Glass and Crystal
Chronology : 600 BCE - CE 18th century 1730-1739 1750-1759 1942 1952
The Fang Hu of the Warring States
2020 SOLD for $ 8.3M including premium
The wording Warring States wrongly evokes anarchy. This period instead opened up China to new life styles through the development of Confucianism and Taoism. The traditional sacrificial or funeral rites persist while taking into account the observation of nature and medicine. The taotie, which expressed the mystery of the spirits, disappear from the bronze vessels.
The technological evolution of bronze becomes multidisciplinary. In very thick walls, deep grooves are filled with precious materials that bring the colors : gold, silver, copper, malachite, turquoise. Bronze handles and zoomorphic elements are added.
The baluster-shaped hu is the most common vessel at that time for the ritual use of wine. On September 23 in New York, Sotheby's sells a 35 cm high covered fang hu, lot 578 estimated $ 2.5M. Please watch the video shared by the auction house. Fang means that the bottle has a square section. It is richly decorated with gold, silver and glass.
The gold was encrusted by hammering a sheet on a pattern of protruding knobs added after casting. The glass was fitted in diamond- or half diamond- shaped plaques of nine or six beads in hollow reserves between the gold bosses. Silver volutes decorate the dark brown bronze surface inlaid with green malachite. The slightly domed cover is surmounted by four animals in the round.
The use of glass, recently introduced in China, is extremely rare. The only other example from the same period of a bronze vessel inlaid with glass is a pair of hu discovered around 1930, known from photographs of the time.
Each glass bead has the shape of an eye, in a concentric polychromy. This design, which perhaps had magical significance, was produced for a very short period of time. Examples were found in the tomb of Marquis Yi of the principality of Zeng in Hubei, dated 433 BCE.
The sale of the fang hu, which had not been seen since 1938, allows a real rediscovery by the experts of the opulence reached in the time of the Warring States by the ritual bronzes of classical form.
A Fatimid Rock Crystal Ewer
2008 SOLD 3.1 M£ including premium
The rock crystal ewer found by Christie's comes from that time. Associated Press tells the story of this discovery. In January, a small English auction house proposed a French wine jug of the nineteenth century, estimated one hundred pounds. Fans were excited on the unusual nature of this object, and they spoke quickly into hundreds of thousands of dollars. Here there is divergence between AP saying that the object was sold, which Xinhua saying, quoting Christie's, that it was withdrawn "by mutual agreement".
It is a true treasure: it is comforting to know that there are still some of them circulating on the market. The challenge is to detect them. Christie's offers this item for sale in London on October 7, announcing in its press release that it could exceed £ 3 million.
It is one of seven identified copies of Fatimid rock crystal ewers from the Fatimid royal treasure of Cairo. It was carved in a block of flawless rock crystal, and is decorated with cheetahs in chains. The six other copies belong to museums. Each one is decorated with a different animal in relation to the theme of hunting.
The ewer of our article has been gold mounted in the middle of the nineteenth century by a French goldsmith who once worked for Queen Victoria. That may probably explain the January initial error of description.
Such works are fragile. The one that belonged to the Pitti palace was broken in 1998 beyond repair during a fall. The scarcity is created and strengthened by the disappearance of objects. This one is exceptional.
POST SALE COMMENT
The specialists at Christie's were right in their estimates. The ewer was sold £ 3.1 million including expenses.
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.
1736-1758 Brushpots in Enamel Glass
2008 SOLD for HK$ 73M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
The pieces produced without bubble and without crack which deserve to receive the imperial mark are almost nonexistent under Kangxi and Yongzheng. All of the items listed below have the Qianlong imperial mark. The know-how ceases to be maintained after 1758 CE.
Brushpots in enameled glass are extremely rare.
A 8.5 cm high piece with square section and canted corners was sold for HK $ 68M including premium by Christie's in Hong Kong on November 27, 2007, lot 1665. Its buyer, the Taiwanese businessman Robert Tsao, put it back on sale in the same room on May 27, 2008 as a charity lot to help the victims of the Sichuan earthquake. It was sold for HK $ 73M including premium, lot 1525.
A 6.1 cm high cylindrical brushpot was sold for HK $ 49M including premium by Christie's on November 28, 2012 over a lower estimate of HK $ 6M, lot 2124.
An 18 cm high vase in the shape of an ovoid pouch was sold for HK $ 207M including premium by Sotheby's on October 8, 2019. Snuff bottles are less rare. A rectangular piece 8 cm high was sold for HK $ 25.3M including premium by Bonhams on November 28, 2011 over a lower estimate of HK $ 4.9M.
Qianlong Falangcai Glass Brushpot
2012 SOLD for HK$ 49M by Christie's
It is finely painted with an extended enamel palette on a translucent white glass reminiscent of the color of jade. Its slightly curved cylindrical shape is exquisite.
It features an elderly scholar inspecting a landscape hand scroll with the help of an assistant and of a young boy while the group on the other side is centered on an European in Chinese robe, possibly in reference to the role of the Jesuits in the development of the enamel painting on glass and porcelain.
1900 Tiffany Dandelion Lamp
2021 SOLD for $ 3.75M by Rago
In New York the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company develops various techniques for the growing market of the lighting. His very own recently patented favrile glass displaying bright colors in the bulk is awarded a Grand Prix at that Exposition. Tiffany operates also a production line for bronze casting, for enameling and will soon have one for ceramics.
The 75 cm high Dandelion lamp is one of the masterpieces conceived especially by Tiffany for the Paris Exposition. In 1901 it will also be displayed at the Pan American in Buffalo. At the same time in France, Gallé was inspired by all current forms of nature and highlighting a mere dandelion was in the fashion of the time.
The lamp is a glass globe 29 cm in diameter atop a tall and narrow copper base. It is not enameled and its technical feat is not in the blown white glass engraved with a flow of seeds but in the copper, intricately hammered with all the growing elements of a dandelion and displaying a variety of patinations by oxidizing.
The production process was time consuming. After making a replica of the dandelion, no other unit will be made. From 1901 the assembly of a shade with hundreds of small colored favrile plaques is the solution for developing the highly successful production line of the Tiffany lamps, farther from botanical realism but more appealing to the customers.
The original Dandelion lamp has just resurfaced. It was sold for $ 3.75M by Rago on May 13, 2021, lot 273 here linked on the LiveAuctioneers bidding platform.
Tiffany Studios Dandelion lamp, 1900, hand-blown Favrile glass & hammered & patinated copper, 29½" H x 11½" D, sold for $3,745,000 (est $50,000/75,000), setting a new auction record for a Tiffany Lamp https://t.co/GbVsxkrHkD #antiques #antique #vintage #Tiffany #lamp #lamps pic.twitter.com/BvfxkqWbzJ— Maine Antique Digest (@AntiqueDigest) July 30, 2021
1913 Winter Egg by Fabergé
2002 SOLD for $ 9.6M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
The eggs supplied by Fabergé in 1913 are the Romanov Tercentenary egg for the tsarina and the Winter egg for the dowager empress Maria Feodorovna. Billed for 24,600 rubles, the Winter egg is the most expensive of all Fabergé eggs. By its theme, it is also one of the most delicate. It is the first imperial egg from a design by Alma Theresia Pihl, the niece of the head jeweler Albert Holmström who ensured its realization.
With a total height of 14.2 cm, the Winter egg is made of transparent rock crystal chiseled to symbolize frost or crushed ice. The actual egg, 10.2 cm high, is detachable from its base. It contains the surprise, a basket of white wood anemones with a total height of 8.2 cm. This early blossom is a symbol of the end of winter.
Of course, the richest materials were used. The basket is in platinum. On a gold moss, the flowers are in quartz centered by a garnet, with stem and stamens in gold. The leaves are in nephrite. The whole is paved with nearly 3,000 tiny diamonds.
The Winter egg was sold twice by Christie's : for CHF 7.3M including premium on November 16, 1994, lot 464, and for $ 9.6M including premium on April 19, 2002, lot 150. It was reported that the buyer was the Emir of Qatar. Please watch the video prepared by AP during the 2002 sale, shared on YouTube by AP Archive.
1942 Standing mobile by Calder
2016 SOLD for $ 8.3M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
Alfred H. Barr Jr, the founding director of the Museum of Modern Art, is a pioneer for the artistic relations between Europe and America. In 1939, he commissions a monumental work to Calder for the staircase of a new MoMA building. Made of steel wire and painted aluminum sheets, Lobster Trap and Fish Tail is a mobile in which the basket is made of steel wire.
Influenced by Mondrian's art, Calder uses pure colors. To introduce a sparkling effect, he makes a few mobiles in which the metal plates are replaced with salvaged glass broken by himself in his workshop.
Relations between Calder and Barr are excellent, including a solo exhibition at MoMA in 1943. The artist would like to offer one of his objects to Barr but the director is reluctant, for ethical reasons.
A standing mobile could finally be offered to Barr in 1966. Executed in 1942, it is a black hook 83 cm high featuring a mobile of ten pieces of glass. Remained in the family, it was sold by Sotheby's on May 11, 2016 for $ 8.3M including premium from a lower estimate of $ 3M, lot 5.
1952 As Happy as Fish in Air
2019 SOLD for $ 17.5M including premium
On May 15 in New York, Christie's sells Fish, hanging mobile 39 x 112 cm made by Calder around 1952, lot 14 B estimated $ 12.5M. The outline of this nice fish is made of a few metal rods in the style of a child's drawing. The mouth is wide open. The crossing of two rods binds body and tail. The signature of the initials CA of the artist, made in two folded strings, hangs from that place.
In this subtle frame that might seem rudimentary, the artist has positioned an eye and 33 fish scales. An inner circle reinforces the figure of the eye. A piece of broken glass is tied by a string in each cell. Each piece of glass has another shape and the colors are of high diversity. The movement of the mobile changes the shining effect of these colored elements.
Made in 1957, a hanging fish 2.26m long was sold for $ 26M including premium by Christie's on May 13, 2014 over a lower estimate of $ 9M. This terrible specimen is entirely made of black painted metal. The body is bulky. The prey hangs in front of the voracious mouth. The tail is a mobile with three branches in the signature style of the artist with a total of 14 plaques.
Diamond and Rock crystal bangle by Cartier
2021 SOLD for HK$ 47M by Sotheby's
On April 20, 2021, Sotheby's sold for HK $ 47M a bangle of Art Déco inspiration signed by Cartier, lot 1744. The March 15 press release reported that this jewel had taken nearly 2,000 hours to create.
This bracelet of 17 cm inner circumference is mounted in 18 karat white gold. Its major component is a pear-shaped D-color Internally flawless white diamond weighing 63.66 carats. It is surrounded with calibré-cut rock crystals and brilliant-cut diamonds.
In the 1920s Louis Cartier had been a pioneer of the use of polished rock crystal in high jewelry. The pairing of this material with the diamonds provides an appealing dual effect of soft and bright shines.