• SAN FRANCISCO, California
  • /
  • June 02, 2011

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A rare carved red, lacquer vase, Qianlong, discovered in an East Coast private collection, is a star lot in Bonhams' June 21 sale in San Francisco (est. $80,000-120,000).

Summer begins with a wealth of Chinese art at Bonhams & Butterfields, with fine objects in every collecting category going on the auction block June 21 at 10 a.m. A rare carved red, lacquer vase, Qianlong, discovered in an East Coast private collection, is a star lot and cover of the catalogue (est. $80,000-120,000). Carved with classic taotie masks, enclosed in stiff lappet bands on a ground of flower heads and volutes, it is a superb product of the Qing Imperial court interest, in combining archaic bronze forms with recently introduced Western Baroque elements in an object of imposing scale.

At a time when objects related to or inspired by Qing court taste engender fierce competition at auction, this 400-plus lot auction offers buyers an impressive choice of objects, fresh to the market, from private collections and public institutions. A chestnut silk ground embroidered dragon robe, late 19th century (est. $20,000-30,000) and a Manchu noblewoman's embroidered blue surcoat (longgua), Late Qing dynasty (est. $20,000-30,000) are among a large group of court-related textiles offered in this auction. A rare black ground cloisonne enamel bronze censer, Qianlong, inspired by an archaic bronze gui form (est. $15,000-25,000), is a fine example of the Qing court interest in archaism.

A rare black and white jade vase, 18th century (est. $30,000-50,000) and a delicately carved white jade lotus and bird group, Late Qing dynasty (est. $15,000-25,000) highlight a group of 20 fine jades from an American private collection included in the more than seventy lots of jade and hardstone carvings to be offered. An unusual pair of yellow jade carp, Late Qing dynasty (est. $20,000-30,000); a fine spinach jade marriage bowl, 18th/19th century  (est. $70,000-90,000); and a fine nephrite covered vessel in the archaic guang vessel shape, 19th century (est. $20,000-30,000) from a Midwest collection, are many of the outstanding objects offered to appeal to the discerning collector.

During its blockbuster $19 million auction of Fine Asian Works of Art last December, Bonhams & Butterfields sold a set of 18 ivory luohan, Late Qing dynasty, for a record-breaking $506,000.  Two more superb sets of luohan, found in different private collections, will be offered on June 21, each bearing an estimate of $100,000-150,000.  Two rhinoceros horn libation cups, 18th century will be sold, including a stunning example carved with a Chinese sage, accompanied by two youthful attendants (est. $40,000-60,000). A fine group of Ming dynasty bronzes will be featured, including a massive bronze Buddha (est. $20,000-30,000), a large cast bronze figure of the Daoist divinity Bixia Yuanjun (est. $40,000-60,000) and a gilt bronze figure of the Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva (est. $40,000-60,000).

Bonhams & Butterfields is pleased to offer additional snuff bottles from the collection of Linda Riddell Hoffman, whose one-owner white glove sale in March at Bonhams New York was met with great acclaim. This group of jade, semiprecious stone and ivory bottles (estimates vary) will be complemented by part one of snuff bottles from the Estate of Norman Stiller, a San Francisco immigration lawyer known for his connoisseurship and passion for this collecting field. Snuff bottles and glass from the collection of Dr. Alan Feen, whose star lots sold brilliantly at Bonhams Hong Kong last November, will be offered in this sale, along with his library of books on Peking glass and Asian art.

A rare group of Tang dynasty silver panels, inscribed with the Guliang commentary to the Chunqiu chuan (Spring and Autumn Annals), from the Melikian collection, Phoenix, Ariz., (est. $100,000-150,000) will be among the early Chinese works of art to be offered.  Formerly on display at the Phoenix Art Museum from December 2007 to January 2010 and published by Sam Fogg, London, in Manuscripts of the Silk Road, 2005, this rare manuscript is the entirety of the Duke Min chapter, an incisive look at the rise and fall of his political fortunes. A group of ceramics, property of the Harvard Art Museums, sold to benefit the Asian Acquisition Funds features Neolithic, Song and Qing wares, notably a Daoguang mark and period celadon glazed dish (est. $3,000-5,000). Kangxi blue and white wares from a New York private collection are highlights of a large selection of Qing dynasty porcelains to be offered, along with a fine 'famille rose' enameled porcelain dragon vase of lantern shape, Qianlong mark, 19th century (est. $8,000-12,000) and a copper red glazed porcelain vase (yuhuchunping), Yongzheng mark and period (est. $30,000-50,000).

A rare pair of huanghuali continuous yoke back armchairs, 18th century (est. $80,000-120,000) from a private Manhattan collector is one of many attractions among the Chinese furniture to be offered.  A group of huanghuali furniture from the estate of Gussie Gaskill, former curator of the Wason Collection of books and manuscripts about China, housed at Cornell University, includes a huanghuali kang table, 17th/18th century (est. $20,000-30,000), a pair of huanghuali and mixed wood rose chairs (meiguiyi) (est. $30,000-50,000). A small four panel zitan and mixed wood dragon screen, Late Qing/Republic Period (est. $8,000-12,000), and a massive jiqimu altar table (tiao'an), Late Qing/Republic Period (est. $5,000-8,000) will provide excitement to keen buyers. 

A collection of Qing dynasty fan paintings, by various artists from the Harvard Art Museums, combined with 19th and 20th century works by Pu Ru, Zhao Shaoang, Li Kuchan, Lu Guosong Wu Changshuo, Xu Beihong and others will be offered in this session. A painting of gourds and insects by Qi Baishi (1861-1957), whose works have set record breaking prices for Chinese paintings this season, will be featured. This work was formerly in the collection of Professor Ahmed Ali, former Ambassador from Pakistan to the People's Republic of China in the 1950s.

Bonhams & Butterfields is also pleased to offer an outstanding painting by the Korean artist, Park Soo-keun (1914-1963), from a West Coast Collector in this session, as part of a choice group of Korean art.  Entitled Roadside Vendors, (est. $300,000-500,000) it is the fourth Park Soo-Keun painting to be sold by the firm's Asian Art Department in the last six years. A Certificate of Authenticity issued by the Korean Art Appraisal Company, Ltd., on February 18, 2011 accompanies this lot.

A group of netsuke and inro sold to benefit the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Philosophy will be featured among the select offerings of Japanese works of art, prints and paintings.

The illustrated catalog is now online for review and purchase at

Preview: June 17-19, 12 p.m. - 5 p.m., San Francisco

Auction: June 20, 10 a.m., San Francisco

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