Asian art collection from the estate of Maurice Collis

John Nicholson’s will be offering a private collection of more than 200 Lots from the estate of Maurice Collis, who started collecting when he was in Burma during the 1920s and ’30s. He worked as an administrator in the Indian Civil Service for over two decades, when it was part of the British Empire.

Maurice Collis (1889-1973) retired from the Civil Service in 1936 and began his career as a writer. He wrote on south east Asia, China and various historical subjects, including the history of Siam and China, and about the struggle in the late Middle Ages between western countries for sea-power and trade in the east.

He had become very involved with historical research while still in Burma, and in 1941 he published ‘The Great Within’, about Chinese life in the era of the Ming dynasty through to the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty early in the 20th century. Another book, ‘Foreign Mud’, was about the opium trade and the Anglo-Chinese war. In ‘The First Holy One’, Collis wrote about Confucius and the significance of his doctrines to the Chinese people.

While living in Burma, Collis began to collect Chinese ceramics. This began when a gold miner brought him objects discovered near the old city of Tenasserim, not far from where Collis was based in Mergui, in a part of Burma bounded on two sides by Siam. This began his fascination with and research into collecting early Chinese ceramics, an interest that he maintained after returning to Britain. He became an active member of the Oriental Ceramic Society, contributing articles and documenting his research and discoveries.

Collis wrote several noted biographies, including a book about Stamford Raffles, a biography of Lady Astor, and a major biography of the painter, Stanley Spencer. He was also an author of plays, poems, and an extensive writer on art and artists for publications and catalogues. ‘The Journey Up’, a volume of his memoirs, was published in 1970.

The Maurice Collis collection starts at 10.30 and will be followed by Oriental Lots.

Preview times will be Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 April, 10-4, Monday 24, 10-8 with drinks and canapes 5-8, Tuesday 25, 10-4 and Wednesday 26, morning of sale from 8.30.

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