Once belonging to Queen Marie of Yugoslavia, this jadeite table screen shattered its presale estimate of a mere $120,000, selling for $1.1 million at Sotheby’s Chinese Art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Florence and Herbert Irving Gift sale on September 10. Its beautiful green hue accentuates the flowing water depicted in the carved landscape. Screens with scenes like this one, which shows a cluster of pagodas set amongst the mountains, cut diagonally with a raging river complete with sailboats, are exceptionally rare.
Every summer and fall connoisseurs and collectors of Asian art gather in New York for Asia Week. A veritable feast of treasures with special offerings from galleries, dealers, museums and auction houses, Asia Week has a lot to offer. This fall included some exceptional items at auction that you may have missed. Take a look below for a sampling of the remarkable goods sold at auction.
Measuring just 2 ⅛ inches high, this humble snuff bottle drove a high price, selling for $65,075 at Bonhams Fine Chinese Snuff Bottles sale on September 9. Originally made in the 18th century for the emporer and his court, these tiny vessels held expensive imported ground tobacco. They soon became coveted status symbols, ranging from the elaborate bottles made of fine materials, to simpler, more functional objects. This example was once owned by renowned snuff bottle expert Bob Stevens, who considered it a favorite in his vast collection. The decagonal shape is decorated with carved flower heads on each face, a simple yet beautiful design that allows the semi-translucent faintly blue jadeite to shine.
A new record was set at auction for a Chinese silver work of art with a rare large parcel-gilt silver bowl in the form of an open lotus blossom. Selling for $3,495,000 at Christie’s Masterpieces of Early Chinese Gold and Silver on September 12, the delicate details of the lotus leaves, created through repoussé (hammering from the reverse side of the design), seemed to captivate bidders. In addition to the many layers of lotus leaves, the exterior and interior motifs also include birds in flight. Dating to the 10th to 7th century, this bowl is an important example of Tang dynasty silver, and has been exhibited extensively.
Dating to the 12th or 13th Century, this wooden depiction of a bodhisattva sold at Bonhams Fine Chinese Paintings and Works of Art radiates ease and relaxation. With one arm propped on a bent knee and the rest of the body lounging fluidly, the bodhisattva, likely Guanyin, could be sitting pool-side, dipping their extended toes into the water. In Buddhism, bodhisattva are demi-gods who remain on earth to help humans. Guanyin took many forms, and is known as the bodhisattva of compassion, changing their appearance to help those in need. This statue likely once had a removable headdress, but is now adorned only with beautiful carved necklaces and bracelets.
Asia Week isn’t just about antiquities, and the sale of S.H. Raza’s 1977 La Terre proved that valuable works are coming out of modern and contemporary Asia, too. Perhaps India’s most famous modernist, S.H. Raza lived much of his life in France, but maintained a close connection to his homeland. Working largely in abstraction, paintings like La Terre offer a rich depth of hues and textures. Eleven minutes of competitive bidding at Christie's South Asian Modern & Contemporary Art sale lead to the $3 million sale of La Terre, which came close to breaking the record set by the 2010 sale of his 1983 Saurashtra, which sold for $3.5 million, then the most expensive painting sold by a modern Indian artist.