1733 Canal Grande between Balbi and Rialto
2005 SOLD for £ 18.6 M by Sotheby's
Around 1723, he paints two very large views, 141 x 204 cm and 144 x 207 cm, certainly as pendants for a single client.
He chooses the panoramic view of the Piazza San Marco with the basilica to illustrate the grandiose architecture, and the view of the Grand Canal between Palazzo Balbi and the Rialto bridge to show the life on the gondolas. The canal rotates at a right angle at that place. It is seen from full front when we look through a window from one of the three floors of the Palazzo Foscari.
On July 7, 2005, Sotheby's sold for £ 18.6M from a lower estimate of £ 6M a view of the Grand Canal between Balbi and Rialto, in excellent condition, lot 47. This oil on canvas 86 x 138 cm is dated around 1733 by considerations of style, and is the very last large size example painted by Canaletto with this specific position. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The provenance of this painting was reconstructed before the sale. It had been listed as early as 1736 in the collection of Robert Walpole, who was the very first British statesman to exercise the function of a prime minister. Walpole belonged to the whig party opposed to royal absolutism and certainly considered Venice, which he had not visited, as a model of a republican regime.
mid to later 1730s Canal Grande at San Stae
2022 SOLD for $ 11.8M by Christie's
The artist went to execute extended series of views with seldom depicted viewpoints that matched the pre-romantic mood. He made after 1735 a series of 24 pictures later kept at Woburn Abbey and a series of 21 pictures for the Duke of Marlborough.
Smith kept many views in his house. For his business, he made printed two series by Vicentini, from 14 paintings in 1735 and from 24 in 1742.
A view of the Canal Grande looking south east from San Stae to the Fabbriche Nuove di Rialto, oil on canvas 47 x 78 cm painted by Canaletto, was sold for $ 11.8M from a lower estimate of $ 2.5M by Christie's on November 9, 2022, lot 55. One of the palazzi in this picture will be acquired by Smith in 1740.
The only other example of this view by Canaletto is in the Marlborough series. From that one, the artist made the major topographic improvement of raising the viewpoint to bird's eye at about 6 m over water level. The artist took care to modify accordingly the angles of the monuments. The improved view was included in the 1742 series of prints.
1738-1739 pair of views: Piazza San Marco and Canal Grande
2013 SOLD for £ 9.6 M£ by Sotheby's
In the late 1730s, his best works are altogether the most realistic topographic views of the monuments of Venice, a sunny atmosphere that appeals to tourists and the summary of all aspects of everyday life in the city. The great skill of this artist is to provide a perfect balance between all these topics.
A pair of canvas painted in 1738 or 1739 in his most usual format, 47 x 77 cm, displays on one of them the Piazza San Marco and for the other the Canal Grande to the Rialto. These two focal points of the Venetian activity are the best excuse to offer a picturesque scenery with unlimited entertainment.
The first customer of this pair has not been identified. The fact that they deal with the two most classic Venetian views may suggest that they were not extracted from a larger set. Their condition is pristine. This lot was sold for £ 9.6M from a lower estimate of £ 8M by Sotheby's on December 4, 2013, lot 39. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
This period marks the greater maturity of the art of Canaletto when he teaches his craft to a gifted apprentice, his young nephew Bernardo Bellotto, causing a healthy rivalry between the two artists.
Yongzheng Cloisonné Cranes
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.
1732 The Badminton cabinet
2004 SOLD for £ 19 M£ by Christie's
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 and on December 9, 2004 for £ 19M, lot 260. 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
1735 The Venetian Rosary
2020 SOLD for $ 17.3M including premium
On January 29 in New York, Sotheby's sells a monumental altarpiece painted by Tiepolo in 1735, oil on canvas 246 x 156 cm, lot 61. The article published on December 4 by the auction house announces an estimate in excess of $ 15M.
The theme is a Madonna of the Rosary with Angels. The simple and effective composition, unusual for the artist, and the liveliness of the colors remind Titian, and the attitude is mannerist.
The artist wanted this Madonna to appear with the utmost majesty. She is standing on a stone pedestal, for being worshiped like a statue. Her youth and elegance are enhanced by a hip position. The red cloak is a symbol of royalty.
The fully unfolded rosary is hanging from her outstretched hand like an offering for an out-of-field user. This artefact brings a modernism to the image : its use in Marian prayer was recommended by Pope Benedict XIII, a former Dominican who died in 1730.
The artist has constructed an interesting symmetry between the rosary held by the Mother and the cross held by the Child. The gaze of the Mother is introverted, while that of the Child is directed towards the hand holding the rosary.
Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1735-1738 Imperial Soapstone Seal
2022 SOLD for HK$ 153M by Sotheby's
When he acceded to the throne in 1735 CE the Qianlong emperor was already a keen connoisseur of arts. He picked out for his own yulan shi bao a 7.8 cm square 10.7 cm high soapstone seal finial from the Kangxi-Yongzheng transition. This piece is carved in the round with a crouching mythical winged lion, fitted with flames on the body and dragon scales on the legs, mothering two small creatures. Its eyes are set with black gemstones.
The terminus ante quem of the face with the six character Qianlong mark is the 3rd year of the reign when the complete set of seals needed for the immediate use of the new emperor went to be complete. The soapstone in intaglio has been slightly worn by its extensive stamping use before the preparation in 1745 of the Shiqu Baoji inventory catalogue of the imperial collection.
Resurfacing in 1965 at auction by Sotheby's, the seal was again out of public view afterwards. It was sold for HK $ 153M by Sotheby's on April 29, 2022, lot 3801. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
The paintings bearing the imperial appreciation from that specific seal include among others Travelers among mountains and streams by Fan Kuan, Early spring by Guo Xi and A Thousand Miles of Rivers and Mountains by Wang Ximeng, plus many top level calligraphies.
The Qianlong emperor owned six other yulan shi bao connoisseur seals of various sizes.
1736 Falangcai Swallow Bowl
2023 SOLD for HK$ 200M by Sotheby(s
According to the palace records, ‘a large pair of bowls with apricot grove and spring swallows’ was submitted in 1734 CE during the reign of the Yongzheng emperor. A pair matching this description is kept in the palace Museum in Taipei.
A similar pair bearing the same poem with another illustration of the trees and birds bears the imperial mark of Qianlong. It was arguably prepared at the very beginning of that reign, 1736. The narrative illustration was soon afterward out-fashioned, the new emperor preferring naturalistic themes. Both elements are slightly different one another in the practice of the Yongzheng reign.
The Qianlong pair was separated at auction in 1929. One of the bowls soon joined the Sir Percival David Collection, now in the British Museum.
Its counterpart went to several prestigious owners including Barbara Hutton and Dr Alice Cheng. It was sold for HK $ 150M by Christie's on November 28, 2006, lot 1309, and for HK $ 200M by Sotheby's on April 8, 2023, lot 1. Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's.
This small piece 11.3 cm in diameter is potted with translucent rounded sides rising to a flaring rim. The exterior is enameled in two shades of pink, yellow, green, brown and black. Its Qianlong four-character imperial mark is inserted in a double square.
Illustrating the pleasure of spring, it features two auspicious swallows flying in the sky beside a blossoming apricot tree intertwined with a willow. Such a combination had been considered as vulgar by a Ming taste arbiter. The willow tree is an emblem for a slender beautiful woman while the apricot refers to a playful sexuality. Swallows bring worldwide the announcement of spring. Often seen in pairs, they also symbolize a loving couple.
The ten-character poem inscribed in four black lines on the reverse is related with a dance performed by a Tang imperial concubine with a gown of shimmering feathers. Its three lines are respectively preceded and followed by ruby red enamel seals meaning early spring and dawn glow.
1736 The Celadon Dragons
2014 SOLD for HK$ 94M including premium
Several centuries pass. The many workshops in Jingdezhen offer the best of Chinese porcelain, with the protection and soon the enthusiasm of the Qing emperors.
In the sixth year of his reign, Yongzheng appointed Tang Ying as Superintendent of Jingdezhen imperial works. Encouraged cleverly during the two decades of the ministry of Tang Ying, the Chinese porcelain reached its peak, combining the rediscovery of ancient techniques, the experimenting with new cookings, as well as the full range of traditional and new shapes and themes.
A large monochrome celadon jar of 34 cm for sale by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on October 8, lot 3901, meets all these characteristics. This exceptional porcelain is expected beyond HK $ 80 million according to the press release.
The technique optimizing celadon was rediscovered after being lost since the Song. The theme with two dragons flying in a tight pattern of flames and clouds was not so lively before the Qing. Its high relief carving including the emergence of the muzzles is stunning, creating in the round a real three-dimensional scene.
A dragon is in a slightly dominant attitude relative to the other one. Both are imperial in the five fingered variant. They probably represent the emperor and his heir, same as the pairs of cranes in cloisonne from the same time that symbolized Yongzheng and his son Honli, the future Qianlong.
The jar does not bear the imperial mark of Yongzheng but of Qianlong. It was probably made in the period of transition between the two reigns, around 1736 of our calendar, the 14th and final year of Yongzheng.
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.