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Informing the Eye of the Collector

Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art from

J. T. Tai & Co.

Sotheby's

10 A.M., March 22, 2011

Sale 8722

Late Ming pottery figure of seated Luohan

Lot 272, pottery figure of a seated Luohan, Late Ming Dynasty, 18 inches high

By Carter B. Horsley

Tai Jun Tsei became an apprentice to his uncle Chin at his antique shop in Wuxi in the late 1920s.  In the 1930s, he moved to Shanghai and moved to Hong Kong in 1949 and then in 1950 to New York, according to Marcus Linell of the London office of Sotheby's.

"His first address in New York was care of C. T. Loo at 42 East 57th Street but in the same year The J. T.Tai & Co. gallery opened at 810 Madison Avenue," Mr. Linell writes in the the catalogue for this March 22, 2011 auction of Chinese works of art from J. T. Tai & Co. 

"In the spring of 1953," Mr. Linell continued, "he flew to France and England on his first buying trip. On 24th March he attended the sale of Ming Ceramics from the collection of Mrs Alfred Clarke at Sotheby’s London. This was before my time, but I can imagine the occasion as she and her husband had formed one of the greatest private collections of Chinese ceramics. The inscrutable Chinese man from New York was an exotic and remarkable addition to the occasion, buying eleven lots and some of the best pieces. He returned to London many times during the 1960s and 1970s, as he became the greatest of a new post war generation of Chinese art dealers, and he made it his business to seek out collectors who had both the enthusiasm and the resources to create sensational collections. The two with whom he worked most closely were Avery Brundage, whose remarkable collection forms the core of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and Arthur Sackler whose collection is substantially housed in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C."

The dealer died in 1992.


The sale was hugely successful and totalled $36,312,493 with almost 94 percent sold by lot.  More than 81 percent of the sold lots brought prices above, and in many cases signficantly above, their high estimates, the auction house declared in its post-sale press release.

"Famille Rose" and gold vase

Lot 120, Famille Rose and gold decorated vase with molded design, probably Republican period, 16 1/4 inches high

Lot 120 is a 16 1/4-inch high, "famille rose" and gold decorated vase with molded design, probably Republican Period, according to the catalogue, which noted that it has a six-character iron-red mark of Qianlong.  It also noted  another vase with the Qianlong mark was reproduced in the "The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Porcelains of Cloisonne Enamel decoration and Famille-Rose Decoration, Hong Kong, 1999.  It has an estimate of $800 to $1,200.

The post-sale press release noted that "there was a healthy debate surrounding the age of the piece, with a number of collectors clearly feeling it was significantly earlier.  In the end, more than seven bidders competed for the vase, which finally sold to an anonymous bidder on the telephone."

The winning bid was $18,002,500 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article, making it probably the most underestimated lot in auction history!

Archaic bronze of a buffalo

Lot 39, Archaic bronze figure of a buffalo, Western Zhou Dynasty, 10 3/8 inches long

Lot 39 is a wonderful archaic bronze figure of a buffalo from the Western Zhou Dynasty.  It is 10 3/8 inches long and quite animated.  It has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $134,500.

Bronze lamp in the form of a tiger

Lot 189, bronze lamp in the form of a tiger, Warring States Period/Western Han Dynasty, 8 1/4 inches long

Lot 189 is a very nice bronze lamp in the form of a tiger from the Warring States Period/Western Han Dynasty.  It is 8 1/4 inches long.  It has an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000. It sold for $62,500.

Lot 272, a very fine polychrome pottery figure of a seated Luohan, Late Ming Dynasty, is shown at the top of this article.  It is 18 inches high.  It was once with C. T. Loo in Paris.  It has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.  It sold for $104,500.

Stone head of a Luohan, Song Dynasty

Lot 270, stone head of a Luohan, Song Dynasty, 10 inches high

Lot 270 is a very impressive and elegant stone head of a Luohan.  It is from the Song Dynasty and 10 inches high and has traces of black and brown pigment.  It was once with C. T. Loo & Co.  It has a modest estimate of $6,000 to $8,000.  It sold for $158,500. 

Maitreya, Northern Wei dynasty

Lot 255, stone carving of Maitreya, Northern Wei Dynasty, Probably Longman, 15 inches high

Lot 255 is a very graceful stone carving of Maitreya from the Northern Wei Dynasty, probably Longman.  It is 15 inches high and has a modest estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It sold for $92,500.

Group of Fahua Porcelain

Group of Fahua porcelain, Lots 91 to 99

The auction contains a group of Fahua porcelain from the Jingdezhen Kiln, Lots 91 to 99, predominantly blue and turquoise and made only in the 15th and 16th centuries. Fahua porcelain separates different colors with raised lines of slip in the same way as the enamels on cloisonne ware are separated by applied metal wires.  The Jingdezhen potters were influenced by the Nine Dragon Wall in Datong, an over 45-meter long wall with high-relief tiles depicting nine dragons dating from the late 14th century and erected as a screenwall in front of a princely mansion built for a son of the Hongwu emperor.

The lots vary in estimates from $1,500 to $2,500 for Lot 95, and from $30,000 to $50,000 for Lot 96.  The catalogue notes that this group "may be one of the last such collections remaining in private hands.

Group of 6 rate Kangzi "rouleau" vases

Lots 100-103, group of 6 rare Kangzi "Rouleau" vases, Qing Dynasty, circa 1720

Lots 100-103 contain 6 rare Kangzi "Rouleau" vases from the Qing Dynasty, circa 1720.  Estimates are about $15,000 to $25,000 per vase.  The vases depict mostly children in finely detailed and sumptuously furnished pavilions or terraces.  Lot 101 sold for $170,500.

White marble figure of a Bodhisattva

Lot 267, Bodhisattva, white marble, Ming Dynasty or later, 51 inches high

Lot 267 is a very handsome white marble figure of a Bodhisattva, Ming Dynasty or later.  It is 51 inches high and sits on a high lotus base and both hands hold a tablet.  It has a very modest estimate of $6,000 to $8,000. It sold for $52,500.

Painted stucco bust of an official

Lot 275, painted stucco bust of an official, Yuan/Early Ming, 23 inches high

Lot 275 is an imposing and impressive painted stucco bust of an official that dates to the Yuan/Early Ming dynasties.  It is 23 inches high.  It has a very modest estimate of  $2,000 to $3,000. It sold for $4,375.

Painted stucco head of a Bodhisattva

Lot 274, painted stucco head of a Bodhisattva, Ming Dynasty, 15 inches high

Smaller but more beautiful is Lot 274, a painted stucco head of a Bodhisattva, Ming Dynasty.  It is 15 inches high.  It has a very modest estimate of $1,000 to $2,000.  It sold for $92,500.

Polychrome and gilt stucco head of a Bodhisattva

Lot 273, stone head of a Bodhisattva, Liao/Song dynasty, 17 inches high

Lot 273 is a lovely stone head of a Bodhisattva from the Liao/Song dynasty.  It is 17 inches high.  It has a modest estimate of $2,000 to $3,000.  It sold for $4,375.

Group of 4 painted pottery tomb figures Painted pottery tomb figure

Lot 242, front three figures in photograph at left are part of a group of 4 painted pottery tomb figures from the Tang dynasty, and the fourth figure is at the right, length of longest 21 1/4 inches,

Lot 242 is perhaps the nicest lot in the auction for it contains 4 painted tomb figures from the Tang dynasty, the longest of which is 21 1/4 inches.  All of the figures are in good condition and are very animated and very graceful and of good size.  The lot has a very, very modest estimate of $1,500 to $2,500.  It sold for $18,750.

Pair of archaic bronze fittings

Lot 10, pair of Archaic bronze fittings, Western Zhou dynasty, 8 1/2 inches high

Lot 10 is a fine pair of Archaic bronze fittings from the Western Zhou dynasty of curved forms as stylized bird heads with hooked beaks and long trailing plummage.  They are 8 1/2 inches high.  The pair were once in the collection of C. T. Loo & Co.  It has an estimate of $8,000 to $10,000. It sold for $6,875.

Archaistic bronze wine vessel

Lot 221, archaistic bronze wine vessel, 14 inches high

Lot 221 is an archaistic bronze wine vessel of a mythical beast devouring a figure.  It is 14 inches high.  The lot has an incredibly low estimate of $100 to  $200 given the drama of the conception and the quality of workmanship even if it may not be terribly ancient.  It sold for $8,125.

Silver inlaid bronze animal figure

Lot 225, silver inlaid bronze animal figure, 14 1/2 inches long

Slightly more expensive in terms of its estimate but still incredibly lowly priced is Lot 225, a silver inlaid bronze animal figure that is 14 1/2 inches long.  It has an estimate of $200 to $300. It sold for $2,375.


 



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