Bonhams, the leading international auction house for Chinese snuff bottles, announces the sale of the Paul Braga Collection of Snuff Bottles on 24 November 2012 at the Island Shangri-La Hotel.
The Paul Braga Collection provides a window into old Hong Kong, a bygone age when snuff bottles were displayed in baskets in antique shops and could be bought for several dollars each. Paul Braga was a true connoisseur in an era when little of substance was published on the subject, and the holdings from the former Imperial collection in Beijing and Taipei had yet to be published. Using his own eye and experience, he built up his collection and popularized the subject, collaborating with fellow collectors to organize the first exhibition of snuff bottles in the Hong Kong Museum of Art in 1977.
The Braga family had their roots in Macau, tracing back to 1708, when an ancestor was posted from Lisbon as Chief Justice. The twentieth century was a tumultuous period for them, with fortunes lost and regained. After the Japanese invaded Hong Kong, he escaped with his young family on an epic trek through southern China, eventually hitching a ride from Kunming to India with the 'Flying Tigers', the American Volunteer Group who established an air route for supplies to assist the Chinese resistance after the fall of the Burma Road.
The collection consists of 170 snuff bottles and is remarkable for the diversity of its material, with rare examples of semi-precious materials and obscure hardstones in addition to standard categories of jade, glass, porcelain and agate. The star lot of the collection is a famille-rose snuff bottle, produced at the Imperial kilns, Jingdezhen. Just 4.2cm high, it is brilliantly enameled with lotus and chrysanthemum flowers, and bears a particularly rare four-character Qianlong seal mark only found on the highest quality porcelain snuff bottles commissioned by the Imperial court. The only other known example of this form and design, with identical reign mark, originally in the Qing Court Collection is still preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing. It is estimated at HK$400,000-800,000 (US$50,000-100,000).
Highlights of the auction includes:
A 'famille-rose' enamel on porcelain 'lotus and chrysanthemum' snuff bottle
Imperial kilns, Jingdezhen, Qianlong iron-red four-character seal mark and of the period.
Of compressed globular form with a short waisted neck, resting on a slightly concave oval foot, brilliantly enameled with two lotus flowers on the central body and two chrysanthemum at the sides, surrounded by stylised floral scroll, set against a dense and vivid ground of tighter formalized floral scroll picked out in iron-red, all below a turquoise ruyi-shaped collar at the neck and above a band of lappets at the foot, the neck decorated with a stylised floral scroll in gold against an orange-beige ground, the base inscribed in iron-red with four-character mark within a square.
A black and white double-overlay on turquoise ground glass 'Legend of the White Snake' snuff bottle
Qing dynasty, 1780-1820
Of compressed globular shape supported on a ringed oval foot, intricately carved as a double overlay with a continuous landscape scene carved from the black and white overlays, featuring the tale of baishejuan, all against a brilliant turquoise ground and beneath downward leaf lappets at the neck.
Estimate: HK$100,000 - 150,000
A Baltic amber snuff bottle
Qing dynasty, 1740–1840
Of flattened rectangular section, rising to a cylindrical neck from a wide oval foot, with organic inclusions in shades of russet and creamy caramel streaking across the body.
Estimate: HK$20,000 - 30,000
An inside-painted rock-crystal 'Buddhist lion and dragon' snuff bottle
Ding Erzhong, dated 1902
The body of gently curved shoulders surmounted by a cylindrical neck, the interior is finely painted with a dragon spewing forth a pearl whilst in flight amongst swirling clouds, the reverse with a Buddhist lion playing with a ball, one side with kaishu inscriptions, both sides with two signatures and painted seal marks of the artist.
Estimate: HK$200,000 - 300,000
An inside-painted glass 'crane and landscape' snuff bottle
Zhou Leyuan, dated 1892
Of rectangular rounded form with gently sloping shoulders, painted on the inside with a continuous scene of a crane perching on rockwork under a plum blossom tree, the background with further bamboo growths.
Estimate: HK$40,000 - 60,000
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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 appraisal services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com