Chinese porcelain Ancient Chinese porcelain Qing porcelain Glass and crystal Glass II Art on paper Germany Germany II Spain II Miro Bacon Later Bacons Old Flanders and Belgium Magritte Eastern Europe Alps The Man Coin Early US coins US dollars Silver coins
Chronology : 15th century 1480-1499 18th century 1730-1739 1790-1799 1920-1929 1930-1939 1938 1940-1949 1947 1953 1970-1979
Chenghua - Imperial Chickens
2014 SOLD 280 MHK$ including premium
The best period of Chenghua porcelains is the second decade of his reign. Improvements are made to the choice of materials, enabling a higher temperature. The apex of any ceramic art is then achieved with a dense paste, a transparent and robust glaze and an extraordinary tactile effect.
The doucai color, started under Xuande, also gets some dramatic progress under Chenghua. Mixing enameled colors over the glaze allows a wide range of shades.
The figures of Chenghua ceramics are simple and naive. However, his chicken wine cups had an almost mystical reputation. The rooster is the emperor, and the hen protecting her chicks is his favorite concubine. It is an opportunity fir the historian to remind that Wan Guifei herself intervened to improve the quality of imperial porcelains.
One of these wonders is in perfect condition, on a pristine white background, without any crack or scratch. This piece 8.2 cm in diameter is decorated underglaze in cobalt blue and multicolored on its surface.
It was sold for HK $ 29M including premium on April 27, 1999 by Sotheby's, purchased at that sale by Eskenazi. It is estimated HK $ 200M, for sale by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on April 8.
POST SALE COMMENT
The absolute pinnacle of the art of porcelain was achieved by the Chinese Imperial pieces of the second part of the reign of Chenghua. This cup was sold for HK $ 280M including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's :
Yongzheng - Perfection of a Cloisonné
2010 SOLD 130 MHK$ including premium
The technique of cloisonné enamel was used to create realistic figures often intended as candle holder or as censer. Our exceptional pair of double imperial Chinese cranes belongs to the latter category.
Both elements show the same scene. As it is often the case, they are inverted with respect to each other. On each one, the larger bird, straight legs, sinuous neck, holds in its raised beak a twig of peach with two fruits. More flexible, the smaller bird has slightly bent legs.
The elegance of the cranes, the fineness of the cloisonné and the large size, 1.45 m, are making this pair to be considered as highly exceptional. The estimate is not published in the catalog, but the press release told that the auction house expects in excess of HK $ 120M.
Of course, this representation is full of symbols. The red-capped crane, valued for its longevity, means harmony and peace. The exceptional presence of a smaller bird beside the main figure shows a filial piety. We would like to see it as a tribute by Prince Hongli, the future Emperor Qianlong, to his father Yongzheng in whose reign this perfect artwork was made.
POST SALE COMMENT
HK $ 130M including premium: the high price, which was expected, rewards a lot which is exceptional in its class.
The image of this lot is shared post sale by The Wall Street Journal.
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.
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.
1794 The Very First Silver Dollar
2013 SOLD 10 M$ including premium
This 'one dollar' was not the first issued federal value, but Americans love their dollars and this production has an immeasurable prestige.
One of these coins is in wonderful state, graded Specimen-66 by PCGS. Experts are convinced that it is the earliest among about 150 remaining pieces and that it was perhaps the first dollar ever struck, why not.
Its excellent condition is due to the fact that it would have been retained at the plant during some years and did not leave thereafter great collections, including Green's and Contursi's.
In May 2010, this almost perfect dollar became the most expensive federal coin in history when it entered the Cardinal collection for $ 7.85 M through a private sale. It is illustrated in the article shared by NBC News at that time. It is now offered at auction by Stack's Bowers in New Yorkon January 24.
I have already discussed this outstanding piece in August 2010. Its move into Cardinal's had released from that collection another copy in mint condition, certified MS-64, which was sold for $ 1.2 million including premium by Bowers and Merena.
POST SALE COMMENT
The high prestige of this coin was obvious. The result, $ 10M including premium, exceeds by more than 20% the price reported for the private transaction of 2010.
I invite you to play the post sale video shared on YouTube by CoinWeek :
The world’s most valuable US coin, that last sold for $10,000,000, is set to appear in an auction again later this year. @LegendAuctions has announced the sale of the Bruce Morelan Collection, an assemblage of #coins valued in total at over $20,000,000. https://t.co/418pbp9URE— PCGS (@PCGScoin) June 17, 2020
1922 Oiseau dans l'Espace by Brancusi
2005 SOLD for $ 27.5M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
A previously unknown example came out of its crate, where it had been installed by its owner Léonie Ricou preparing a move to Brussels. A protector of artists and poets, Mme Ricou had been the designated model of the abstract wooden figure titled Portrait de Madame L.R. sculpted by Brancusi between 1914 and 1917.
This newly surfaced Oiseau in a gray-blue marble with white veins on a limestone socle and pedestal is one of the smallest, with 85 cm high for the marble and 122 cm overall. Its proportions are remarkably balanced, with a superb polished stone which has been perfectly preserved by its long-term storage. It is possibly the very first Oiseau dans l'Espace, even before the 137 cm Etude, already closer to the sky, dated 1922.
This seminal piece was sold for $ 27.5M including premium by Christie's on May 4, 2005 over a lower estimate of $ 8M, lot 7. This result was at that time the highest price recorded at auction for any sculpture.
Brancusi and his Birds were ahead of their time. An anecdote is famous in the history of art. In 1926 a bronze sent to the United States for an exhibition was intercepted by customs officials, refusing to qualify it as a work of art which would have exempted it from import tax. It was reclassified in the category of kitchen utensils while awaiting the final decision, which will fortunately be favorable to the artist and will set a precedent for the legal recognition of abstract sculpture.
1938 The Fury of the Birds
2017 SOLD for £ 36M including premium
Beckmann precipitately left Germany in 1937 and settled in Amsterdam. Like Miro at the same time in Spain, he could not manage to stay away from politics. He immediately conceived a great composition, first entitled Der Land des Wahnsinningen (the country of the insane) which would express his horror of the collectivisms.
Completed at the end of the summer of 1938, Hölle der Vögel (hell of birds) is the achievement of that project. This oil on canvas 120 x 160 cm is for sale by Christie's in London on June 27, lot 11. Three days before the press release of May 8, Financial Time announced an estimate of £ 30M.
This scene mixes the medieval and the modern to better express the permanent threat of abject persecution. Tortures are inflicted by hooded birds. In a claustrophobic atmosphere with black lines and garish colors, the victim chained on an Inquisition bed is a light spot. A bird plows his back to the blood with a large knife.
This lugubrious ceremony is presided by a harpy standing out of her broken egg with a monstrous breast. The crowd of secondary characters is made up of screaming nudes who perform the Hitler Grüss, removing any possible doubt about the interpretation of this allegory in the modern world.
The narrative abundance in that work is inspired by medieval imagery. The choice of the bird as a symbol of blind fury reminds the man-swallowing bird in Bosch's Hell.
The political violence in Hölle der Vögel may be compared to Picasso's Guernica, also conceived in 1937. Beckmann's painting, cautiously preserved in a private apartment in Paris until the end of the Second World War, would have deserved a similar notoriety.
Please watch both videos shared by Christie's, one of thempositioning the artwork within Beckmann's career and the other one in which the auction house chose to accompany it by the reading of a similarly inspired poem by W. H. Auden.
1938 The Home of the Eagle
2017 SOLD for £ 10.2M including premium
The composition shows a large snowy mountain seen from a chalet. Everything is normal except that the horizon is centered on a bird's head whose details are zoomorphic. The surprise occasioned by this discovery leads the viewer to perceive the landscape as the extended wings of an eagle. In the foreground two beautiful eggs are placed on a low wall.
The artist has thus grouped two dualities which are among the permanent themes of his surreal world : the living and the rock form an impossible pair while egg to bird is somehow a metamorphosis similar as caterpillar to butterfly. From 1932 the artist placed eggs in bird cages.
The title also has a double meaning. Arnhem in the Netherlands has as its etymological origin 'the home of the eagle' from an Old German word. The Domain of Arnheim is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe in which a man with unlimited wealth remodels the landscape to make it more beautiful than what nature alone can do. This title chosen by Magritte is also an acknowledgment of Poe as a forerunner of Surrealism.
From 1938 to 1962 Magritte built his sublime landscape ten times, always with the same title : three paintings and seven gouaches. The original version, oil on canvas 73 x 100 cm, is estimated £ 6.5M for sale by Christie's in London on February 28, lot 112. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1940 Poetry of the Constellations
2017 SOLD for £ 24.5M including premium
Varengeville is one of the prettiest villages on the Normandy coast. Braque has his workshop and spends summers there. Calder is a frequent visitor. In this small land's end Miro calms his anxieties by contemplating the immensity of the night sky.
The personalization of the groupings of stars is one of the oldest poetic themes of our civilizations. Miro is not an astrologer but he is a poet. With the exceptional freedom of his imagination he superimposes on the sky the images of his fantasy.
In January 1940 Miro begins a series of artworks on the theme of the Constellations. They will all be on paper in the same size, 38 x 46 cm. The background is prepared by splashes of gouache and oil paint, more or less dark. The crescent moon and a few stars are the spectacular elements in bright colors accompanied by floating symbolic or abstract forms. The constellation, woman or bird, is a figure in thin lines surrounded by scrolls, scarcely more visible than a watermark.
The artist conceived from the outset this series as a coherent whole. The use of a a small and light format was premonitory. When he fled France to return to Spain in May 1940 he could take in his luggage the entire set : ten finished works and the pieces of paper that he will be use for the thirteen subsequent works.
The series of Constellations was completed in September 1941. Miro kept the secret until an exhibition in New York in 1945. Pollock was convinced by a possible non-figurative artistic transposition of an observable reality. With the Constellations of Miro modern art has just crossed the Atlantic.
On June 21 in London, Sotheby's sells as lot 45 the eighth opus of Miro's Constellations, dated 13 April 1940. Its unusually simple title, Femme et Oiseaux, prefigures the favorite themes of the artist for the rest of his career. In this sky that calls for peace, Joan Miro is not calmed : the woman howls.
Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's.
1946 Qi Baishi's Eagle
2011 SOLD 425 M RMB yuan including premium
The press release highlights a drawing by Qi Baishi showing an eagle standing in a pine tree, and indicates that it is knowingly the largest work of the artist.
The composition is bold: the bird is completely surrounded by branches, but its proud look makes it the focal point of this image of 266 x 100 cm, flanked by two stripes 66 cm wide. Each stripe includes a poem in four huge calligrams .
As the tiger by the same artist, which had been discussed in this group in April 2010, the animal is a political symbol. This eagle was made in 1946 to celebrate the birthday of Jiang Jieshi (pinyin for Chiang Kai-shek) after the defeat of Japan.
The calculations issued by Artprice are significant: Qi is an artist of the highest level. Gifted and prolific, his importance in the global art market in 2010 joined those of Picasso or Warhol.
POST SALE COMMENT
China Guardian had understood that this was one of the most important works of one of the most valuable artists on the market.
The result is exceptional: RMB 425M including premium. According to the current exchange rate, this price is € 46.5 million and U.S. $ 65M.
This is the highest price recorded since the beginning of the year for an artwork at auction.
Its picture is shared post sale by Paul Fraser collectibles.
The image below is shared by Wikimedia :
1947 Lotus and Mandarin Ducks by Zhang Daqian
2011 SOLD for HK$ 190M including premium by Sotheby's
1953 The Immobile Movement of the Bird
2015 SOLD for £ 9.2M including premium
The careful technique of the artist is not incompatible with the ampleness and speed of his gesture which had inspired Pollock. His pictorial grammar is childish. The composition is a search for a motion that would not contradict the immobility of the canvas.
On February 4 in London, Christie's sells an oil on canvas 90 x 116 cm painted in 1953, lot 116 estimated £ 7M.
The title-poem, L'Oiseau au plumage déployé vole vers l'arbre argenté (the bird with the deployed plumage flies to the silver tree), describes the image, which is not always the case in the surrealist art of Miro and suggests that the action was chosen very early in the design of this artwork.
The background provides the atmosphere of a peaceful twilight with the night coming from the right. A dynamic although imaginary arch supporting the upper part of the scenery leads the bird to the tree in a move that will cross through the crescent moon.
Miro does not accept empty spaces in his paintings. The picture is completed by stars stylized as snowflakes and a foreground with two important figures including some anthropomorphic features.
1976 Large Triptych by Bacon
2008 SOLD for $ 86M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
This triptych brings together a synthesis of Francis' career, as Picasso had done twenty years earlier with his series of Les Femmes d'Alger.
Five years after the suicide of George Dyer, Francis confirms that the major inspirations of his art and of his life are suffering, guilt and punishment. The main figure in the central panel is a headless Prometheus tortured by the eagle, in a composition similar to 'Painting 1946'. Other symbols on this panel include the Furies disguised as pelicans and a chalice dripping with blood.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the young artist was gradually destroying his own work. This phase of creative dissatisfaction ended after the revelation to him of the two most tragic characters in the Greek theater, Prometheus and Orestes by Aeschylus.
The very first work he considered completed, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, in 1944, a triptych of elements 94 x 74 cm, is an interpretation of the mourners inspired by the Furies of Orestes. 'Painting 1946', 198 x 132 cm, was commented by Bacon : he had started painting a figure of a monkey, the alter ego of mankind, when the punishing eagle arrived in his subconscious.
The triptychs of 198 x 148 cm panels are the format chosen by Bacon in his later career for works he manages to be the most achieved. Three Studies of Lucian Freud, painted in 1969, was sold for $ 142M including premium by Christie's on November 12, 2013. Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards, painted in 1984, was sold for $ 81M including premium by Christie's on 13 May 2014. The sale of Triptych inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus, painted in 1981, was sold for $ 85M including premium by Sotheby's on June 29, 2020.