Arbiters Of Taste
Chinese Art From The Scholar's Studio

Bonhams will present a curated auction of 165 lots titled 'Chinese Art From the Scholar's Studio' in New York on 16 March. The title refers to the treasured works of art produced for or by the Chinese literati as objects of study and refinement.

The cover lot is Longqiu tu by Wen Zhengming (1470-1559), the great 'scholar-painter' of Ming dynasty cultural elite - a scroll of ink and light colour on paper which is estimated at $250,000-400,000. Although undated, it is most likely that the artist created the work in the 1540s, by which time his style had matured and he was enjoying widespread acclaim for his talent with the brush.

The work presents a dense composition of a rocky, mountainous landscape crowded with foliage. Three men sit on a small and inconspicuous boat which floats on a river leading up to a wash-darkened cave. The journey to Longqiu, which is on Mount Yandang in the eastern Zhejiang province, is a treacherous one, but many attempt to visit the site for its spectacular scenery.

Among other important lots is Cityscape by world-renowned modern painter, Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010), which carries a pre-sale estimate of $120,000-180,000. Created by one of the premier artists of the 20th century, the dense symphony of lines, enhanced by vibrant streaks of colour, depicts an abstracted cluster of buildings and stairways. Influences of Cubism can be credited to the artist's study of modern Western art during his early academic training and later travel in Europe.

Another highlight is a beautiful Chinese ink landscape by the artist Yuan Jie from the late 15th and early 16th century. Landscape after Ni Zan, estimated at $40,000-$60,000, is an exquisite example of Late Ming painters' reliance on the idioms and motifs of Song and Yuan dynasty masters. The scroll, along with all the lots in the sale, are from the esteemed collection of Mark S. Pratt, a United States diplomat whose tenure was completed with his retirement as the U.S. Consul General at Guangzhou in 1989.

Also included in the auction is an 18th century huanghuali side table, estimated at $50,000–70,000, which was originally purchased from the Hong Kong dealer Y.K. Ma in the 1959, and a pair of jadeite table screens from Late Qing/Republic Period which is estimated at $10,000–15,000. The front faces of the latter are carved in low relief to depict a scene of birds and butterflies amid flowering blossoms. The two panels are composed symmetrically, a hallmark of traditional Chinese aesthetics, and the white stone bears striking emerald green inclusions.

Also featured is a white jade mountain from the late 19th or early 20th century, estimated at $8,000–12,000, which is carved in high relief to depict figures in a mountainous landscape. Scenes symbolising longevity and prosperity are carved into the white jade, and russet-colored inclusions beautifully define the rough terrain.

Bruce MacLaren, Senior Specialist of Chinese Art at Bonhams, said: 'Judging by the results of our Scholar's Studio auction in New York in September and March 2014, we are anticipating a very positive response from the worldwide Chinese art collecting community for our upcoming sale. We are thrilled to have so many high quality paintings, jades and huanghuali furniture, nearly all of which have not been available to the market for several decades.'

The auction will begin at 12 pm. The online catalogue will soon be available online here.


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

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