The first Asian sale (February 2015) at Chiswick Auctions was a great success making over £125,000. Particularly good results were achieved in the fields of cloisonné, paintings, bamboo carving, porcelain and scholar’s objects.
Following the success of the Ming exhibition at the British Museum two star lots had strong connections to the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) and in particular to the Xuande Emperor who ruled China (1425 – 1435) a great patron of the arts and an accomplished painter in his own right.
One of these lots 182 was a pair of small framed album leaf paintings discovered by Lazarus Halstead (Asian Art specialist) on a visit to a local house in Chiswick. The paintings had clearly seen better days, one was missing a pane of glass and half falling out of the frame and the vendor told of how the pieces might well have reached the dustbin had it not been for his interest and enthusiasm for them. Despite this the two paintings, one of pomegranates, the other of daffodils, were well painted and of a good age. What really set Lazarus’s pulse racing, however, was the Xuande seal in the top left of one of the paintings. The successful bidder clearly also noticed this when they paid £3300 for it, dwarfing the £150-200 estimate.
The star of the auction was lot 73, a cloisonné enamel loop eared tripod incense burner. Attributed to the Ming Dynasty, this piece was the star lot of the sale selling for £30,000.
The exceptional price, well above the £6,000 – 8,000 estimate, shows that the market accepts the piece as early 15th century in date, created under the reign of the Xuande emperor. This reflects recent research led by the Cloisonné exhibition at the Bard Graduate Centre, New York in 2011, and curators at the Palace Museum in Beijing has re-evaluated the dating of Chinese cloisonné. It also comes in the context of increasing attention being paid to the correct dating of bronzes of the Xuande period, following the sale of the Ulrich Hausmann collection at Sotheby’s in October 2014 and work by Lu Pengliang (of the Bard Centre) published in Arts of Asia in November 2014. It is worth noting, however, that even “Xuande” bronzes of a later period can command a good price. A 19th Century tripod incense burner with apocryphal Xuande mark (lot 207) took a respectable £960 in the same sale.
Other items from the scholar’s desk also proved popular in the auction. A single owner collection of five carved bamboo works of art, two brush pots and three incense containers, went well beyond their estimate achieving a combined price of £15,600.
Alongside the successes in Chinese art there were also notable successes in Southeast Asian Art.
A Khmer sculpture discovered lying in a dusty London basement for years sold for £9360 (lot 148). Khmer sandstone sculpture is notoriously difficult to date as talented carvers with sophisticated aging techniques has been creating fake pieces since around 1900. This piece was tentatively ascribed an 8th Century date, making it a rare and early piece.
A graffitied heart chiselled into the breast of the figure, believed to be Durga, suggests that the piece was removed and given as a love token. The piece had also been recently broken and glued together. Comparing differences in the patination of the stone above the heart and across the breakages of different times are consistent with an early date. However, the ultimate clue to the dating lies in the artistic quality of the piece, a matter of connoisseurship and judgement. Over the course of the viewing several of the leading experts in dealers in South East Asian sculpture scrutinised the piece and the consensus view was that the piece was indeed genuine.
Chiswick Auctions is now accepting consignments for the next Asian Art specialist sale which will take place on 5 May 2015.