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Christie's Asia Week in New York
Bodhisattva, Jin dynasty Estimate: $600,000-800,000.

NEW YORK.- Ushering in Christie’s Asia Week, the sale of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art on September 19 will bring together nearly 450 works of art, including superb sculptures, bronzes, ceramics, furniture and paintings. Two magnificent and rare highlights of the sale include an early 2nd century B.C. jade beaker (estimate: $500,000-600,000) formerly in collection of Stephen Junkunc III and a 12th century painted wood figure of a Bodhisattva (estimate: $600,000-600,000-800,000) from the collection of Francisco Capelo. Among the private collections featured in the sale are the Estate of Ira and Nancy Koger and Property Formerly in the Collection of Winston F.C. Guest.

The well-balanced selection of Buddhist sculpture is led by an extremely rare and impressive polychrome wood figure of a bodhisattva (estimate: $600,000-800,000), Jin dynasty (1115-1234). Formerly in a private Parisian collection since 1931, the sculpture likely represents Avalokitesvara, the most popular and benevolent of all bodhisattvas, deities that have forgone entrance into Nirvana until the time when all beings have attained enlightenment. The broad, corpulent figure is shown in princely guise, with long hair gathered up into an elaborate coiffure behind a tiara and splendidly attired in sumptuous silk scarves and gold jewelry befitting his regal heritage. The image displays the marked humanism of the day, reflecting an interest in sumptuous naturalism and movement. The eyes are inlaid in glass, effectively enhancing the sense of realism. A figure carved with virtually identical drapery and inscribed with a date corresponding to A.D. 1195 in the Royal Ontario Museum establishes a firm date for the manufacture of the present figure. The present bodhisattva also bears a remarkable similarity to one in the Cleveland Museum of Art, so much so that it is quite possible that the two may have come from the same temple. Additional Buddhist sculpture offered includes a gilt-bronze figure of Buddha Sakyamuni, late 17th/early 18th century (estimate: $100,000-150,000); a gilt-bronze figure of a Daoist Immortal, Ming dynasty (estimate: $30,000-40,000); and a rare sandstone figure of a bodhisattva, Tang dynasty (estimate: $20,000-30,000) which likely comes from the caves at Tianlongshan.

Gracious and elegant and carved from jade, the superb beaker is another top lot in the sale (estimate: $500,000-600,000). Dating to the 2nd century B.C., this exceptionally rare and refined cup is one of only five known examples of this date and form, the most famous of which was excavated in 1983 from the tomb of Zhao Mei, the second king of the Nanyue State in Guangzhou in Southern China. The present vessel, which is dressed with a lavish gilt and silvered-bronze rim and painstakingly incised with exquisitely disposed abstract designs, comes from the renowned collection of Stephen Junkunc III, a revered American collector who had been collecting since the 1930’s, and has been included in two seminal publications on archaic jades by the prominent Chinese art historians Alfred Salmony and Sueji Umehara.

A strong group of ceramics, particularly focused on the Ming dynasty, will also be offered. Among the highlights is an important and very rare early blue and white globular vase, Xuande period (1426-1435) (estimate: $200,000-300,000), decorated with an exuberant, three-clawed dragon. The dragon is perhaps the most important motif in the Chinese ceramic decorative repertory, as it is symbolic of Imperial power. With its powerful central motif and superb execution, this vase belongs to a celebrated group of Imperial wares that may be considered among the finest of all Xuande porcelains, and has comparables in major museum collections, including the Palace Museum in Beijing. Slightly earlier in date is the blue and white ‘grapevine’ dish, Yongle period (1403-1425) (estimate: $200,000-300,000), painted on the interior with a grape vine issuing from a large leaf and bearing further leaves and grapes. Grapes began to gain popularity as a motif on blue and white Chinese porcelain in the early 15th century and the introduction of such dishes into collections in Iran, India and Turkey would later lead to the emergence of the grape design on Isnik blue and white wares.

Beautiful in its brightness and floral decoration is the yellow-ground blue and white dish, Hongzhi mark and of the period (1488-1505) (estimate: $180,000-250,000). The choice of fruit and botanical motifs on this dish, besides being elegant and lush, also carried symbolic overtones: gardenias represent beauty; pomegranates fertility; persimmons riches and lotus purity. Extremely rare is the late 14th/early 15th century Longquan celadon and biscuit jar and cover (estimate: $180,000-220,000). The generous baluster formed jar is decorated with two registers of eight carved panels left in the biscuit which burned orange in the firing in contrast to the surrounding celadon glaze. The eight panels depict the Eight Daoist Immortals crossing the sea amidst clouds.

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