NEW YORK — On September 16, Bonhams will present "Chinese Art from the Scholar's Studio," a select group of fine Chinese furniture, paintings, snuff bottles, scholar's objects and devotional pieces. Bringing together a variety of collecting categories, art from the scholar's studio focuses on Chinese artworks of exceptional quality that are fresh to the market.
"For a millennium, Chinese aesthetics have been dominated by two powerful groups: the imperial court and the refined tastemakers of the scholarly elite," notes Bruce MacLaren, Bonhams' senior specialist for Chinese art in the New York office. "Whereas the emperor's studios would produce objects that would often loudly proclaim the power and position of the throne, scholar's taste leaned towards quieter pronouncements of their authority."
The auction will feature several magnificent examples of furniture constructed of Huanghuali, a coveted tropical hardwood, highly desired for elegant furnishings. Among the lots offered is an elegantly carved 17th century table, featuring a faux bamboo motif (est. $80,000-120,000). The honey-hued wood exhibits the fine grain and incredible density that defines the finest examples of Huanghuali. The table attracted considerable attention when it previewed at Bonhams Madison Avenue galleries in March. A second notable Huanghuali piece is a daybed (est. $80,000-120,000) from the 17th/18th century. With powerful curved bracket feet, the daybed captures the austere, yet simple power of the Late Ming/Early Qing Dynasty aesthetic.
Complementing the numerous examples of fine furniture on offer, the Scholar's Studio will also showcase many fresh to the market traditional Chinese paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as splendid compositions from 19th and 20th century masters working in the classical style. Dating to the 17th century, Chen Zhuo's (born 1634) four painting suite "Landscapes of the Four Seasons" is remarkable for its soft palette, delicate brush work and daring perspective (est. $40,000-60,000). "In addition to several important classical Chinese paintings, the sale will also feature a notable group of 20th century masters who are highly desired in today's market, such as Qi Baishi (1864-1957), Pu Ru (1896-1963) and Pan Tianshou (1897-1991)," commented Nicholas Rice, Bonhams' New York-based specialist in Chinese Art. The paintings and calligraphy on view will capitalise on the momentum from Bonhams' highly successful March 2013 and September 2012 New York Chinese painting sales.
Chinese snuff bottle collectors will be pleased with a superb selection of views, including those formerly in the private collection of Floyd Ohliger. Beginning his collection in the 1940s, Ohliger was a prolific and adept connoisseur. Highlights include a yellow and russet nephrite snuff bottle, depicting a monkey presenting a peach to the immortal Magu, goddess of longevity (est. $10,000-15,000), and a breathtaking black and grey jade snuff bottle with two white stallions in high relief (est. $10,000-15,000). Whereas jade bottles have proven to be highly desired in recent years - especially with mainland Chinese collectors, the sale will also offer several gem-like early glass bottles, as well as the always fascinating inside-painted bottles.
Two certain highlights of the sale will be the impressive Buddhist sculptures on offer. The first, an elegantly executed 15th century gilt bronze figure of Shadakshari Lokeshvara, is the top lot (est. $200,000-300,000). Incised with a Yongle six-character mark, indicating it was cast between 1403 and 1424, the 600-year-old treasure was produced by the imperial studios, and meant to be brought to Tibet during one of the multiple missions from the Chinese capital to Tibet, between 1408 and 1419. Stylistically the elegant piece demonstrates the influence of Tibetan and Nepalese art on Chinese religious imagery during the early 15th century.
The second impressive work is an unusually large and impressive 32-inch high gilt and lacquered bronze Buddha from the 17th century (est. $100,000-150,000). Seated in dhyanasana on a lotus base and displaying a wan symbol on its chest, the Buddha's serene form is an excellent example of how provincial pieces carefully mimicked metropolitan prototypes. The piece was acquired in China before World War II and has remained in the same family's collection since the 1930s.
Bonhams will offer Chinese Art from the Scholar's Studio on September 16 in New York. The auction will preview at Bonhams September 14-16. A fully illustrated catalogue will be available online at www.bonhams.com/auctions/20998.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com