A fine blue and white square baluster jar Jiajing six-character mark and of the period
Lot 129
A fine blue and white square baluster jar
Jiajing six-character mark and of the period
Sold for £ 63,650 (US$ 88,920) inc. premium

Fine Chinese Art

10 Nov 2011, 10:00 GMT

London, New Bond Street

Lot Details
A fine blue and white square baluster jar Jiajing six-character mark and of the period
A fine blue and white square baluster jar
Jiajing six-character mark and of the period
Boldly painted in a rich dark blue on each of the four faces with a single five-clawed dragon rising and grasping at a long slender coiling meander of leafy lotus, between bands of squared spirals around the straight neck, cloud-collar lappets on the shoulder and still leaves above the crisply-cut foot, silk bag, Japanese wood box.
12.7cm (5in) high (2).


  • Provenance: Mrs F.D.Samuel, sold at Sotheby's London, 13 May 1969, lot 88, purchased by Bluett and Sons, London
    The Idemitsu Museum of Fine Arts, Tokyo
    S.Marchant and Son, London
    The Harriet Szechenyi Collection, Switzerland

    Illustrated: The Idemitsu Muesum of Fine Arts of Tokyo, The 15th Anniversary Catalogue, 1981, pl.809, p.147
    S.Marchant and Son, Ming Blue and White: Jiajing-Chongzhen including dated examples, November 2004, no.3

    Another example of these rare and boldly painted dragon jars is illustrated by Sir Harry Garner, Oriental Blue and White, London, 1954, pl.50A.

    The Harriet Szechenyi Collection of Asian Art

    During the second half of the 20th century, many new European private buyers were attracted to Chinese and Japanese art. It was a golden era of collecting, when many collections formed a generation earlier in the first flush of Western enthusiasm for classical Asian art were dispersed both at auction and by top specialist dealers, principally in London.

    Among these enthusiastic new European cognoscenti was Harriet Szechenyi, descended from a long line of distinguished collectors, on both her father's and mother's sides. Mrs Szechenyi was born into the Bodmer family of Switzerland. Among her relatives, one uncle collected musical manuscripts, assembling the core collection at what is now the Beethoven Museum in Bonn, as well as fine gold and silver coins. Another uncle, Martin Bodmer, concentrated on books that now form the Bibliotheca Bodmeriana in Geneva; this is a superb private library, housing major early papyri, a Gutenberg Bible and other printed works related to what the founder considered the 'five pillars of world wisdom', the Bible, Homer, Dante, Shakespeare and Goethe. Meanwhile, the Abegg Foundation in Riggisberg-Bern, houses an important study collection of European and Silk Road textiles, created in 1961 by her third uncle Werner Abegg; the Foundation is also an important school and centre of textile restoration. Harriet Szechenyi's father was a widely-respected and knowledgeable collector of Swiss paintings and engravings. Harriet herself was a sculptor and painter, a pupil of Germaine Richier.

    It was therefore almost inevitable that she too would eventually form and develop her own taste for art of one kind or another. Breaking with family tradition, she developed an interest in Asian culture. In the early 1960s, she discovered the intriguing category of Japanese netsuke, after seeing and buying a simple 18th century study of a mythical lion dog. As she travelled extensively to Japan, to America, to various parts of Europe and to England, she gravitated towards dealers in Japanese and Chinese art and she often coincided her trips to attend auction sales. With the advice of top London netsuke dealer Luigi Bandini, she began to build what eventually became one of the finest collections of netsuke formed during the latter decades of the 20th century; it contains an extraordinary number of consistently high-quality pieces. But while in London, she also began to form a small but carefully selected group of Chinese ceramics and related material, relying on the legendary expertise of Richard Marchant. This smaller group is included in the Chinese auction today.

    Mrs Szechenyi was an elegant lady of great refinement, with impeccable taste and a decisive and meticulous eye for judiciously selecting examples to add to her collections. Unlike some collectors who keep their treasures in drawers or bank vaults, she preferred to have her Japanese and Chinese art works around her at home, so that she could enjoy them at any time. Her collections were an important part of her daily life, and her knowledge about them was willingly shared with family and friends. In the drawing room of her elegant home in Switzerland, overlooking the Limmat River, she installed large glass-fronted temperature and humidity controlled vitrines to display them, ensuring that they were kept in the best possible environment. For this reason, the numerous items forming her Asian collections are mostly in remarkable condition.

    It was the wish of Harriet Szechenyi and her family that this wonderful collection, which she cherished so much, should be dispersed; so that a new generation of collectors and students of Chinese and Japanese art could share the immense pleasures of acquisition, study and ownership which she had enjoyed.

    Bonhams is privileged to be offering her exceptional Japanese works of art in a single-owner auction at New Bond Street, London on 8 November 2011.
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