By Carter B. Horsley
The March 23, 2010 auction
of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art at Sotheby's is highlighted
by several paintings by Chang Da-Chien and a hanging scroll by
Bada Shanren (Zhu Da)(1626-1705).
Lot 82 is a good hanging scroll
by Bada Shanren that is entitled "Two Mynas on a Rock."
It measures 41 1/2 by 14 1/8 inches. It has an estimate of $400,000
to $600,000. It sold for $2,994,500, including the buyer's
premium as do all results mentioned in this article.
The sale's pre-sale estimates
were $6 million to $8 million. Its total was $14,400,063!
The catalogue provides the
following commentary on this work:
"Descended from an imperial
Ming family of scholars and artists, Bada was a Ming loyalist
who likely struggled to accept the establishment of the new Qing
Dynasty (1644-1911). This was the second time in all of Chinese
history that foreigners ruled China. As mynas are known for their
mocking calls and their ability to mimic the sounds around them,
the depiction of these birds could symbolize Bada's disapproving
attitude towards the new ruling family. Althouh the new Qing rulers
quickly learned the language and traditions as means to assimilate
and effectively govern, they spent the first few years forcefully
eliminating all potential threats especially among elites who
might undermine their mandate to vote. Thus, when Bada's hometown
of Nanchang was occupied by Manchus in 1645, he retreated in 1648
to a Buddhist temple where he lived for the next twenty-two years.
During this tiume he was exposed to the teachings of Chan Buddhism,
which heavily informed his paintings, poetry and calligraphy,
the three art forms. As with many works by Bada, at first, this
composition seems enigmatic, but upon closer study, hidden layers
of meaning are revealed. A large empty space rises above the subject
but a delicate balance is struck with the weightiness of the deeply
black painted birds, capturing so well the Buddhist aesthetic
of empty and full....Bada Shanren produced his most creative and
significant works from 1684 until his death in 1705. Of his 179
known works, 167 were painted during these years. His dramatic
but controlled brushwork and the ability to express complicated
ideas in the simplest of forms set him apart from artists before
him, and his paintings became a profound influence on future generations
of leading Chinese artists."
Lot 108 is an ink and color
on paper of a scholar by Zhang Daqian (Chang Dai-Chien) (1899-1983),
the most famous Chinese artist of the 20th Century who was also
a well-known collector and also was widely believed to one of
the most successful art forgers in history (see The City Review's
articles on Chinagate, a controversy involving the attribution
of 25 paintings acquired from C. C. Wang by the Metropolitan Museum
of Art). The work is dated 1950 and measures 26 by 14 1/8 inches.
The catalogue notes that the artist gifted this work to his close
friend Xu Shihao (1899-1961), a native of Suzhou and a famous
laywer in Shanghai who later moved to Hong Kong. The workhas an
estimate of $120,000 to $180,000. It sold for $902,500!
Lot 106 is an album of eight
double-leaves of figures and calligraphy by Zhang Daqian and Pu
Ru (1896-1963). The double-leaves each measure 10 3/4 by 11 1/2
inches. The lot has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold
Another work by Zhang Daqian
is Lot 107, "Landscape," a hanging scroll that measures
33 3/8 by 10 7/8 inches. It is dated 1934. It has an estimate
of $12,000 to $15,000. It sold for $56,250.
Lot 94 is a very fine circular
painting that the catalogue states is in the style of Zhao Guangfu
(10th Century). It is entitled "Horses Frolicking By a River."
The catalogue says the work comes from the Ming Dynasty. It has
an estimate of $3,000 to $4,000. It sold for $20,000.
Lot 96 is a lovely fan painting
of ink on gold-flecked paper by Wen Zhengming (1470-1559). It
is entitled "Orchids" and measures 6 7/8 by 18 3/4 inches.
It has an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It sold for $37,500.
Lot 105, "Peach Blossom
Spring," is a hanging scroll that measures 53 3/4 by 17 3/4
inches and the catalogue says it is by Zhang Daqian (Chang Dai-Chien)
and Xie Zhiliu (1910-1997), who wrote the inscription on the work
in 1987. It has an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold
Lot 68 is an attractive hanging
scroll by Shen Hengji (1409-1477) that measures 41 3/4 by 24 3/4
inches. It is entitled "Cottage in the Winter Mountains"
and it is dated 1460. It has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.
It sold for $28,125.
Lot 149 is an exquisite "rare
imperial tribute Guangzhou embellished ivory and tortoise shell
fan" of the Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period. It is 19 inches
long not counting its tassel. It has an estimate of $140,000 to
$180,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 245 is a very impressive
"Guangdong Ware" buffalo from the Qing Dynasty, late
19th Century. It is 22 inches long and has an estimate of $30,000
to $50,000. It failed to sell.
Two of the most stunning small
objects in the auction are Lot 143, two "chicken-blood"
soapstone seals, one 3 1/2 and the other 1 3/4 inches high. The
smaller seals has a carved squirrel scampering amidst a grapevine.
The lot has an estimate of $6,000 to $8,000. It failed to sell.
One of the most exquisite objects
in the auction is Lot 46, a fine and rare pale celadon jade "double-gourd"
brushwasher from the Qing Dynasty, 18th Century. It is 8 inches
long. The center of the gourd is tied with a beribboned wan symbol
with a fluttering bat perched at the base of the melon. It has
an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $632,500.
One of the most colorful works
in the auction is Lot 75, a rare "Wucai" brush box and
cover with a Wanli mark and period. It is 11 7/8 inches long and
its decoration includes five-clawed red draongs and a flying phoenix.
It has an estimate of $20,000 to $40,000. It sold for $56,250.
Lot 181 is a very fine and
rare spinach-green jade "Bajixang" vase with a Qianlong
seal mark and period. It is 10 1/2 inches high. It has an estimate
of $180,000 to $240,000. It sold for $314,500.
Lot 160 is a large embellished
lacquer panel from the Qing Dynasty, 18th/19th Century. It measures
40 1/2 by 71 inches and has an estimate of $60,000 to $120,000.
It failed to sell.