Published: April 24, 2012
Five Twentieth Century scroll paintings by Chinese artist Qi Baishi sold for an impressive $2,424,000 at Kaminski Auctions’ March 30″1 sale. Each was sealed and signed and dedicated in running script to Wen Tsan Yu from whose collection they came.
Qi Baishi’s ink and color image on paper of plum blossoms realized $612,000, while an ink and color rendering of peonies was $576,000. An abstract scroll painting of foliage and vines brought $492,000, and an abstract depiction of chrysanthemums brought $480,000. Another scroll painting of chrysanthemums fetched $264,000. Qi Baishi trained as a woodcarver and became a master of the art; only later did he turn to painting, poetry, calligraphy and the carving of seals.
The choicest objects across the block came from the collection of Wen Tsan Yu, a professor at Beijing University. At Beijing he was chair of the economics department in the mid-1920s and also served as acting president for external affairs, an especially important position, given the roiling political situation of the time. A central figure in the intellectual life of the day, Yu amassed a collection of paintings by the major modern Chinese artists. Nearly all were signed and dedicated to him in running script by the artists themselves.
Rooted firmly in China, Yu was equally established in the United States, holding advanced degrees from the University of Chicago (bachelor of philosophy degree, 1916) and Harvard University (bachelor of law, 1919.) He was married to the granddaughter of Moy Toy Ni, known as Charlie Toy of Milwaukee, Wis., an important figure in the Chinese American community, also known as the “Chinese Rockefeller.” Yu’s collection descended in his family to the present consignor. Much of it is headed back to China.
A Twentieth Century mountainous landscape with a house partially hidden by mist by Pu Ru elicited $58,800. A scroll painting of a solitary figure in a landscape, also by Pu Ru, was signed and sealed and sold for $37,200. The artist was a cousin of Puyi, the last emperor of China.
A set of four late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century scrolls of running calligraphy was signed and sealed Zheng Xiaoxu and sold for $31,200.
Fan paintings were also of interest. A Twentieth Century fan painting of birds by Yan Bolong with calligraphy on the reverse by Shen Yinmo sold for $25,200, while another example, signed by Lin Fengmian, was an abstract with calligraphy and sold for $19,200. Another fan painting of a landscape in ink and color drew $7,800.
Three works by contemporary artist Pan Honghai, a graduate of and current president of the Zhejiang Painting Academy in the province of Zhejiang, included a portrait of a girl with a basket along a river that sold for $18,000; a portrait of a nude that was $12,000 and “Sunset” with a house in a landscape along a waterway that sold for $6,000.
A Twentieth Century ink and color scroll painting of a mountainous landscape by Pu Jin brought $24,000
Yu’s porcelain collections also provided bidders with some compelling buying opportunities. A late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century pair of famille rose bowls decorated with floral roundels and bearing a double ring mark on the bases realized $360,000 against the estimated $400/600. A Republic period famille rose vase in baluster form and painted with a continuous mountainous landscape with houses sold for $264,000. A Republic period famille rose bowl decorated with auspicious fruit and flowers sold for $57,500.
A pair of Republic period dishes in a pale blue glaze was marked and sold for $24,000.
Six blue and white dishes of the Republic period decorated with auspicious flowers with a leiwen border along the exterior rim bore a Tongzhi mark and sold for $19,200
A group of nine early Twentieth Century seals, comprising two ivory examples, three metal examples and four of carved stone, together with a porcelain ink box, fetched $24,000 against the estimated $300/500. A second group of six early Twentieth Century carved stone seals with a red ink pad sold for $14,400.
Other collections provided some desirable lots as well.
A vase decorated with a continuous mountainous landscape with figures, pavilions and boats in a river was signed and retained stamps. It sold for $66,000, while a pair of Doucai ginger jars in meiping form, each decorated with a green five clawed dragon chasing a pearl amid blue clouds and with the eight auspicious Buddhist emblems and having carved and pierced lids, realized $36,000.
Fetching $24,000 was a blue and white porcelain bowl decorated with a five clawed dragon in pursuit of the pearl; a Nineteenth Century Rose Mandarin palace size punch bowl came from a coastal Massachusetts collection and gleaned $19,200 from an Internet bidder.
A Ming dynasty Yuhu Chunping vase with red and yellow rabbit and flower decorations realized $12,000, and a Nineteenth Century white jade bowl carved in the form of a chrysanthemum, with open work handles carved with loose rings, sold for $25,200.
Finishing at $27,600, a bronze ding made in the Warring States period with incised chi dragons and three finials in the form of mythical animals had come from a Florida collection. From the Seventeenth or Eighteenth Century, a rhinoceros horn bowl carved in a leaf form with foliage elicited $39,000 from a dealer in the gallery.
Paintings included a Nineteenth Century ink and color scene of a lady on horseback in a pasture with other horses and blossoms by Tong Yongli that sold on the phone for $18,000.
A group of seals, not from the Wen Tsan Yu collection, included 15 Nineteenth and Twentieth Century examples and realized $9,600.
Furniture of interest included an Eighteenth or Nineteenth Century carved huanghuali wood kang table that fetched $40,800. Another example with a domed apron and curvilinear legs sold for $24,000. A Qing dynasty pair of huanghuali wood horseshoe back chairs, each carved with a roundel of a chi-dragon, was also $24,000. A pair of huanghuali horseshoe back chairs and a table, all with convex legs and piercing, sold for $14,400.
A Twentieth Century wood settee inlaid elaborately with mother of pearl and stone and inset with three marble seats and three marble inserts on the back brought $8,400. It came from the Boston area collections of Count Jochen von Haller and the late Countess Ute Grafin Haller von Hallerstein.
A lot of bank notes and stamps comprising 20 RMB notes, 13 Republic of China notes, a Japanese check, a Chinese check, 14 People’s Republic of China stamps and 21 miscellaneous foreign stamps realized $24,000 against the estimated $1/1,500. A second group comprising 12 RMB notes, seven KMD notes, eight Qing dynasty stamps, 12 Republic of China stamps and 20 foreign stamps was less magical and sold within estimate at $1,320.
The highlight of a textile group was the imperial duke’s formal blue silk court robe, a chifu, embroidered in gold, which went for $7,802.
All prices reported reflect the buyer’s premium.
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