Published: September 15, 2016
NEW YORK CITY — Over the course of two days, Sotheby’s sales of Chinese art brought a total of $14,748,350 – well over the $7.4/10.8 million estimate. The auction was led by a series of outstanding results for rare objects that drew up to a dozen bidders, driving prices to multiples of the high estimates. A teapot from a private American collection soared over its $300/500,000 estimate almost immediately, before selling for $3.5 million, while a gilt-bronze figure of the Dali Lama also eclipsed its $80/100,000 estimate to fetch $1.5 million. The various-owner sale of Chinese art brought $12,246,850 and followed the “white-glove” sale of Chinese Art Through the Eye of Sakamoto Goro: Early Chinese Art, which achieved $2,501,500.
The undeniable highlight of the September 14 sale was a rare turquoise-ground famille-rose “Hui Mountain Retreat” teapot and cover, Qianlong seal mark and period, which sold to a packed salesroom for $3,490,000. Chased by multiple clients in the room and on the telephone, the bidding began at $250,000 before quickly jumping to $1 million and selling to applause for the final price. This wonderful work of art, one of only two known, is an ode to Emperor Qianlong’s adoration of tea; the front features a figure, possibly the Qianlong emperor, being served tea while admiring an open handscroll. The reverse is an imperial poem titled “Jihuiquan peng zhulu ge (Brewing Tea by Hui Swing),” written by the emperor himself following a visit to the Hui Spring during his Southern Inspection Tour.
A gilt-bronze figure depicting Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, Dalai Lama V led Sotheby’s offerings of devotional works of art, selling for $1,510,000. Acquired in Turin, Italy in the 1960s, this Tibeto-Chinese portrait from the Eighteenth Century depicts one of the most significant personalities in Tibetan political and religious history. The attention to detail, from the molding of the face and figure, to the embroidery of the Dalai Lama’s robes, is particularly fine. The artist also pointedly added a pointed moustache and receding hairline to the gilt-bronze figure, two distinctive features of Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. A roundup of Asia Week results will appear later on.
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