See also : Canaletto China Chinese porcelain Qianlong Qing porcelain Chinese art
1740 Grand Canal by Bellotto
2007 SOLD for $ 11M by Christie's
The autograph painting by Canaletto of the Grand Canal at the Church of San Stae (Sant' Eustachio) was made in the late 1730s in small format 47 x 78 cm in the series of views for the Duke of Marlborough.
Bernardo made his hand on this view ca 1740 when he was not yet 20. His oil on canvas 78 x 130 cm was sold for $ 11M by Christie's on April 19, 2007, lot 113. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The large size make by Bernardo is brilliant in a confident hand, with much attention taken to tiny details such as tiles or ripples. The drawing follows very closely the master copy including the position of the characters in the gondolas and the shapes of the clouds.
A remake by Canaletto in the original format 47 x 78 cm was used in 1742 for an engraving. It was sold for £ 2.3M by Christie's on July 4, 1997, lot 120. The viewpoint, the clouds and the gondolas are different.
1741-1744 Pair of Qianlong Yangcai Double Gourds
2017 SOLD for £ 14.7M by Christie's
Superintendent Tang Ying was commissioning to the Jingdezhen workshops the most sensational pieces of porcelain capable of being approved by the emperor himself. One of his most remarkable breakthroughs was the development of yangcai enamels, a less expensive replacement for the falangcai which could only be made in a small workshop of the Beijing palace.
The porcelains of double gourd type are developed under the reign of the Yongzheng emperor. They reach a great elegance with his successor Qianlong : the much smaller upper bulb is often linked by two handles to the globular lower part.
Among the double gourd vases with handles, a blue and white 23 cm high with a pattern of lotus leaves was sold for HK $ 24M by Christie's on December 1, 2010, lot 3054.
Pairs are rare. One of them recently discovered in an English country house was sold for £ 14.7M by Christie's on May 9, 2017, lot 99. Each vase has the same shape and size as the blue and white example described above. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
In the same style of decoration, the details of both vases in that pair are different. They are painted with flowers and butterflies in yangcai enamels in an accumulation of auspices and symbols of seasons that was probably prepared for the birthday of some prestigious people. For the rebus so enjoyed at the imperial court the butterfly means 'repetition' by homophony, doubling the message of the auspice and the prediction of longevity.
The ground porcelain of this pair is pure white according to a usual practice during the Yongzheng period. Considering that a pink ground has been appreciated under Qianlong for pieces of the same theme, it is possible that this pair bearing his imperial mark was made early in his reign.
A reprimand expressed by Qianlong in 1741 CE led to a reinforced supervision by Tang Ying and his newly appointed assistant Laoge. It is a terminus post quem of the high quality porcelains made in Jingdezhen with the Qianlong imperial mark. The high skill required to the Jingdezhen workshops was maintained until the ninth year of Qianlong, 1744 CE.
2012 SOLD for HK$ 107M by Sotheby's
The flattened double gourd shape is delicately artistic, with its bulb in the middle of the neck and its pretty winding handles.
On a rich yellow background, the central iron red medallion is circled by five confronting open winged bats of same color in a surrounding of leaves and scrolls. The interiors and the bases are glazed in soft pale turquoise. No identical vase is known.
Five bats represent the ‘Five Blessings’ of old age, wealth, health, love of virtue and a peaceful death. Such auspicious dedication is generally applied for a birthday or wedding gift in the imperial family. The homophony 'fu' means bat and blessing.
Qianlong Doucai Daoist Tianqiuping
2018 SOLD for HK$ 130M by Christie's
The Qing artist has the choice between several decoration techniques : doucai, wucai, fencai. Doucai brings an additional difficulty. The blue is made in its final outline before making the glaze on which the enamels of the other colors will then be applied. The porosity of the raw material must be compatible with the desired fineness of the drawing. An asymmetry created by the first heating damages a doucai figure irreparably.
On May 30, 2018, Christie's sold for HK $ 130M from a lower estimate of HK $ 70M a 54 cm high doucai tianqiuping, lot 8888. that is close to technological limits beyond which imperfections of shape are inevitable. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
This vase bearing the imperial mark of Qianlong is decorated with the emblems of the eight immortals of Taoism. This theme is rare for this emperor who preferred Buddhism. A recording of a tiangqiuping in wucai of similar illustration in the imperial archives was made during the third year of the reign, 1738 CE.
Considered separately, all these elements are in the taste of Yongzheng. The death of this emperor did not stop the imperial incitement to the potters in Jingdezhen to perform the technical feats of the highest virtuosity. The script of the imperial mark of Qianlong is a model in use according to some experts between the 7th and the 35th year of the reign, 1742 to 1770 CE. A date around the 1740s CE appears plausible.
For similar auspices, peaches, another symbol of immortality, are a favorite theme for a tianqiuping throughout the reigns of Yongzheng and Qianlong. Two 51 cm and 55 cm high Qianlong yangcai vases without an estimate of date within his 60 year long reign were sold by Sotheby's respectively for HK $ 90M on October 5, 2011 and for HK $ 63M on October 7, 2015.
Qianlong Yangcai Reticulated Vase
1742 Longquan Vase
2020 SOLD for HK$ 70M by Sotheby's
Tang Ying manages to reproduce this double vase which will be identified as a Longquan vase in the imperial archives. The earliest reference for a Qianlong Longquan vase is the presentation of a piece to the emperor by a eunuch for the use of the very prestigious hall of audiences and banquets in the palace. This event happened in the twelfth day of the eighth month of the seventh year of Qianlong, in 1742 CE.
Only one known piece is matching the archives description of this first referred vase. The vase 31.4 cm high overall is pear shaped, surmounted by a neck with two dragon shaped gilt handles. A collar is hanging below the rim. It is made in a sgraffiato incised yangcai except the reticulated part which is celadon. The inner vase is an underglaze blue on white in Xuande style of peaches and florets. The window is intricately carved throughout the perimeter of the lower body.
This vase was sold for £ 44 by Sotheby's in 1954. It has just been rediscovered in a European country house where it had never caught the attention of countless generations of wandering cats and dogs. It was sold for HK $ 70M by Sotheby's on July 11, 2020, lot 1. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
In 1743 CE, Tang Ying announced in an official report the extremely low yield of the Longquan vases, with a successful production of only nine singles. The emperor agreed to stop this style while suggesting to make a second vase for creating pairs. The vase for the audience hall, which had the most complex shape, was certainly the very first, made before Tang Ying could estimate the technical difficulties. Its pair was probably not made.
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 baluster shaped reticulated vase with auspicious pairs of fishes surfaced in Middlesex in 2010. 41 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 an underglaze blue on white in Ming style. The window is intricately carved throughout the perimeter of the lower body similarly as for the first prototype, but with the exception of the four evenly spaced gilt-rimmed fish medallions carved in relief. It does not have handles.
After 30 minutes of bidding at lot 800 on November 11, 2010, 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. The vase was privately sold by Bonhams two years later.
2018 SOLD for HK$ 150M by Sotheby's
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.
1743 Heaven and Earth Vase
2022 SOLD for HK$ 177M by Sotheby's
The outer vase is a classical pear shaped decorated in yangcai with ruyi lines and lotus flowers. Its background is red ruby. It is incised in sgraffiato. Its pairing vase, also known in Sotheby's archives, has a rib below the neck. A smaller pair made in the next year has a bright yellow ground. Another pair was made in 1746.
The actual body inside that envelope is a revolving inner tube, terminated by the trumpet shaped finial in pale ground with two handles. It is painted in its lower part with underglaze-blue lotus scrolls in early Ming style.
The two sets of four small windows over and under a continuous line of ruyi heads are made of patterns of three straight rows, either in full length or divided to symbolize the eight trigrams of heaven and earth. The Chinese word of this figure is qian which is the first part of Qianlong reign title.
Obviously the tubular shape of the inner vase would not allow a comfortable view from the central distance of the outer wall. It is a major difference from the all around view in the non revolving Longquan type.
Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
< 1745 The Poem of the Ten Stones
2010 SOLD for HK$ 90M by Sotheby's (probably unpaid)
2012 SOLD for HK$ 70 M by Sotheby's
A scroll of Qianlong period listed by Sotheby's on October 9, 2012, finds its cultural roots in the deepest ages. It was sold for HK $ 70M, lot 3007. This piece had been previously sold in the same auction room on October 7, 2010 for HK$ 90M from a lower estimate of HK$ 15M, lot 2104. The provenance in the 2012 catalogue does not refer to the 2010 sale. I guess that it had been unpaid in 2010.
The Shaanxi province is considered as one of the cradles of Chinese culture. About 2500 years ago, Qin scribes have engraved in granite short poems on the themes of fishing, hunting and war.
The discovery during the Tang dynasty, 1200 years ago, of a group of ten drum-shaped carved poem-sculptures created an intense cultural emotion, an evidence of the importance that the Chinese already granted to their past. Even more amazing: the Chinese science was already the subject of publications. The Confucian philosopher Han Yu is one of those who wrote texts in tribute to the ten stones, the Shigu ge.
Now jump nine centuries. Zhang Zhao is a poor minister but a recognized scholar and Qianlong, rather than having him executed after a failed mission, sends him back to his beloved studies. This is probably after this incident that he copied the Shigu ge of Han Yu.
Zhang died suddenly during the tenth year of the reign of Qianlong. The Emperor continued to admire above all the cursive calligraphy of Zhang.
During the gengxu year, the 55th of his reign, 1790 CE, Qianlong ordered to preserve the text of the ten stones threatened by abrasion and renewed his interest in the Shigu ge of Zhang. He added a preface and inked the mark of 33 imperial seals attesting to all the reasons of his admiration for this scroll.
The Shigu ge is 55 cm high and 7.90 m long, extended by the frontispiece of the emperor, 46 x 103 cm.
1743 il Cannone Guarnerius Del Gesu Violin, ex Paganini
Palazzo Doria-Torsi, Genoa
His most desirable instruments nevertheless belong to that last period. They include Paganini's preferred violin, made in 1743 and an ex Menuhin made in 1742. Private sales have included the ex Vieuxtemps made ca 1741, sold for nearly $ 18M in 2013, and the Kochanski made in the same year and sold for $ 10M in 2009.
The ex Paganini was nicknamed il Cannone by the maestro for referring to the explosive sound that he was able to produce with it.
Del Gesu died in 1744.
The image is shared by Wikimedia with attribution Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
1745-1747 Verona by Bellotto
2021 SOLD for £ 10.6M by Christie's
From 1740 the next phase was to conceive his own cityscapes. He then explored Italy southward to Rome and westward to Turin, probably to leave the business of Venice proper to Canaletto. He was using the same techniques as his uncle including sketching on the spot with the camera oscura and painting in the workshop.
A pair of views of Verona in oil on canvas has a very large size, 133 x 255 cm, probably made on commission ca 1745 for an unidentified patron.
One of them features the stone faced Ponte Navi with its medieval guethouse tower on the Adige river in the afternoon light. The well centered panorama displays both banks plus a ramp accessing a narrow river island. Bellotto observed in details the decay of that monumental bridge constructed in 1373. It was severely damaged by a flood in 1757 and the tower could not be reconstructed.
It was sold for £ 10.6M by Christie's on July 8, 2021, lot 9.
The pendant view is taken upstream from the Ponte Nuova with the Castel San Pietro. Bellotto painted simplified full size replicas of both views as specimens of his know how when he left Italy in the spring of 1747. The original view of the Ponte Navi was indeed the masterpiece that opened the rest of his career from Dresden to Warsaw.
#AuctionUpdate The supreme masterpiece of Bellotto's early career, 'View of Verona with the Ponte delle Navi' achieved £10,575,000. The talented nephew of Canaletto, Bellotto is celebrated as one of the greatest topographical view painters.⠀ pic.twitter.com/kKnLHZ4fAL— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) July 8, 2021
1747 Qianlong Military Parade
2011 SOLD for € 22M by Marc Labarbe
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 CE, 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 by Sotheby's on October 8, 2008. The catalog of that sale indicated that the other two were lost.
The French market for ancient Chinese art had been boosted after the scandal of the bronzes of the Saint-Laurent - Bergé collection. The fourth scroll resurfaced.
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 piece was sold for € 22M by Marc Labarbe on March 26, 2011.
1749 The Old Horse Guards by Canaletto
1992 SOLD for £ 10M by Christie's
Being a foreigner in this big city in perpetual transformation, he did not try to express the atmosphere of remote districts and focused on a limited number of topics including the banks of the Thames and the great plaza of St. James's Park in Westminster.
The view of the Horse Guards across St. James's is one of his masterpieces by its monumental size, 117 x 236 cm. This oil on canvas was sold for £ 10M by Christie's on April 15, 1992. It is currently on long-term loan to the Tate Gallery by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
Canaletto displays the old red brick building of the Horse Guards. Two sketches that have been preserved assess that the artist had been appealed by the announcement of the imminent destruction of the building in 1749. The oil on canvas was probably painted in May or June 1749 and was certainly the view of St. James's Park advertised by the artist in July 1749 as a demonstrator of his art for his visitors.
A smaller painting, 47 x 77 cm, has also be made in the same period. It is less panoramic and better focused on the Old Horse Guards and on the spring green of the Park. It had been sold for £ 1.1M by Christie's on July 4, 1997, lot 121 and passed at Sotheby's on January 29, 2015, lot 98.
Really passionate about this fate of a monument, Canaletto observed again this scenery three years later with the scaffolding of the new building. This oil on panel 59 x 110 cm passed in 2012 at Dorotheum on October 17, 2012.